Ukrainian teen refugee connects with Colorado classmates through music:

Ukrainian teenager from Westminster connects with Arvada classmates through piano.

Timofey Salomatin, a Ukrainian teenager from Westminster, connects with Arvada classmates through the piano.


When 13-year-old Ukrainian refugee Tymofii Salomatin started at Tennyson Knolls Preparatory School in Arvada, he didn’t speak English and his classmates didn’t speak Russian, so the kids used Google Translate to communicate. When other students ask Tymofi what he likes to do, he mentions that he plays the piano, causing the curious students to beg their teacher to let him play.

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

“Tymofii starts playing and it’s like it’s an American Idol audition,” Coroney said. “All the students’ jaws just hit the floor, and everybody clapped together, and everybody was clapping and cheering. Some of the kids were crying.”

Since that day, Tymofii’s skills have become legendary. He even played in a recent high school event at Westminster Schools called “Celebrating Excellence.”

Timofey Salomon


“They had never heard anything so beautiful, and neither had I,” Coroney said.

His mother, Ella Salomatina, would agree.

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

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

“This is my dream,” Timofey said in Russian. “I want a career in it as a pianist.”

It’s a gift that he has nurtured against the odds.

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

Ella Salometina


In 2014, Timofey, his parents and his four siblings fled their home in Ukraine’s Donetsk region to another part of the country. But war followed them in 2022.

“Where we lived, there was shelling, it was very scary, the children were very scared,” Salomatina said. “We ran from one house to the basement to hide from the shells and Allah put a wall over us, meaning we were all intact, nothing happened to us, although there were explosions here and there.”

He moved back to western Ukraine and lived there for the past year, but the threat remained.

Finally, in late March, they moved to Colorado to stay with relatives, but one family member stayed behind.

“My older son Andriy, he’s still in Ukraine. He can’t go because we have a war there and men between the ages of 18 and 60 can’t leave the country,” Salomatina said.

As the war continues, the family’s chances of returning become less and less likely.

“Not long ago, in the village where we lived, there was an explosion and our house was badly damaged. We don’t see any way back now. It’s dangerous for children to be there,” Salomatina said. ” said Salomatina.

Now, they are adjusting to life in Colorado. Salomatina says the community is welcoming, and her kids love the school. He has also befriended other Ukrainian refugees in the area.

“We as a country are grateful to America. She helped Ukraine a lot in this war. We are grateful to the school and our favorite teacher. She devoted a lot of time to us. Thank you!” Salometina said thanking Corneo.

Tricia Corneau, education specialist at Tennyson Knolls Preparatory School


“He’s just such a motivated student. He’s passionate about his learning, he’s passionate about his music and he’s such an inspiration to our students and our staff,” Coroney said.

Tymfii is making friends, and learning English, but in the meantime, he tells his story through music.

“Music is the universal language and he proved it,” said Coroney.

The school doesn’t have a music program and Tymofii doesn’t have a piano at his relative’s house. Instead, he practices on an electric keyboard his family borrowed from a church and takes lessons remotely with his music teacher in Ukraine.

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