The material was created within the framework of the "Life of War" project with the support of the Public Interest Journalism Lab and the Institute of Humanities (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen).
Before the full-scale invasion, Georgiy Nechaev was engaged in the creative sphere — he performed as an opera singer, played on the theater stage and in movies. On February 24th, he changed his role and became a military man. So from now on, he can play a role only when he returns to his hometown from the front line. We asked Georgiy about his love for the capital, scene, music, the first day of a full-scale invasion, and his self-identification.
I was born in Kyiv, I have lived in the center for many years. At 22, I started renting apartments in different districts because I didn’t want to live with my parents. I have lived near the bus station on Demiivka, Obolon, and also on Pivnichna Street. This is the region of Obolon, such an interesting place — there are a lot of alcoholics and drug addicts in the evenings, but I didn't really care about it. Although, of course, if a girl comes to you, you have to meet her, but for me, it was fine – fresh air and close to the Dnipro. In 5-6 years, I returned to the center, and loved it more than anything. It is remarkable — the old town, beautiful buildings, I was born and raised here. True, now the center is different — in my childhood, it was definitely greener, more pleasant, and warm. I have been to many cities, and not only in Ukraine, but I love Kyiv. The background sound of the city is delightful — cars, birds, wind, and leaves. Kyiv is a good place.
BEING A VOICE
Before the war, I was an opera singer, I was teaching singing a little, and I also worked as a theater actor. I started singing in childhood, I didn't really want to do it, but I had some skills. Then, without much questioning, they gave me the violin. So for another 15 years, I was playing the violin. Then I decided to stop it. Later, through professional training, I realized I wanted to be a singer. I liked the feeling when I performed on stage and discovered for the first time in my life how it affected the audience.
From the middle of the second year of the conservatory, I was a soloist of the Kyiv Opera — the Kyiv Municipal Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre for Children and Youth, the so-called small opera, in Podil (not to be confused with the Small Opera on Degtyarivska Street, which before the shooting operated as a spectacular site for various events — HK). I broke the contract several times to go to sing, first in China, then in Korea. After returning, for some time, I was a soloist of the Academic Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Before the start of the full-scale war, I worked in the National Honored Chapel of Bandura-Players of Ukraine.
In addition to performances at the Kyiv Opera, I have traveled with concerts. Once there was a tour for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ivan Franko, and many colleagues and I traveled around the cities of Ukraine and performed songs based on his words. I also had a solo project, "Among Millions of Stars — there is only one", a romantic one-person concert combining a collection of works of various composers into a single dramaturgical line. There was me, a projector, and a recorded female voice reading poems. And there was also a project with the director Oleksandra Kravchenko, which most often took place at the "Koleso" theater on Andriyivskyi Uzviz — a theatrical concert O Sole Mio, two tenors about love for women. The genre is similar, but it involved me, Oleksandr Palyushkevich, light and a draped figure of a woman, a hint of her.
And I also had an exciting experience: the students of Shevchenko University made a rock opera myth dedicated to the figure of Shevchenko, and I acted there as a musical director and worked a little with boys and girls. And at some point, this project went a little further from one or two shows and grew into an extensive tour. And somehow, there was a need to substitute the performer, so I just went on stage and did it. For the first, then second, and third time. But it was still singing. Although even then, I talked a lot with the acting world and formed a particular idea about it. It is difficult to say that it was already a deep understanding of acting skills. No, it still tended more toward classical opera. It was more like a theater of images.
For the first time, I got on a purely acting stage, without singing, by accident: I was asked to substitute a person. I performed in one play - once, twice, three times... Then somehow, it happened that I decided to pay more attention to acting. My girlfriend (now wife) was an actress and a director, so we talked a lot about it, and I started to understand the theory a little. Then I went to acting training. There was a period when I didn’t work as a singer permanently — I was involved only in individual projects, concerts, and trips and devoted more time to acting growth, attended trainings again, and filled the gaps in classical acting education.
