Tetyana (Tet, to friends) is a UX designer and DJ based in Munich, Germany, but currently located in Kyiv, Ukraine (until September of 2021). Tet believes wholeheartedly in the power of music, in the ways it can bring people together and tell deeply moving stories.
Prologue: I believe the stories we tell one another have the power to change the world. Especially the stories we tell one another about ourselves.
As a society, we focus so much of our attention on the bold-faced “success stories” of CEOs and best-selling authors, the famous and infamous. We get accustomed to glossy, polished anecdotes that are fun to read but hard to relate to. Too often — especially during these times of isolation and separation — we miss the remarkable stories that live all around us.
The neighbor across the street.
The woman behind the cash register.
The co-worker we see every day.
Captivating, inspiring, powerful stories live inside each of us. This series celebrates those stories with 15 interviews of women whose voices you likely haven’t heard before. (Since March is Women’s History Month, it seems like the perfect time for it.) I asked each of these women to share some of their personal story, and talk about how they have found — or are still finding — their own voice.
Today, we hear from Tetyana.
In her own words:
I grew up in the north of Crimea, in a small village whose name translates as, “Lying far away.” At that time, Crimea belonged to the Republic of Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. As I was 10, Ukraine became an independent country.
My parents were both teachers in the local school, enthusiastic and dedicated to their work. They were raised and educated by the Soviet system, which praised learning and put teachers on the pedestal (at least in the slogans). Their lives seemed to be fulfilled by teaching. I could feel a strong sense of duty and responsibility, especially from my mother, towards their task — even to the point of thinking of it as a calling.
Like in many Soviet families, my younger sister and I learned to occupy ourselves in our free time. My parents did care for us — but also, and sometimes foremost, for their pupils. This is at least what I can reconstruct from my feelings from that time.
Growing up, I didn’t have the impression that something would be impossible for me because of my gender, as I was surrounded by women in my family who all studied and also had quite good jobs.
I would say my impression of a woman was as a strong and capable person, able to manage all aspects of her work and duties. In general, the concept of duty is something that made a strong impact on me.
After World War II, there was a shortage of men in the Soviet Union. Women took on many jobs that were traditionally held by men in other countries at that time — mechanics or tractor drivers. You saw women in all professions in the Soviet mosaics on the buildings, in the art, and on the propaganda posters.
I cannot recall any woman in my surroundings who stayed at home and was taken care of by her husband. The government provided childcare, therefore everyone could work for the State.
But at the same time, the woman was expected to take care of the children for the rest of the time, as well as do the household chores. I would not call it a free chosen path of passion or a dream job, as the dreams were “predefined.”
What are 3 things about yourself that you did not choose?
1. Place of birth, for sure. I didn’t feel comfortable there and was dreaming to move away from it.
2. My parents being teachers in the same school I was going to.
3. The overprotecting upbringing, which sent me into independent life as an anxious person.
What are 3 things about yourself that you DID choose?
1. Leaving my family and moving to Germany, alone, at 19.
2. Changing my career path to User Experience Design after working entirely in another area.
3. Starting with DJing.
What aspect of your personal history most shaped who you are?
This might be my overprotective upbringing. As a consequence, I am drawn towards safety, and I try to reduce uncertainty. Before tackling a challenge or opening up to a new experience, I am constantly generating knowledge to understand the big picture and the edge cases. I regularly push myself into situations that cannot be planned; and I manage going through them successfully, but I still experience a lot of stress.
As you’ve gotten older, what aspects of your identity have you shed and what have you embraced?
I definitely trust more in myself and in my power to survive challenging situations and episodes. It took a long time for me to learn to perceive events and states as non-permanent. This might be very natural for most people, but not for me…
What aspect of your identity is most precious to you?
Being a highly-sensitive person is something I appreciate a lot. My experience of music, nature — of reality in general — enriches and fills me up so much.
What is something you do create that brings you deep joy?
I would say it is music — creating mixes, initiating conversations, and creative exchange.
I get buzzed by human connection, and I enjoy spreading positive energy and encouraging people to strive for their goals.
Did the pandemic change the way you do things?
Since mid-March of 2020, nearly all the DJ gigs were canceled, so I did a lot of mixes for the radio, as well as for different labels.
