By Olivia Young, CBS Colorado | When 13-year-old Ukrainian refugee Tymofii Salomatin started at Tennyson Knolls Preparatory School in Arvada, he didn’t speak any English and his classmates didn’t speak Russian, so the kids used Google Translate to communicate. When the other students asked Tymofii what he liked to do, he mentioned that he played piano, which lead the curious students to beg their teacher to allow him to play.

Tricia Corneau is a culturally and linguistically diverse education specialist at Tennyson Knolls. She didn’t know what to expect when Tymofii sat down to play at the old piano in the Colorado school’s music room.

“Tymofii starts playing and it was as though it’s an American Idol audition,” Corneau said. “All of the students’ jaws just hit the floor, and everybody all at once just let out applause, and everybody’s clapping and cheering. Some kids were crying.”

Since that day, Tymofii’s skill has become legend. He even played at a recent high school event for Westminster Schools called “Celebrating Excellence.”

“They had never heard anything so beautiful, nor had I,” Corneau said.

His mother Ella Salomatina would agree.

“There is a saying in Russian; ‘Genius is 99% work and 1% talent.’ I think Tymofii has talent from God. God gave him this gift,” Salomatina said in Russian.

Tymofii has studied piano for seven years, attending music school in Ukraine. All of his siblings also play instruments, but his mother says he is the most gifted.

“It’s my dream,” Tymofii said in Russian. “I want a career in this as a pianist.”

It’s a gift that he’s cultivated despite enormous adversity.

“This war left an imprint on all of us, we saw it with our own eyes, we heard how shells explode, we all survived it, the children survived it,” Salomatina said.

In 2014, Tymofii, his parents and his four siblings fled from their home in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, to elsewhere in the country. But in 2020, the war followed them.
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Olivia Young is a reporter at CBS News Colorado.

Photo: Piano (photo provided by American Classic Piano .com)
Photo of Tymofii (which we can’t use due to copyright but you can view it here…)

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