My life before and after – Evgenia Novik

My life before and after

Once one person asked me, are there any things that changed my life?

I didn’t think much over this question, and replied immediately, as if the answer has always been on the tip of my tongue. My answer was clear…

Being a school leaver I was full of hopes and plans, as many people are in their 17. I wanted to change the world, to have a music band, to travel with concerts, to be a photographer and the chief editor of VOUGE magazine. Really, I don’t why and how I wanted to be the chief editor and why in VOUGE magazine, but this idea made me excited, I love fashion and photography, I thought that my photoshoots could be not a bad match for this magazine and I told my friends about it and they were laughing and I was laughing together with them. And I was absolutely sure that I will find the way to do it.

But things gone differently. Even though I have always had a dream to become an artist and musician, I chose the profession of English teacher because it was safe and ‘normal’, because –  I can’t lie to myself – I was a coward and thought that I was not talented enough to enter creative educational establishment. I didn’t have enough will to tell everybody and myself what I really wanted to do, I didn’t have a person near to tell me ‘you have talent, you must go into it’. Looking back, I know how important it is to have a good support in your choice, and how naïve it is to lay down your dream until the better time. But what if this ‘better time’ will never come and the dream will stay just a dream?..

Studying smth you don’t really like and dedicating to it your whole time and life is not fun, it is soul killing, it is frustrating and not motivating, and all my dreams were ‘forgotten’ and I tried not to think about them because it was too sad and depressive.

Being a student I didn’t like my life, I was counting years till my study is finished (5 years of study!) in hope that after I will do what I really love. I can’t say that I did nothing towards my dream. I was involved in local university music circle, I was trying to participate in university concerts, local newspaper as a photographer, painter. But it all was not mine and deepened the sadness and thoughts about uselessness of my life. After my classes I didn’t want to return home, that’s why often I stayed at university hall where I used to paint and watch how other people were singing, rehearsing, dancing… and I thought how far I am from life I wanted and how close I am sitting to it.

One day, by happy chance, when nothing promised anything interesting in my life and I myself were in ‘autumn sadness mood’, my friend sent me the link to ‘free microphone’ event at Dom Talanta, saying that I simply must visit it and it looks like a great event. In description it was said that all people that love singing and want to perform can come and make music together. It was for free, the only thing was needed is online registration.

That is that life-changing message from my friend Marta about Free Microphone

With my belarusian skepticism, I thought ‘should I really got there and what for’. What I mean under ‘belarusian skepticism’ is that we are get used to pay for everything. And when I heard that some good event was going to happen and it all was for free, I didn’t take it serious. Because who can be so insane to make a good events for free?.. No, not in Belarus.

I checked social media pages of Dom Talanta and FM and saw that a lot of people were going to perform! …  and, eventually, decided to go in exploration for the first time and to see with my own eyes what it was.  I gathered a small supporting team of my friends, because it was a bit scary to go alone, and… we hit the road right after the classes at university.

The way to DT was a real hindrance for newcomers! We got lost and wandered in circles for half an hour and even thought to turn back home, because it was almost half to 8 pm, we already were late for 30 minutes, it was very dark outside and cold and we had no idea where to go, until luckily, we saw 2 girls going near, talking about the concert and one was explaining to the other how to get to the studio (seems this second girl was there for the first time too). Wow! We followed them and in a few minutes heard loud music and saw lights in the windows of huge old building.

It turned out that it was an old factory inside of which were a lot of different companies and studios, including DT. At entrance we were happy to see the pointer with familiar sign of  DT and safely went into the building.

Going through the corridor, I caught myself on the thought that all American horror films start like this: main characters are travelling to some event but get lost and find themselves inside of derelict building… but my bad thoughts were quickly dispelled with posters on the walls of pop starts like Michael Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears… and arising sounds of music on our way.

In a minute, dingy walls of old factory changed with absolutely mind-blowing new world, as if we opened a forbidden door of day-today routine. It seemed that in the studio were hundreds of people when we crossed the threshold, there was so warm and bright, the music was playing and everybody listened so attentively. Somebody politely offered us to take free seats and we were simply fascinating with the atmosphere and performing musicians.

The music finished and we saw MC on stage. She was asking performing musicians ‘How are you? Did you like performing? And etc” and I thought “wow, cool, I have never seen something like this in Minsk”, because musicians didn’t just perform and went home but also were engaged in conversation with the MC and public. But I was more surprised when MC went to the audience and started asking questions simple people, us. My God, me together with my friends were hiding our eyes in order to be not mentioned by MC… phew. Mission impossible! After I got to know this trick: anybody who is hiding their eyes – is the first one to be questioned!

