KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Ukrainian music student studying at the University of Tennessee celebrated his first American Thanksgiving right here in Knoxville.
Markiian Lukyniuk is from Chernivtsi, a city in Western Ukraine. When Russia invaded his home country 10 months ago, his educational opportunities came to a halt. So, he got connected with people at the University of Tennessee and officially became a student a few months ago.
On Thursday, Lukyniuk spent Thanksgiving at the home of former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, a man who once served as a U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine's neighbor, Poland. He brought his violin with him, filling the house with the sounds of "Rocky Top" and other music.
Lukyniuk said it has been a great experience celebrating the holiday here in East Tennessee.
"It's amazing... I mean, the vibe of Thanksgiving. It's very family-ish, you know, this holiday is really a warm holiday and I never celebrated it before. I just love how people treat me here," Lukyniuk said.
Since coming to America, Lukyniuk has been performing concerts highlighting Ukrainian music. He said he's been able to raise money to send back to his country to help those in need.
"That for me is the way to help my country because I am not a soldier. I can't fight... I can't, you know, I don't even know how to clean a rifle. So, I know how to play violin and I know how to, like, kind of touch people's hearts and, like, make them happy with music," he said.
Lukyniuk recently held a benefit concert for Ukraine at the Student Union on UT's campus. He said he has another upcoming benefit concert at the Taste of Ukraine Festival on December 10th in Farragut.