There is a classical theater, and there is an alternative theater, someone likes a small theater, and someone — a big one. I am now more inclined to a modern small theater, because the audience is closer, and more truthful, because there are fewer broad gestures, and loud voices, it is somehow more cinematic and closer. In this way, the viewer in the front rows can see the expression of the eyes, and not only gestures or movements.
About 5-6 years ago, a new round of interest in classical music began, the number of people who go to plays, symphonies, and vocal concerts increased, whereas before, it interested only a very, very small audience. Opera music is generally classical, and academic, it needs a sufficiently aware audience, ready to strain their brains. After a good performance, the audience can be tired: they liked it, but for two hours together with the actors, they experienced emotions, and got involved – in fact, they also worked hard. With music, it's even more difficult, because it's on the level of sensations, so it's easier to feel, but more difficult to understand. Therefore, this is entertainment for trained viewers who are ready to grow.
The choice of listening to an opera should not be based on the place (we have two of them - the Small Opera House on Podil and the National Opera of Ukraine near the Golden Gate metro station), but on the basis of the performance. It is better to start with light music, such as Mozart, rather than Wagner. You can choose the line-up of artists, but you need to have some background knowledge or go with someone who will advise you. Well, if you are going to the opera, then, unlike the drama theater, you should read the libretto.
After the victory, I will enjoy my peaceful profession, regain my vocal and acting form, and sing and play. Perhaps, I will become a soloist of the National Opera. Maybe I will take part in a feature film. I have never done this before. And I would like to. It's a cool experience.
BEING A WEAPON
When the war started, I woke up at five in the morning. I drank coffee, read the news, went to the store, bought bread for my father, had breakfast with my girlfriend, and called several friends. Then I got into the car and drove to the Military Commissariat. What could I do? The war has started — and we have to go...
To be honest, I belonged to that category of people who knew the war was coming, but had a slightly different idea of how it would start. I thought that it would not happen now, that it was all incitement and intimidation to shake our society, to weaken it. I didn't decide in advance whether I would go or not, but in the end, I didn't think about it.
At the Military Commissariat, I was first sent home. When I got there, there was a very long queue. It took a long time to get to the office. In the end, they told me: Ok, we'll write down your data, but note that you won't get anywhere today, because the queue is already full. Therefore, you either spend the night here on the floor, or you go home and come back in the morning. I went home, and late at night, I read a message on Facebook that at a certain address, there will be a formation of personnel — they will register and issue weapons. It was not far from me, so I quickly left at seven in the morning by car, and found out that it was true, but that batch of weapons had already left, and a new one would arrive soon. I quickly drove home again, and bought some food and water on the way. Then I packed his things, took my backpack, and set off on foot to the collection point.
And at that time, the battle was already going on there (I learned about it from Telegram channels and Facebook), then it became clear that it was a Subversive reconnaissance group, that was sitting here in Kyiv and monitoring the assembly sites, and staged a sabotage. And so I went there, unarmed, thinking: I'll come a little closer and go in from the back, from the yard — I'll look, maybe, there's a weapon somewhere. But there were many such intelligent people, and more and more were on my way, so it was impossible to get there unnoticed, because it’s hard to hide young people heading in the same direction with a decisive step. Closer to the assembly point, the machine gunners in the pixel stopped, advised to wait, but they let us go, because the security had already operated. On the same day, the 25th, I received the weapon. We have been waiting all day, cleaning our weapons, and forming into units and departments. And at night, I was already in Beresteyka, that’s where we started.
I'll be honest. When I went to the Military Commissariat on the 24th, I cried. I felt sorry for myself. Because I know what war is like, I saw it back in 2014, and it's not pretty at all. It's dirty, scary, and not fun at all.
At service, you and the people around you have to do your own business. I am an existentialist, it was my choice to go to war. Everything that exists in my life is the result of my choices, at one stage or another. And if I made this choice, then, accordingly, it is necessary to do it as well as possible and bear responsibility. So when you start your business – do it properly.
