You were born in Tarnopol. What are your national roots and in what circumstances did you find yourself in Poland?

My background is partly Ukrainian and partly Jewish, and since I’ve spent more than half of my life in Poland, I treat Poland as my second homeland.  

Did you speak fluent Polish when you came here?

I knew  Polish a bit. Because my family, my dad and my mum, are big fans of Poland and especially of Polish culture, the radio was often played in Polish. We also had Polish magazines. Like children in Poland, my brother and I always had a journal “Miś” (Teddy Bear), while my parents read “Przekrój”,”Uroda”and  “Szpilki”.

Have you always been aware of your talent, did anyone help you discover it?

No one in my family said to me ‘child, you have talent’, but I always heard ‘child, you have to work hard’. At the same time, they always respected my abilities, emphasised that it was worthwhile to develop, and my parents were very supportive and continue to be so to this day.

 Did you sing or play the piano before?

First I sang. My grandfather taught me Ukrainian songs and my grandmother taught me Jewish songs. I grew up in these two cultures. Poland was there too. My dad has a fantastic jazz feeling, he hummed Polish songs and even though I didn’t understand everything as a child, I would hum something under my breath as if it was in Polish (laughs).

And then I wanted everything. I loved dancing, I loved theatre, I wanted to play the piano… I remember it quite well, I was 4 years old then, if I saw people dancing somewhere, I wanted to dance too, if I saw people playing, I wanted to play. My mum and dad always sensed this and asked – do you want to? My parents and brother would watch me and as soon as they saw me trying to do something, they would ask – would you like to dance? The answer from my side was always – yes! Singing was always in my family, so I didn’t learn singing at first. Yes, I took classes in the school children’s ensemble and the choir, but from the age of four and for the next seven years I was professionally involved in ballet. It has given and continues to give me a lot in life. At the same time I started piano lessons. But there came a time when I had to choose and I chose the piano.

As far as singing is concerned, I started to learn professionally only at the age of 19. These were private lessons with a brilliant teacher, the great classical tenor Mykola Bolotnyy, in Tarnopol. It was this wonderful man who strengthened my own very strong conviction that I would be able to sing. By the way, at the beginning of the classes there was almost nothing to indicate this.

Ukraine has produced many excellent artists. 

Yes, our land is extremely fertile literally and figuratively. I don’t know how to describe it… I think it’s in our genes. Ukraine, like Italy, has always sung. It is a very singing nation with a singing language. We have beautiful songs and an incredibly rich cultural heritage, and I’m always sad when people who don’t know much about it say: oh, an American, Italian or Russian song is great. And Ukrainian… what’s that, it’s nothing special. Well, such an opinion comes from deep ignorance, unfortunately.

And this is because the cradle of East Slavonic languages is just barely known in the World. This is the reality. The Polish nation has a colossal creative potential, and most importantly, Poles are aware of it. For example, the Polish poster tradition is considered to be one of the best in the world. Poland specialises in film, and in the 1980s there was also an excellent era of theatre. At present, theatre in Poland is undergoing a metamorphosis, it is developing and abounds in new forms of expression. And Polish jazz!!! Every nation has some artistic strengths. The Ukrainian nation has typical ones, very strong in their potential, but history has never spared us, often our output was destroyed, and new styles were persecuted, along with their precursors. Now we are being reborn, and the war with Russia is playing its very important role in this process.

How did you meet Józef Skrzek?

It was 1996 and Józek noticed me at a jam and then found me at the school dormitory in Gliwice, where I lived. I remember that he called me on a central phone number, because I didn’t have a mobile phone at that time, and offered to work with me. At the time, I didn’t really know what this meant for me. Today, in retrospect, of course, I know perfectly well how important that meeting was and still is for my musical development, and I consider Józef Skrzek himself to be my artistic father.

We performed in great formations, famous were concert meetings for example in Planetarium Śląskie in Chorzów. Józek loves making music together in a great group. For some time there was a band called “In Corpore”, created with such great musicians as Piotr Wojtasik, Mirosław Muzykant; Violetta Muzykant and Agata Zeliszek danced and we sang with Oleńka Poniszowska (then Karmańska). We also played in castles, lighthouses, undergrounds, theatres… – in various amazing places and at various times of the day! Józek was extremely masterful in combining various ways and styles of creative expression into a whole: classical, jazz, pop, rock, theatre, ethno, dance, painting….. Joseph was able to bring out and expose the best in each of the artists with whom he co-created. On one stage there were legendary artists side by side, such as Tomasz Szukalski, Piotr Wojtasik or Bogdan Miazerski, Andrzej Urny and the beginners. Now I understand that such a combination in its creativity emanated a phenomenal force of freshness.

