A music-obsessed Ukrainian with his record collection

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“Vlad is a very emotional person,” said Nikita, who is now 30. Vlad introduced him to bands such as Nirvana and Slipknot. When they listened to System of a Down, he recalled that Vlad “couldn’t stand or sit”. He was shaking his head and singing as best he could. The pair performed “Chop Suey!” for hours, even though they could barely make out Serj Tankian’s words. “I felt those feelings inside,” Nikita said.

At the time, he noted, “American music was something far from us. We didn’t understand the lyrics, but we loved it madly. All that mattered was finding new music, and Nikita, Vlad and their metal-loving friends swapped CDs and tapes. When he was fifteen, Nikita persuaded his mother to buy him a guitar, and he learned to play and build the instrument by watching tutorials on YouTube.

He was happy with his MP3s and bootleg CDs. But he dreamed of building a real collection. A few years ago, he saved up and bought himself a turntable and the first LP of Russian rock band Aquarium. Over the next few years, he would document his growing record collection and the life he shares with his girlfriend, Lisa, on his Instagram account. The couple decorated their apartment in Kharkiv with colorful fairy lights, garlands, candles, twinkling ribbons and Lisa’s photos. Their house was filled with music – not metal, which Lisa, a graphic designer, hates, but more soothing music from Sade and Sting. Earlier this year, Nikita started renting a small workshop nearby, where he built guitar cables and balance boards. He hoped to become an accomplished carpenter and build his own guitars. And then, one morning in late February, he woke up to the sound of explosions.

I started emailing Nikita, whose name is Nick, in June after meeting him through eBay. One of the many things I collect are counterfeit tapes with alternate, often amateur artwork, and over the past few years I’ve had a series of recorded searches on the online market for unofficial Nirvana tapes of various Eastern European countries. I noticed a listing for an LP that said “Nirvana ‘The Best’ LP survived after AIRSTRIKE from Kharkiv, UKRAINE. To help.” There were pictures of the LP, as well as Nikita’s bombed-out apartment. In the description of the article, he explained that he sold some of his vinyl records, guitar pedals and cables for money to rebuild his house and help the war effort. At first, my curiosity was about the logistics of fulfilling eBay orders during wartime, my sympathy for a collector giving up his most prized possessions. We started talking about our common love for music and how certain songs made us feel. Our conversations opened up to other vectors of experience and, in his case, to dreams.

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