Being detached from the audience is tough for a DJ. I am a music selector, not a producer, so my power is in creating stories, discovering hidden gems or fresh artists.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt there was no music that resonated with the situation most of us were going through. I was also questioning the amount of effort I was putting in all my music searches, and questioning what exactly was driving my motivation. I think I became more conscious about distinguishing between what I was doing for myself and what I was doing to please others.
Show us something you’ve made that you’re proud of.
I want to share the last set for 2020, the one I wanted to close the year with.
I started the show in March 2020, just before the lockdown; and each of the five episodes was a very special representation of the year 2020.
I grew a lot by doing this mix show. I enjoyed the freedom and expression of my emotions that I was able to put into the show.
What values have helped you survive the emotional experience of this past year?
Trust in myself, being mindful, staying open and curious.
What fears hold you back, or have held you back, in your past?
I allowed my fears to rule and restrict my life for a long time. Some of them are deeply rooted in my childhood; some of them were a consequence, like believing that I cannot be responsible for myself, or that I cannot change my life for good.
As I was writing down these answers, an old interview with Will Smith came to my mind. I re-watched it, as the message he shares moves me every time — the message that the best things in life are placed on the other side of fear.
I am trying to follow this message, as I believe it can only give us strength and power, and eliminate our false beliefs.
What is something you used to fear, but you’ve overcome it?
Fear of drowning (learned to swim at age 33)
Fear of riding a bike in the city (learned at age 35)
Fear of public (overcame at age 36)
Fear of going back to Ukraine (overcame at age 39)
How would you define “voice”?
Identity, power, confidence, contribution to life.
What are the rooms/situations that are hardest for you to speak up in?
Probably in competitive situations, when the loudest person will harvest laurels. I just lose interest in being a part of it, although I understand that people cannot read the thoughts.
Tell us about a time when you felt silenced.
I felt silenced for 35 years of my life, I think.
At school, I chose to be silent, as it was the way to survive and not to grab the attention of my bullies. I was also a teacher’s child who was expected to behave according to the rules and be a good example.
I recently recalled the memory of our music classes at school: I was not singing with everyone in the lesson. I was opening my mouth, but no sound came out of it.
My long depression made it difficult to find my voice, too. At that time I could not hear myself and my needs.
How do you support other people’s voices?
I love to inspire other people, and I noticed that my personal story and my way towards discovering my passion can motivate people to try out new things.
In my Enjoy TET show on Radio 80k in Munich, I invite inspirational artists who represent a particular community to showcase their eclectic taste and express themselves freely through music. I already had wonderful guest mixes from Berlin, London, Seoul, Peru, Chile, and Kyiv.
Also, by playing music by upcoming producers, I introduce them to a broader audience. If I can, I try to bring them together with fitting labels or other artists — I can do something good by connecting people.
How do you want to use your voice in the future?
I want to use my voice in music. I want to figure out how I can do more curation, and also create exchange between the music scenes.
My voice is still developing, but I am sure it will become stronger.
Read more VOICES…
Jamae Tasker is a Warrior of Love
Shayna Hodkin is a Spellbinding Poet
Sam McWilliams is an Intrepid Cliff Jumper
Hattie Anderson is a Confident Black Goddess
Elizabeth Schroeder is a Swashbuckling Peacemaker
Nikka Diaz is a Natural-Born Empath
Kelly Galeano Arce is a Dauntless Truth Seeker
Tiffany Miller is a Nurturer of Dreams
Emma Marty is a Guardian of Hope
Natalie Patrice Tucker is a Mother of Dragons
Ruth T. is a Queen of Hearts
Brittani West is a World Class Risk Taker
Tiffani Jones Brown is a Lionhearted Listener
Kathy Azada is a Bright Side Enthusiast
The titles for the VOICES Series come from Exercise #2 in the Permission to Speak Workbook. The exercise, “You have more power than you know,” encourages participants to choose a title from a list that is offered, or — if none of those titles feels right — to make up one of their own.
“Each of us is our own harshest critic, most of the time,” the workbook says. “We don’t always see ourselves as we are. We instinctively try to hide many things about ourselves — our failures, our mistakes, our weaknesses, our obsessions. …But the things that make you you also give you power.”
Each woman interviewed for the VOICES Series either chose a title for herself from this list, or gave herself a title of her own making.