Entire performances were created, absolutely brilliant, one of a kind and no form was ever repeated. Jozef Skrzek was the first man after my parents, the first artist thanks to whom I realised that creativity really knows no boundaries, except the ones we set ourselves.  ABSOLUTELY everything is possible! Joseph is the Planet. Olympic fire!

Jak trafiłaś na Górny Śląsk?

Kiedy zamknięto w Tarnopolu klub jazzowy, zdążyłam już wcześniej zakosztować sceny i nie chciało mi się pracować wyłącznie w szkole w charakterze nauczycielki. Dla mnie istniał już tylko jazz i muzyka klasyczna! Nic poza tym. Był początek lat 90-tych. Było nas kilkoro i zastanawialiśmy się, co z sobą począć.

At that time everyone was going somewhere to play and I remember that musicians didn’t go to Poland anymore. But the four of us, the “ARS-W” band, decided to go there. I was the youngest.

They were about ten or so years older. Because there was a man who ran a business near Tarnowskie Góry, he wanted us to make concert presentations for him. We worked together for a few months. Unfortunately, we kept hearing him complain that he had no money. So my bandmates went to Japan and Turkey or worked on ships. For me there was nothing but jazz in Poland and so I went straight to an audition at the Jazz and Popular Music Department of the Music Academy in Katowice.

I had strong prospects of being able to study, but as I did not have Polish papers, I would have to pay over 5,000 dollars for the school year. These were the conditions of the Ministry of Culture. So my beginnings were very difficult. There were even times when I didn’t have anything to eat. I was full of dilemmas. I didn’t want to join a theatre choir, because I wanted to sing solo, and I sang solo quite badly. Fortunately, with time, somehow everything started to work out. Wojtek Sanocki, jazz pianist, composer, graduate of the Academy in Katowice, was the first to notice me, still before I got in touch with Józef Skrzek. It was from Wojtek that I learned a lot about the basics of jazz and improvisation. I started to practice a lot.

We played several concerts together and performed jazz standards. By the way, at that time I discovered for myself a unique pearl, a phenomenon which is Silesian Blues. Jan “Kyks” Skrzek, Jerzy “Kawa” Kawalec, Michał Giercuszkiewicz, Andrzej Urny, Leszek Winder… and the club “Leśniczówka” in Chorzów Park… and there was also a wonderful band in Tarnowskie Góry – Mr Koala, now Koala Band. I had a great honour and was simply humanly happy to meet all these amazing musicians and play with some of them. I consider Silesia to be my second homeland, my cradle of Poland. By the way, I came back to the Academy, to the Jazz Institute in Katowice, after graduating from the Department of Composition and Arrangement in 2007. I met a lot of brilliant musicians there, and my greatest and most beloved professor was Mr. Andrej Zubek.

How did you find yourself in Warsaw?

I remember three such moments. The first one was in the mid-1990s. I decided to get the money I needed to study at the Music Academy in Katowice, so I went to Warsaw. There I went straight to the Ministry of Culture for a scholarship.

It was the end of summer. I got off at the train station wearing an Indian skirt and flip-flops, which made me look like I had just come back from the beach (laughs). I was 22/23 years old at the time and I remember very well the surprised look of the elegantly dressed lady from the Ministry when, dressed like that, I asked about the possibilities of financing my musical education.

My second visit to Warsaw was in 1998 when SBB was playing at the Warsaw Philharmonic. There were Józek Skrzek, Anthimos Apostolis and Mirek Muzykant (drums) and I performed as a support. Because I was going through my first phase of love with electronic instruments, I was supposed to perform accompanied by electronics.

However, at the last minute I found out that the necessary keyboard instrument would unfortunately not arrive (I did not have my own at the time) and I would have to play the whole suite, which I had been arranging for a month, with the piano. At that moment I had little experience plus an hour of time to transform my programme from “electronic thinking” to so-called unplugged. Eventually I performed, paying for that concert with severe neurosis. The show was very well received, but the situation was beyond me. However, a colossal experience was gained.