Soon we heard fantastic voice of Andrey Zybekhin. Even today I clearly remember the song he sang ‘Titanium’. It was so silent in the room, everybody was so merged into the music…  seems nothing else existed that moment: just voice, music and the beauty of the moment.

Andrew Zybekhin

Other bright memory of that evening was left by young music group called ‘Deti Podzemelja’. Everybody was dancing, singing, laughing… and simply having a good time. After every performance, everybody was welcomed to put money into basket. And as most of the musicians were too shy to take basket and ask for money, one girl took initiative in her hands and did it for performing musicians. Wow!

Girl Olga that helped musician to collect basket money

Deti Podzemelja

The FM concert finished around 10 pm. We, being so impressed, flew back home on inspiration wings. Back that time me and my friend lived in dormitory and, funny thing, we were extremely hungry. It took us around 40 minutes to get home, but our kitchen was usually closed at 11 pm. So, we called our friends to ask them to prepare some food for us. I remember what we exactly ate and even how the food tasted: but I could hardly eat because I just couldn’t shut up, telling my other friends about the evening.   

Me and my friends at our 1st FM

I will not go into more details of how much I was impressed with what I saw, how much I were influenced by the atmosphere and mood of one single evening, and how inspired I were for the rest of the night, that I could hardly sleep.

Next days I was telling everybody about that amazing place, and was waiting in agony for the next Free Microphone… Next FM was going to be in a week and I had big plans for the upcoming event. What plans? Ok, I will tell you. In the end of every FM MC usually asked the audience, ‘Is there anybody who wants to sing, or play music instrument just on the spot, without preparation in front of the public?’ In music sphere, it is usually called ‘jamming’, but at FM it was not always jamming, because most of those who ‘jammed’ already knew he/she is going to perform (jam), so I called it ‘prepared jamming’… Anyway, that was a great opportunity to try myself! That time I was listening on repeat to one song and I decided to come and sing it in the very end of the FM evening…

But… the truth is that my fear won over my courage. At the moment, when MC asked, ‘Who wants to jam’ my heart compressed and I jumped out of my skin. And when I was about to say ‘I wish to sing’, the MC told ‘for today the evening is finished, good bye’.

What to do… I returned home so disappointed, I was so upset, but decided that next time I will have my several minutes on stage for sure.

But bigger frustration was waiting for me further, after I read on DT social media page that FM will be delayed for an indefinite period of time… Oh no! That’s how it’s called ‘found and lost’ feeling. The following few weeks I felt like to message the organizers and ask them about event, but I was too shy to do this.

After 2 weeks I asked my friends for a help: one friend I asked to message organizers at their public event page and other friend I asked to message director direct (probably I just love difficulties! Why didn’t I ask just myself). After they received answer ‘we don’t know yet’, I couldn’t put up with such uncertainty, bothering feeling and messaged director of the studio myself.

And the world just overturned from that moment. I had a very nice chat with the director Ei JunGue about music, the project Blue Sky, Dom Talanta, FM, about my journey to DT, and in the end Ei JunGue asked me if I would like to volunteer for DT. wOW! I was so so so happy!

From that moment, I became not just a visitor but a complete citizen of Blue Sky/Dom Talanta project. Every evening I was eagerly waiting for the morning to come, because in the morning at 9 am I had to be at the studio and in afternoon I had to return to my studies at University. That was the happiest time of my life. I remember that that year I started learning German language and was super stressed about it.. until I found DT. After I had much more important things to think and worry about.

I started helping with some minor tasks, like with some translations for the web site, helped with painting walls, ticketing, cleaning, after I was invited for several meetings where I performed as an interpreter, then I assisted in organizing several events including ‘the most wanted’ – Free Microphone, where I participated as a singer and MC as well..

That was completely different experience – to organize FM event but to sit and watch! Together with other team members I had to collect all applications, to sort out everybody’s playlists (esp. it was hard with Jazz FM, because all singers wanted to sing ‘Feeling good!’, #1 song for Minskers!), to write a small bio about every performing artist, think up an event plan, coordinate all performances and, the most exciting, to go in the audience and this time ask questions and interact with the audience myself!..

