Andriy Karpenko

Have you ever been to one of Okean Elzy’s (Океан Ельзи) big concerts? It’s likely that you heard them perform thanks to B50’s active volunteer Andrii Karpenko.

For more than 25 years, he has been providing great sound at festivals, concerts, and events. He is used to traveling on business trips and dealing with heavy music speakers. That’s why he considers carrying buckets of bricks on his volunteer trips to Moshchun an easy task.

In the Interview #B50heroes with Andrii Karpenko, read:

  • why he doesn’t consider himself and other restoration volunteers to be heroes;
  • the experience of the first volunteer reconstruction in Makariv for B50;
  • which Ukrainian artists give their best at concerts;
  • why the audience complains about the poor sound at major festivals.
NameKarpenko Andrii Hennadiiovych
Age52 years old, birthday – September 28
Professiona sound engineer at Zinteco (a company that provides technical support for concerts), and an active volunteer at B50
Hobbiesoutdoor recreation near the water, sometimes cycling, music (plays the piano, was a member of a musical group)
Sea or mountains?the sea, definitely, because he can’t do without water
Childhood sportdid not play sports, and considers it an extremely bad decision…
Favorite foodunpretentious, baked potatoes are his everything

– Andrii, where were you on February 24? How did you know that russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine had begun?

I was in Kyiv, at home, in the Lisovyi Masyv (Kyiv district-ed.). Somehow I woke up 5 minutes before the bombing and saw flashes. Brovary, Boryspil. I could hear the sound of an airplane over the house. So it was clear what had started.

I called my daughter and told her and her boyfriend to go away from Kyiv, to the west of Ukraine. Then I called the management to ask if we were going to work (we had to install the equipment at 7 a.m.), although it was already clear that we would not. 

I knew that the war would start, it’s all been coming to this. Because no one just accumulates troops on the border… So many costs, ambitions, human resources, and everything else. It was clear that it was a gun that would go off…

Almost all of my friends went to the Territorial Defense or directly to the military recruitment office. But I have an old mother who is in very poor health, so I had to think of something else. Should I take her to the west of Ukraine or not? It took me a long time to make this decision…

Volunteering in Horenka. Photo by Oleksandra Poliakova

Did you hesitate because you are a Libra by zodiac sign?

– I have all their qualities at their maximum. I need more time to make a decision, and the decision should be more balanced. Modern life requires quick reactions, and the one who slows down loses. But you need to do everything as well as possible, and this takes time.

When I decided to stay in Kyiv, I was in a stupor for the first week. And it was a very bad feeling! Ihad never volunteered before, but I started looking in the chats to see how I could help. I started buying some equipment (sleeping bags, walkie-talkies), delivering medicines and food, and donating blood at the emergency room… Then I went to dig trenches. And then, through telegram chats in the Lisovyi Masyv, I found training in medicine, AK and tactics from the B50 community. The instructors were very professional! Many thanks to Oleksandr Kramarenko, B50 Training coordinator, for organizing it.

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Svitlana Yehorova

– How did you get into our volunteer team after the tactical training? Do you remember your first trip to Moshchun?

– I went for the first time in May. I was mentally prepared for what I would see in Moshchun. My girlfriend’s apartment once burned down, so I had a very rough idea of what it looked like.

I was more surprised by the volunteers: we arrived at 09:00 and were waiting for the scope of our tasks to be determined. And at 09:15 everyone started saying, “Why are we standing around doing nothing? At least give us some brooms, we’ll sweep the place!” And I thought: “Oh, I got it right, hardworking people!”)

You’re one of those volunteers who are notable for their regular visits! If it’s Saturday, Andrii helps. How do you manage to find time to help so consistently?

– Oh, come on… Some people from B50 ride for 3 days in a row! So it was easy to ride every Saturday during the summer, compared to them. If you have a week off, then giving 1 day to volunteer is not much.

I compare everything to the frontline: what we do here is minimal effort. The most important people are now in the trenches. They didn’t think about their wives, children or mothers. They just went to war and that’s it.

Volunteering in Horenka. Photo by Oleksandra Poliakova

– Don’t you see any value in all the fences you have restored, houses you have rebuilt and rubble you have cleared?

