Piano: Ukraine’s Uprising
During the Euromaidan uprising, piano players defy the riot police by playing music as a gesture of peaceful resistance.
Editor’s note: This film is no longer available online
During the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, an old piano was painted blue and yellow and dragged onto the streets of Kiev in the midst of demonstrations against the pro-Russian government.
Music student Antuanetta Mischchenko played the piano every day and night as a gesture of peace and defiance against police aggression.
The crowds drew around and the piano quickly became a symbol of the revolution.
This is a story of courage and the power of music in the fight against oppression.
ALSO READ: Antuanetta Mishchenko: Ukraine’s protest pianist remembers Maidan
By Vita Maria Drygas
It was in March 2014 when I first came to Kiev. It was right after riot police were shooting people in February. Many people were living in tents at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square.
I saw a piano painted in Ukrainian national colours standing on the street in the rain. People were gathered around the instrument singing the anthem of Ukraine and other national songs.
It was very touching. I realised that the piano was very important to them, so I spent a lot of time observing the people who came and played.
Very quickly one can recognise who is a professional. So I came to my first bohaterke – Lyudmila Chychuk, a lecturer at the conservatory in Kiev.
When I first saw her she was playing Chopin. I asked her about the piano, and she told me that it had become a symbol of the revolution. Then she mentioned her pupil who played for the entire duration of the protests – sometimes even in the frosty weather conditions that reached -30 degrees Celcius.
Moreover, she saved this instrument because it had become part of the barricades and shield from bullets.
Antuanetta Mishchenko, a student of the conservatory, begged for the instrument not to be destroyed. She promised that if they kept the piano on the street, she would come every day and play.
Antuanetta managed to save the piano. A young girl kept her word; she was there every day. Music began to unite people and to give them hope.
READ: Antuanetta Mishchenko: Ukraine’s protest pianist remembers Maidan
The people who had been protesting for months were often very tired. I found them in March in this state. The piano was one of them – it had become one of the combatants.
When I saw the power of this instrument, which was sometimes greater than the Molotov cocktails, I understood that I had to tell this story to a wider audience. I felt almost compelled that if I had the chance to see it, I had to use film to show to others.
One day, a man came to the piano wearing a mask and a bulletproof vest. He often played his compositions while smoking a cigarette, and the ash would fall on the keys. He seemed to me to be the most unusual pianist I had ever seen.
He told me that during the revolution in Maidan, he primarily fought on the barricades. When he returned, with dirty hands, after a day of battling with the chance of death, he sat down at the piano and played because it brought him relief.
My stay in Ukraine and the shooting of this film are probably among the most important events in my life. I became a witness of how music has become part of the revolution: The piano became symbolic. Music proved to be a very strong tool of resistance because music united people. That’s what I wanted to communicate in “Piano”.