Sometimes I sing at the service. In Kharkiv Region, when our offensive ended and we reached the border with Russia, the city of Vovchansk, the villages... You go into a more or less empty house, turn on the keys from the phone and try to sing a little. The voice is like muscles in sports, it must be trained — a banal physical excercise. Still, it doesn't work that way, but at least something. Once, when I was singing in the room, a soldier with the call sign Smetana came and said to me — my wife and I have never been to the opera house, can I show her? And he called his wife via video link just as Starlink was on.
There is a strange thing: when you have been there for a long time, of course, you really want to go home, but I can admit — when you have been here for a long time, have already rested, exhaled a little, then you want to go back. Maybe it's just an adrenaline rush, I don't know. As if everything is fine, you rested, and it is necessary to move on, to do something. And you don't fully return to a peaceful profession. Although while I am in Kyiv, I use the opportunity to perform from time to time. I think it will be more difficult for the boys and girls who spend all their time at war to adapt to a peaceful life.
I hope I haven’t changed during the war, that I am still the same singer, actor. But I know that the feeling of danger has changed.
I love my profession, I take it seriously. After the rotation, I felt that I became more sentimental about certain things, I was more easily moved and in some ways, on the contrary, I was more tough. Now I feel that my psyche is quite stable - I manage to emotionally return from the war.
I have half of my time in Kyiv now. I can be at the front line for one and a half to two months, and now I have been sitting in Kyiv for two months. Compared to the first four months of the war, the city has changed. I rarely take the subway, but there are reminders that there is a war going on: portraits, soldiers, or something like this, and when you just walk through the city center, you don't feel like it's the capital of a country at war. It's mad. In my mind, I understand that it is ok for boys and girls to fight precisely so that a peaceful life remained here. But when I returned from the first rotation, there were many different emotions, an adrenaline rush — everything was very annoying. From the outside, it is difficult to understand whether the war affects people in the city, whether it touches them: looking at some, it may seem that everyone lives a good and peaceful life, but in fact, all their conversations return to war, and for some, it is as if the war does not exist. The second time, I was no longer annoyed. I don't know if I got used to it or got involved. I would like people here to be more aware of the war.
BEING A UKRAINIAN
It seems to me, that a person who has lived in Ukraine for a long time can’t have a language problem. My family is Russian-speaking, but since childhood, I have read books in Russian and Ukrainian, I even tried Polish, but it turned out badly. I never liked it when people mixed languages, I didn't like surzhyk, and I don't like it now. I have always been Russian-speaking, but I easily switched to Ukrainian. I wrote and read a lot in Ukrainian. I was very surprised and a little shocked when the law was passed that movies in cinemas should be dubbed in Ukrainian, but there were people who didn't like it. I wondered: what's the point, is it difficult to enjoy a movie in Ukrainian? After all, a good dubbing in Ukrainian is often better than in Russian. Cartoons, in general, are fantastically well-voiced, it's cool. Now, I have friends who still speak Russian, so sometimes I automatically start switching to Russian with them. But in general, I have no problems with switching to Ukrainian.
Since the beginning of the war, I mean not in 2022, but in 2014, I consciously consider myself a Ukrainian. Perhaps not one hundred percent by origin, but mentally — a representative of the Ukrainian nation. In the end, everyone in the first grade had Sasiura's words on the blackboard: "Love Ukraine as the sun loves the wind, grass, and water"... I remember: it was highlighted in red.
Ukrainians are very stubborn. Maybe I judge by myself, for example, I'm stubborn, I was like that from birth. I can't be forced to do something I don't want to do myself. When I was forced to play the violin, I took a recorder, and recorded three or four times a concerto, which I specially recorded with mistakes, with repetitions. Then I put it on playback so that I could listen to it. I wanted to read a book, not play the violin. As an adult, I understood that only I could force myself to do something. I think we are still at a different level of humility than the Russians. Much less than this, "the government said, "must," so we must." The authorities said, but if it doesn't suit us, then no. I think there is such a high level of support for our government and command precisely because of the awareness that they are doing the right thing.
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