Yllka is a Kosovan-born classical pianist living in North London who lived through the war in Kosovo in 1999 and subsequently moved to England. She studied at the Royal College of Music and has performed world-wide. She has recently accepted to become one of only 1,600 recognised Steinway Artists. Yllka is also a keen runner and has run at a range of marathons globally, including the 2015 London marathon.

Having continued her piano practice unrelentingly throughout the Kosovo War, there is very little that could distract her from her goal to continually surpass her previous achievements. Yllka draws many parallels between her two pursuits, concluding that the mental state whilst performing in a concert is very close to that required in a long-distance run. This level of concentration as well as her ability to play through her piano pieces in her mind as she runs, creates a meditative state that allows her to carry on even when her body is compelling her to stop.


This film is part of 1000 Londoners, a five-year digital project which aims to create a digital portrait of a city through 1000 of the people who identify themselves with it. The profile contains a 3 minute film that gives an insight into the life of the Londoner, as well as their personal photos of London and some answers to crucial questions about their views on London life. Over the course of the project we aim to reveal as many facets of the capital as possible, seeing city life from 1000 points of view.

Twitter: @1000_londoners

1000 Londoners is produced by South London based film production company and social enterprise, Chocolate Films. The filmmakers from Chocolate Films will be both producing the films and providing opportunities to young people and community groups to make their own short documentaries, which will contribute to the 1000 films. Visit www.chocolatefilms.com


It’s always been a part of me. I started very young and there was no question whether I wanted to something else. I stayed in Kosovo during the war but we moved to my aunt’s because my house wasn’t safe. My dad made an effort and would take me home every day just to practice a bit. There was always a piece that I wanted to learn and it was always more difficult than I could play at the time. So it was just climbing to the next level. Piano is my number one obviously but I do also run and I do it quite passionately. I find running a marathon and doing a concert very similar. Not only in the preparation but also mentally because when you do a concert, you think in stages. You think this piece, then that piece and then that piece. You don’t think from the beginning to the end. And that’s how I approached my very first marathon. I approached it in that way – my first five miles and then I’ll think about the next ones. Whatever piece I’m working on at that moment will be playing in my head all the time. Most of the time it’s involuntary but sometimes I purposely go through it in my head as I’m running. Because you’re, for those how ever many hours, just yourself and your thoughts. Sometimes I think I’m running away from myself as well. I think I started running just to get fitter and to feel better. And I did find loads of parallels between running and piano playing. You just don’t give yourself the option of stopping. It’s out of the question. You can’t stop in a concert, you’re not going to stop in a race. That’s it.