A year later my third meeting with Warsaw took place and the reason was again Jozef Skrzek. This time it was the 25th anniversary of SBB in Sala Kongresowa (Congress Hall, The  Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw). A huge, many hours long party. I was invited to sing vocals to Jozef Skrzek’s song “Erotic”. Halina Frąckowiak was there, as well as Tadeusz Nalepa, Tomasz Szukalski and many other celebrities. Ewa Bem was also there. Józek took me to Ewa and said: “Roksi, Ewa, get to know each other, because it’s worth it. We looked at each other and Ewa said – I will listen to your singing today.

Then we had a longer conversation and I was happy to express my admiration and gratitude to Ewa, when… Suddenly this woman, who radiated indescribable warmth and good energy, with an incredible smile and black, shining eyes, said – would you like to study? I replied: “I would love to, but I have just been through a lot and I am simply afraid to go into that river again. She replied – I am just teaching at the school in Bednarska Street, don’t be afraid and go for those exams. So I pulled myself together, went for the exams and got into her class, and later, for good studies, I was exempted from fees. Officially, Ewa Bem was my lecturer at the Post-Secondary School of Jazz at Bednarska Street, but unofficially she was my good, motherly spirit who supported me. I experienced a lot of good things working with Ewa, I learned a lot and I owe her a lot. 

I guess it wasn’t until the Mizrah band that you found roots in Warsaw for good?

Nine months after that meeting with Ewa Bem, I found myself in Warsaw permanently. At the school, there were lectures by musicians I knew only from vinyl covers from my childhood, such as Kazimierz Jonkisz, the Jagodziński Trio, with whom I later partly played my diploma, or Zbigniew Namysłowski, who conducted big band classes…

It was also a time when all those now well-known names, who have successively been active in Poland or have moved around the world, could be found among the students at the school in Bednarska Street. The great Agnieszka Skrzypek, or Aga Zaryan, Michał Jaros, Jan Smoczyński and many others.

Thanks to being in that amazing atmosphere, thanks to my teachers, I entered deeply into the secrets of jazz. I remember the moment when I learned, caught the nerve of swinging. Dear God… How much Michał Tokaj, a wonderful musician, my piano teacher, put his heart into it! He gave me his whole soul back then, but I learned. I was so passionate about learning that even when I left school, it was only for a short time. I stayed there from morning till night. At last I got into jazz college, which I had wanted all my life.

I was walking around very happy, and out of this joy I was shining so brightly that I could have been a power plant (laughs). I even remember Jasiu Smoczyñski, an excellent pianist, asking me once: “Roksi, why are you so happy all the time”, and I told him: “Janek, I would tell you, but it is a long and sad story”. It was there that I experienced for the first time the feeling of happiness in a conscious way. But even then, when I started school I knew very well that I wanted to follow my own musical path. When I came to Warsaw, I had only three pieces composed by myself, but it was at Bednarska that the next ones were created. Yes, jazz was already very much inside myself at that time. But the more I absorbed it, the more I felt inspired to do something of my own, and this is how my Mizrah, which in Hebrew means East, was born. The main motive for the birth of those, as well as current compositions in me, is His Majesty’s Contrast of Experiences. I will illuminate this thread a little later.

What was the line-up of this band?

Ryszard Borowski on flute, Piotr Aleksandrowicz on guitar, Wojciech Traczyk on double bass and Michał Trela on drums. Later the double bass players Andrzej Łukasik and Kornel Jasiński played briefly with us. It was a great line-up! Not only was it my first band, but I recorded my first album Mizrah with them. We played ethnic music inspired by jazz.

PThe creation of the album? It all happened very quickly, almost in a flash. We set up a band, for a year we played jazz standards in my arrangements, adding my own compositions, and arranging something together. Then we put it all together and as a result, during my graduation, we played jazz standards in half my arrangements and some of Andrzej Jagodziński’s – as I already mentioned, with the Jagodziński Trio – and half my compositions with the Mizrah band.

When we graduated the school, the material for the album was almost ready. During the final exams,  we ended up at the Nowa Tradycja festival, the chairman of which was Czesław Niemen, a year before his death. And it was him who gave us the Special Award of recording the album.  “Mizrach” was recorded at Tadeusz Mieczkowski’s studio, the best in Poland at the time, and immediately released by JazzForum magazine.