– For me, Volunteers with a capital V are those who help the military! “Hospitallers”, for example. Or people who deliver food to them, bring cars, evacuate civilians, i.e. those who are involved in the frontline every day. I understand that our activities are also important, but there are people who risk their lives all the time. What do you risk? You are just giving away your free time. So give it more! I don’t consider myself a hero in any way… And I wouldn’t want this interview to be a glossy page… It’s wrong. Heroes are at the front.

When I go to Moshchun, I feel some kind of guilt towards those residents who were left without homes, without anything. Because they, so to speak, sacrificed their homes and stopped the attack on Kyiv. You know that several villages in that area were flooded, a dam was blown up, and Moshchun was invaded twice. There were several news stories about the work of the 72nd Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the military who did the impossible, the unreal for the defense of Kyiv…

As for the civilians, I understand that this could have happened to anyone. But these are the people who, due to certain circumstances, stopped the attack on Kyiv. So we just have to help them. And if anyone else is hesitant and doesn’t know what to do, let them go and help! Any step is help, and it is a step forward to victory. Do at least something. If it’s hard for you, stand down, rest, but come and help!

What motivates you to participate in the B50 community’s volunteer trips?

It’s the owners, who are already of a serious age. On one of our first trips, there was a man whom we helped to pull his car out of the garage. He told us how on March 7-9 he was hiding with his family in a neighbor’s basement and during the shelling his little daughter asked: “Dad, where are my presents, it’s March 8th?”. If such questions arise, then I think there is nothing wrong with the nation. It is strong – it will cope..

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Oleksandra Poliakova

No matter how many times we went to Moshchun, I never heard swearing or cursing when people talked about russians. And it was very strange… I once saw a story – an interview with people in Japan, after the tsunami… And a young man was asked somewhere in the subway, and he said: “I don’t know where my family is yet… There is no connection, but such and such happened.” And he smiles when he says this. That is, this perception is very calm, balanced, and at the same time strong. And I saw something similar in these people, they didn’t swear, but spoke calmly about their situation. 

Well, Moshchun was not the only one. You were part of the team of volunteer restoration workers who helped to set up temporary housing on Dovha Street in Makariv. What was special about this stage of help?

 The team was just super: the kind of team that if you take away one of the volunteers, you lose. Svіtlana, Yegor, Andriі, Diana, Denys… They were just hard workers! For example, if a tool is busy, a person will not stand around and wait. He will find another job and then come back when the instrument is free. This is how Andrii Mitin, for example, works, without pauses at all.

Volunteering in Makariv. Photo by Andrii Mitin

On Dovha Street, there lived a couple (in their 60s) and their mother, who had suffered a stroke. And it was necessary to turn the summer kitchen into a place where they could stay during the coming winter. That is, compared to the families from Moshchun, these people had a summer kitchen, but it was cold, and our task was to insulate it, put in windows, cut through doors, put in door frames, make plumbing, dig a ditch, bring water from the well, bring pipes to the sewer, put in plasterboard, do some wiring, and come up with some ventilation. In fact, any construction team faces all these movements.

We cooperated with local administrators who bought materials. It was very important! We told them what we needed and they brought it. I am very grateful to B50 coordinator Ruslan Habdulov for looking for new areas of work. Because how long can we clear the rubble? We need to rebuild something!

Your volunteer trips have become less frequent now. Have you returned to work?

I go on business trips: football matches, different cities and towns in Ukraine. TV crews gave me an opportunity to earn extra money. They set up the cameras, and my job is to help with the cables and set up microphones that transmit the sounds of the match (kicks, corners, goalkeeper’s commands, coaches’ communication…).

Spectators are not allowed to enter the stadium now, it’s the current safety rules. Often football matches are interrupted, everyone goes to the bomb shelter and we sit – 2 teams of players, coaches, referees and a technical team. I’m glad that the championship is still going on, and the geography of Ukraine is represented well in the Premier League. Churchill said that there should be some kind of normal peaceful life during the war. Even in contrast, it must be there.

It seems like a small amount to put 9 microphones. Compared to the amount of work we did at Zinteco, it’s 3%. But you work a lot with your feet. Because the stadium is 100 x 60 meters, you make more than one circle when you lay cables. At least you don’t drive a taxi, like some of my friends… I understand that this is also a source of income, but not by profession. Do you really want to? You have to). But now I have the opportunity to help a little bit with volunteer work with my car, and it’s great. And when at least some minimal money is paid for work in my specialty, it’s a bonus.)

