Yana Ponura is a DJ from New Leipzig and originally from Kyiv. And I will probably never forget how she wrote to me on Instagram: “Of course we can do the interview. If I should make it to Leipzig from the Ukraine alive.” In view of the situation in Ukraine, this is not a dramatic exaggeration. In an interview, Yana explains why she chose Leipzig as the new center of her life and how people celebrated in her home country during the war.
The interview took place in mid-January. There are several reasons for releasing it now. First: It was about time! Second: It was about time, oh yes. And third: Yana’s label Progressive Future has a recent release that you should definitely check out. That’s why we link it to you, as the soundtrack to this interview, right here above.
Yana Ponura is sitting on one of the wooden folding wall chairs in the Vary, we have an appointment here. It’s crowded, a bit too noisy, people coming, going, on the phone, typing on their laptop keyboards, drinking cappucino or espresso tonic, dipping spoons in frothed milk and forks in slices of cake, hardly looking up from their displays or books. Music wafts audibly, but not clearly, through the room and the corridor in which we both have found one last seat. A quiet, discreet woman sits across from me. The volume and hustle and bustle of the café bounce off her; she looks exactly like her press photos, just not as severe – a certain, very own resistance to everyday noise surrounds her.
We are both on time, order coffee and talk about the cycling situation in Leipzig and buying records, labels, Berlin, our club experiences of the last few weeks – without the conversation being recorded. Then I record a couple of quotes and am impressed by the clarity and few words with which Yana von Kyiv tells how warmth and sadness speak out of her in equal measure.
__Kyiv, Berlin and Leipzig
At the beginning I ask Yana if there are any trigger issues that we should leave out. She had only traveled to her home country, Ukraine, a few months ago and was unsure of the condition in which she would return to Leipzig. She replies to me this afternoon that there are no trigger issues for her – nothing is worse than not talking about what is happening in Ukraine. But we’re not just talking about the war in Ukraine – we’re also talking about music and Leipzig, about DJ gigs and solidarity.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, the 27-year-old fled from Kyiv to Berlin a few weeks after the war began. When she was just settled in Berlin, a friend of hers invited her to Leipzig for a gig and she stayed for a week – after that she packed up her things in Berlin and moved to Plagwitz.
She likes Leipzig, she says, even if she doesn’t know too many clubs, cafés or spots in the city:
“I often don’t feel good enough to go out. I listen to a lot of music at home, I feel good there. At first I met a lot of new people and DJed at IfZ, Mjut and Conne Island. Then I went back to the Ukraine and after that I just wanted to be left alone. Nevertheless, I would like to start a new life here. It is hard to explain.” – Yana Ponur
After more than a year of war in Ukraine, she has adjusted to the fact that it is not foreseeable whether and when the Russian war of aggression will end. The war has occupied her every day since then, from checking the news in the morning to the evening. Starting a new life as a DJ and an actor in Leipzig’s nightlife is Yana’s wish, but she would rather go back to her home country, her neighborhood, her apartment. She wants peace and no more bombs for Ukraine, she emphasizes.
__Techno in Ukraine
When we talk about the techno scene in Ukraine – because there were not only in Kyiv, but also in Odesa and Kharkiv there were excellent clubs, Yana says – she raves about the bookings, the euphoric crowd, the meanwhile melancholic feeling that something big is here , comparable to the Berlin techno scene, could have emerged. Had. Before the war, Yana DJed regularly in Ukraine, but also internationally. She describes her style as cross-genre with elements of dub, garage, breakbeat, IDM and “dirty Kyiv Electro”.
But even during the war there are parties, get-togethers and music in Ukraine. When she visited a few months ago in December, she played at a daytime rave. During the day, because parties can no longer take place at night since the beginning of the war, because there is a curfew from 11 p.m.
The feeling of playing in a bunker or club there during the war is very special:
“I like the atmosphere, even if it may sound strange to many. I like doing something in this difficult situation. People in Ukraine are partying like it might be – literally – the last time.” – Yana Ponura
Foreign DJs don’t come anymore, but there are enough local DJs, or DJs like Yana, who regularly travel to Ukraine to play there. The parties are made possible with generators in different locations, she explains further. It sounds absurd, bizarre and one should not romanticize these parties. But they are still possible and necessary under certain circumstances.
Her thoughts are always with her family in Ukraine, even when she is in Leipzig. And with her friends from the nightlife. Because that’s exactly what means a lot to her, of course. DJ performances in Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Warsaw and London keep distracting her, but only for a short time. Yana also has plans and gigs, but the biggest hope she has for the future is that the war will finally end. And that she can feel safe again, no matter where – because she currently only feels safe when she listens to music, experiments in the studio or DJs.
Something Yana has been working on with friends is her label’s new EP, Progressive Future. The solidarity and donations, also within the techno scene in Germany, are decreasing every day. It’s normal, but still painful, she says. You can support the label and Yana by listening, sharing and buying the tracks. So: go for it!
Here you can find the community fund of the Ukrainian label ∄: https://k41community.fund
Yana Ponura on HÖR, Instagram and Soundcloud.