How did you get into theatre?

Theatre has been in my life since childhood, as my grandfather Stepan Danylyshyn was a stage designer. I entered the theatre as an artist in 2006. The theatre has always attracted me, but knowing my emotionality, I was afraid to lose myself in it. I was most afraid of dramatic roles and that I wouldn’t be able to cope with them mentally. It started with performances with old Warsaw Roma coryphaeuses Witt Michaj and Lacy Wisniewski, outstanding classical tenor Gennady Iskhakov and a wonderful group of dancing and singing artists. Here are gypsies and romances, and at the same time the Jazz Institute in Katowice and a big band – and this is one example of the highly inspiring contrast I have mentioned and in which my life abounds. Performances with a gypsy music programme took place in Warsaw’s Jewish Theatre.

After these performances Szymon Szurmiej, the then director of the Theatre, invited Witt, Gennady, Liliana Cercel and me to participate in the performance “Tradition”, and then there were other performances during the about 15 years of our cooperation. At that time, for two seasons at the Rampa Theatre, I played in an amazingly atmospheric play “The Swallow” based on I. Turgenev and directed by Zhanna Gerasimova. I made music for it and played one of the two main characters.

Zhanna Gerasimova is my theatre mum. Thanks to this cooperation, I discovered theatre in myself for the first time, that is, I found that “something” which I can fully give to theatre. Later, thanks to Szymon Szurmiej’s wife, the current Director of the Jewish Theatre, Golda Tencer, I discovered Jewish poetry for myself. A while later, together with Monika Chrząstowska, the coryphée of the excellent acting troupe of the Jewish Theatre, we created the play “Taki jeden dzień” (“Such a day”), the script was based on Sz. Alejhem’s novel, and I composed the music – this was my first theatrical experience of this kind.

The theatre has this thing that once you stay in it for a long time, it starts to go into your every coil, into your every vein, into your whole personality and starts to be part of your DNA. When I first came to theatre, I was given a condition – no static, and at the time, like most musicians, I had trouble taking a step right or left on stage! And in the theatre you have to be able to do everything on stage. Now I naturally feel like a fish in water there, composing music for shows and performing it live, singing, reciting, dancing, and recently also directing – all the things I like to do most. Theatre is MY place!

When I discovered theatre in myself, every time I go on stage with my own concert programmes, I can no longer stand still. I’m carried away! Theatre also gives you freedom to such an extent that the concept of “mistake” doesn’t exist for you on stage. You simply have to play around the mistake and it is a great opportunity to see what level you are at, because theatre is also about improvisation.

You play the main singing role in the play “Xięgi Schulza”, which was produced at Teatr Polski in Wrocław. In what convention is this play maintained?

The idea for this play matured in the imagination of Jan Szurmiej, its creator, over a period of many years. It is a musical-dramatic play. Multi-layered, multi-plot. Mystical, showing the full substance of the subtle beauty of the whole character that is Bruno Schulz. Approximately 50 people, including the technical team, make up the entirety of the performance on stage, which is augmented by fantastic set design  and an incredible number of beautiful costumes.

Playing the role of the Lunar Goddess, created by Jan Szurmiej, I sing 17 songs – texts “vividly” taken out of B. Schulz’s works and musically prepared in an absolutely brilliant way by Marcin Partyka.  It is a challenging role in every respect. And it is also one of my favourite roles. In fact, Jan created the theatrical planet “Schulz” and populated it with us, the actors. And we picked up the idea and that’s how this wonderful organism “Schulz’s Story” came into being. As a great visionary of theatre, Jan Szurmiej is constantly looking for new forms of creative expression.

Always original, full of fresh ideas, he remains faithful to his unique style. He is a man who is constantly learning and challenging himself, and the nature of Jan’s imagination is astounding. Thanks to “Xięgi Schulza”, I had the wonderful opportunity to see in detail how his work is created. I have fallen enormously in love with the team at Teatr Polski in Wroclaw, I am delighted with their artistry, their very high artistic level and I am always very happy when we work together.

You have been in Germany more often for some time now.

I have been living and working in Germany since 2019. The multiculturalism of this country is downright amazing and hugely inspiring! We collaborate tightly with the Ukrainian Embassies on various creative projects.