Volunteering in Irpin. Photo by Nataliia Hryniuk

– Speaking of Zinteco. I remember you from my first trips because you always wore a uniform with your company’s logo in Moshchun…

I’ve been working here for 25 years) It’s one of the big production companies, providing technical equipment – stage, sound, light. We worked at different venues – from small halls to stadiums. On the tour of Okean Elzy, for example, we provided full sound/stage/light support. Our engineers and technicians traveled all over Ukraine!

I work mainly at the monitor console, this console provides sound for the musicians on stage. And to provide high-quality sound for the audience, you need to make a drawing of the hall (or stadium), calculate how many sound systems there should be and how to arrange them so that all spectators receive uniform sound coverage. Then you have to coordinate the sound suspension points, hang winches and speakers, and set up the entire sound system in terms of volume levels and time delays.

Volunteering in Horenka. Photo by Andrii Mitin

The correct name for my profession is not “sound engineer” (they are the ones who press the buttons during concerts), but “sound engineer” (we install sound equipment). Our engineers are never afraid of hard work. But all of this is in the past for now, because it’s not what the country needs now.

2022 was supposed to be a very busy year for us. We had a year’s worth of venues planned out! Tours, solo concerts, and prominent foreign performers… So I have personal complaints about the russians.

– Finally, I can ask a qualified person a provocative question that has long bothered me. Tell me, why is the sound at concerts so “sh***y”?

This is a topic for another conversation! But the key word is “budget”. The budget that is distributed between the stage / light / sound / decorations / television, etc. As a result, we have a compromise solution, and the sound is not always in the first place. According to the calculations, we need to install 6-7 delay towers, but we have a budget for 4 or 5. Who lost out? The audience. So, budget and technology. For example, we watch a video of how equipment is installed at a stadium for a Rammstein concert. You compare it to the way you work, and you realize that you are about 5-7 years behind this technology, behind the Western world. Where do the trucks with equipment go? On a football field. And the field is covered with what? Plastic (it’s called “portaflor”). And this is not the usual portaflor for spectators that is used in Ukraine, but portaflor that trucks drive on! And this is a huge advantage in editing.

Volunteering in Moshchun. Photo by Nataliia Hryniuk

Which famous showbiz stars have you worked with?

It’s a long list. It’s hype, I don’t want to do that. In short: with all Ukrainian, with “imported” ones…

I can tell you who left the strongest impression… Joe Cocker, we worked with him three times. George Michael – we helped with some equipment at the concert. Then Paul McCartney, number one, of course. Prodigy. Who else? You know, Muse and Imagine Dragons from the new ones. I also had a great experience with Deep Purple. And festivals, like U-Park, where there are a lot of artists, all of them are cool.)

It seems that “imported” performers are working for the last time in their lives! I mean, they just give it their all. In Muse’s intro, the guitarist came out and started with such a solo that it just seemed like he was going to play it and die here.

– Are there any similar artists in Ukraine who give it their all?

TNMK, Boombox, Okean Elzy. There’s a band called Ot Vinta! They are very cool. Khrystyna Soloviі, Jamala. Then Taras Topolia, who is now working as a medic at the front. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone, so I’m sorry.)

Volunteering in Makariv. Photo by Nataliia Hryniuk

Do you think the war will last for long? How do you see Ukraine in the near future?

I can’t predict, but the war will last for more than 1 year, for sure. I think it will last at least 2 more years.

After the war, I think Ukraine will be a “garden city”. I am sure that there will be a lot of money for reconstruction and a lot of work.

Who is helping DTEK restore its power grids now? Switzerland and France, which is very cool because I know what kind of equipment they provide. We are building our own power boards and using ABB electric vending machines. I read the inscription where it was made – Switzerland. This is not China, this is a high-tech, reliable product. And if our electricians used to install Ukrainian electrical equipment from IEK, and it still works somehow, now it is French Legrand equipment, and it is cool.

One of the main problems that I think we will face after the war is the small population. People, Ukrainians. There is a very large outflow, many died, children were taken away… But otherwise, there is no doubt that it will be a very prosperous country!

The interview team:

  • Coordinator – Anna Norinska
  • Interviewer – Nataliia Hryniuk
  • Transcriber – Aliona Gogus
  • Editor – Svitlana Rudokvas
  • Translator – Anastasiia Lypchak