Me and Vlad Makarevich at Free Microphone as MC’s

During my volunteering at DT, I met a numerous amount of the best talents of Belarus! Some of them I saw on TV, some were not that famous but not less talented. Every day dozens of people came to the studio, came to Ei JunGue to seek for advice… and I was fascinated by what was happening around. It was more than unusual to see such people that close, talk to them and.. with some even jam together!

In evenings, many music bands came at DT for rehearsing. And I could see in real time live-concerts by best talents that were musicians in the evening but economists or layers in a day time!..

I simply fell in love with that place and called it my second home. I don’t know, would this feeling *feeling like being home* last for a year… or forever if DT would continue its existing… But none of DT inhabitants wished to think about its ending, because this community meant for all of us too much. Frankly speaking I don’t even remember what was my life in Minsk for 2.5 years before I discovered DT, because it was all the same…

Especially for women, you know, it is often too hard to find the right dress or shoes. We are like crazy searching.. searching, trying on and trying on because ‘it’s never what I wanted’… and boom! Suddenly, when we were not going to buy anything, just walking through the boutique, and ‘just in case’ dropping into the shop… we find the perfect match, the best color, the best cloth, the most comfortable model. And it’s all at the time when we do not except   anything. Well, probably such comparison is very silly and can be applied for anything, I just want you to understand what I felt when I stepped the threshold of Dom Talanta for the first time. My first visit I compare to finding an ideal match, my soul and heart were searching for smth like this, and finally I experienced this amazing feeling of “this is it”, ‘I don’t want to look for anything else’.

And even before finding Dom Talanta I were doubting about what I want to do with my life, after spending some time there I were sure about it – I want to be a musician, singer, artist. It doesn’t mean that in one moment my occupation and my life were changed. No, not for me, because I had an obligation to finish the university and after do what I want (I though like this). But I made a grim determination for myself: I want to be a musician and that is what really makes me happy, and I feel I can do it, and I am sure I can. And if it happens in my life that due to any circumstances I will have to be in other sphere of life and do other things, I will never be truly happy. These feelings of fear mixed with excitement, nervousness and insomnia before performance and absolute peace and confidence when on stage – it can’t be replaced with anything else.

From my point of view Dom Talanta gathered and attracted a lot of people that were a bit lost in life, didn’t know what to do, but at the same time very talented and hardworking. It gave everybody a chance to try themselves whether in singing on stage, or dancing, public speaking or organizing events. For free, without asking anything in return. Such philosophy and the way people were treated awakened the best qualities in them (there were different situations, but anyway), and they wanted to do good in return. So here is one of the biggest mission of Dom Talanta from my point of view –  is to give people opportunity to express themselves and direct this talent for making good things.

Of course, not the place itself was that amazing, but the people that ‘lived’ there, the spirit that they created and spread.

In my heartiest opinion, we can make hundreds of thousands such studios, but what for if right people are missing?…  Here I am talking about the director of this studio in particular, who put his heart and soul into the project, built the studio with his own hands and made everybody feel like home and always welcomed. What else do people need?.. the right mood and somebody who believes in them. And then all is possible.

As for me, I discovered this place just 4 moths before it was closed.

I was sad to hear that the studio was closing, last weeks before closure on my way home from DT I was crying, because it was not in my force to change anything, and I didn’t want to lose my ‘magic world’. Of course, I felt lucky to be the part of this project, even for a short time, but I couldn’t get rid of the feeling of losing smth, not only my new ‘home’ but also my new ‘family’.

I am grateful to my friend Marta who sent me the link with FM event, my friends Liza and Galina that agreed to visit with me that ‘strange’ place called Dom Talanta, Ei JunGue, Medeya, Evgenia, Sasha and many others that became my friends and with whom we share many good memories.

By chance I walked in Dom Talanta.. and the person who walked in was not me, but the person people expected me to be.

By chance I walked out another person, but that person was actually me, the real me.

That’s my story, the story of my transformation, the story of my meeting with the dream. I don’t know, does director of DT studio know, WHAT he has created, and WHAT influence it all had on people, but … after all these years I am still thinking about that times, I am still telling about this studio to my new friends. Should it mean something?..

And my answer is Dom Talanta.

If I had to describe DT in several words, I would say that was a real house of talents and… home for talents, that changes life many.

For all my conscious life, nothing influenced and impressed me more than DT and its people. I hope one day in time or space I can appear in this place again.