My first artistic step was to stage the play “Roter Hunger” (Red Famine) about the tragic fate of the citizens of eastern Ukraine in 1932-33, based on a script by the outstanding Piotr Tyma  and Izabella Chruślińska , which we had also previously produced at the Warsaw Polish Theatre. German and Ukrainian actors were invited, and together with the wonderful Wolfram Spyra we made music for this play, which we performed live in German. The play has received the Honorary Patronage of the Embassy of Ukraine and has been staged at the Passionskirche, in the very centre of Berlin in 2019.

Members of the Bundestag were invited and, after seeing the performance, were moved to return to the interrupted dialogue with Ukraine on the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide. That was my first step. Now, cooperation with various artists is gradually developing, including ongoing Polish-German projects.

You have been collaborating with German instrumentalist Wolfram Spyra for a few years now .

Yes, this is a very interesting kind of collaboration. Not only do we give concerts together as a duo “Moon&Melody” , but we also conduct workshops on very interesting topics, organize and participate in sound exhibitions. We are constantly learning from each other!

We release CD albums together  (CD albums – link do Dyskografii) We also run the sound and image gallery WorldWideWindow in Frankfurt (Oder).

Wolfram and I travel a lot together, so we find a lot of interesting inspirations. Wolfram is a European-class electronic musician with roots in the Old Berlin School.

We met in 2009 during the “Stairway to Heaven” Festival organised by Józef Skrzek and held at the Chorzów Planetarium, where I was the only woman to represent Ukraine at the event.

Wolfram Spyra and Robert Gola, a Silesian guitarist who has lived in Germany for years, also performed there. Since then, many years we’ve spent together with Wolfram.


Is your life just a stage?

Not only. I am the author of several programs: reactionary “Energetic Kamerton” (link) and educational “roksaNA-VIkaluk” (link to EDUCATION). The very idea of “Energetic Camertone”, before it took the shape of a programme, matured over many years. It all started from the fact that many times after my concerts I was approached by various people with the words – we have flown away… or – this music has a healing effect. At first I just took it as a nice compliment, but with time I started to think about it more deeply. At the same time, working on myself, as well as cooperating with the artists, observing the relations between them, in a fundamental way contributed to the creation of the “Energetic Camertone” programme.

I also run workshops on working with the voice called “Its Majesty Voice” (link to Education, Its Majesty Voice), where we become aware of the relationship between our own voice and personality, both when we enter the areas of improvisation in the broadest sense. I am very strongly connected with jazz and in my individual lessons (link to Education) I pass on my knowledge in the field of interpretation of, among others, jazz standards and skat improvisation. But in life we improvise every day, it is an absolutely organic process and a natural state of affairs, and therefore naturally inspiring to go beyond any known boundaries, to overthrow them.

Apart from that, I cooperate with the Ukrainian newspaper “Nasze Słowo”, published in Warsaw, where I run a column entitled “Korale”. I occasionally publish my essays and short stories there. 

Your greatest dream?

First of all, to be healthy and for my loved ones to be alive and healthy. And beyond that – self-realisation, fulfilment in every expression of it. I want to brainstorm in collaboration, I want to interact and catalyse, to live and discover!


The interview was conducted by Sławek Orwat. Original text of the interview





























Fot. Wolfram Spyra
Z Mamą i Tatą, Ternopil 1978 / With Mother ad Father, Ternopil 1978
Ternopil 1980
Z Jozefem Skrzekiem, Bytom, 1997
Górny Śląsk, 1994
Z Wojtkiem Sanockim, Gliwice, 1996
Fot. Marek Śliwowski
Nadiya Kyrylova "Portret Roksany", 2012
fot. Wolfram Spyra
Projekt okładki płyty “Mizrach” (Oleh Hevko/Roksana Vikaluk), fot. Volodymyr Fastiv
Koncert dyplomowy Roksany Vikaluk: przy pianie - A.Jagodziński, bas - A. Cegielski, bębny- C. Bartkowski, flet R. Borowski, tp. - R. Majewski, ss.- M. Kulenty, Teatr Mały, Warszawa, 2002
"Moon&Melody" Roksana i Wolfram Spyra. Fot. Marek Śliwowski
Warszataty "Jego Wysokość Głos", Warszawa, 2015. Fot. Wolfram Spyra
Fot. Wolfram Spyra

Wywiad przeprowadził Sławek Orwat. Oryginalny tekst wywiadu: Teatr przenika do DNA