Meet the young Ukrainian siblings fighting the odds in the piano world

02 August 2023
By Ellie Palmer
8-year-old Ruslan and 11-year-old Eva Avdyugin had their young piano careers turned upside down when war broke out in their city of Odessa, Ukraine. Despite the perils that surrounded them, the pair have come out on top...

24 February 2022 was a day that changed the lives of millions. War broke out in Ukraine and has since caused thousands of deaths and millions – if not billions – in destruction. 

In February 2022, Ukrainian pianist Ruslan had just turned 7 and his sister Eva was 10. The pair were studying at the Odessa Music School with teacher Yulia Zabaratskaya, and were excelling at remarkable rates. The talented siblings had won a fair few piano competitions including 1st Place awards at the GEMS International Festival-Competition, and their achievements had been written about all over the Ukrainian press.


Watch Ruslan's stunning performance of the Paganini Variations


Unfortunately, the war turned their lives upside down. The Odessa Music School closed its doors, the children’s music teacher left the country, and constant shelling prevented rehearsals and live performances.


Despite the perils that surrounded them, the children continued to develop their musical talent in their hometown. Many hours were spent in rehearsal in the basement of their house to the sound of air defence sirens. Video recordings that they made for competition entries had to be re-recorded multiple times due to siren interruptions.

This did not stop their determination to succeed, even during the rocket attacks and explosions. Nothing could break their strong spirit and the love that they had for music. The father of the two children, Ruslan Avdyugin Sr, told the Dumskaya news site in Ukraine, "Despite all the difficulties that have befallen us in Ukraine, our children continue to delight with their successes... Behind this success, in addition to unconditional talent, lies a titanic work, discipline and self-sacrifice, unbearable for the vast majority of modern children. I don’t know if my children will want to link their future fate with music, however, the shown qualities of character will definitely help to unlock their potential and achieve success in any business.”


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Eva gives a glorious performance of William Gillock's Valse Etude


The siblings' mother comments, "They like to play like all children, but only after all school and extra lessons, after music and foreign languages. Ruslan is a self-sufficient guy, he can mess around with his Jedi, and he doesn’t really need anyone at this time.

Eva, on the contrary, does not like to play with dolls alone, but she will spend time with her friends with pleasure. And both are drawn to reading, there are a lot of children's books in the house. The problem in this regard arises with the grandmother, who tries to read them a bedtime story: whatever she starts, the children already know it! And, against all odds, the fate of these charming girls and boys become long fairy tales with a happy ending."

Fast forward to 2023 and, under the guidance of new teacher Ludmila Moskalenko, the pair are performing once again at live concerts, as well as entering many online international competitions. To date, Ruslan has won nine Grand Prix and 17 first places at international piano competitions! Sister Eva has an incredible innate musicality and has also shown great success in piano competitions.

Ruslan, Eva; we will be watching your progress and wishing you the best of luck in your piano careers. ❤

Want to keep up-to-date with the pair? Follow Ruslan on Instagram here, and Eva here.

Photo credits: ©Odessa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre