News / Europe

Ukrainian Eurovision Pop Star Becomes Voice of Protest

FILE - Ukrainian singer Ruslana performs in a dress rehearsal in Berlin, Germany.
FILE - Ukrainian singer Ruslana performs in a dress rehearsal in Berlin, Germany.
Reuters
A Ukrainian Eurovision song contest winner is pushing her voice to the limit belting out songs nightly to keep up the morale of protesters camped out a snowy Kyivsquare - the unlikely figurehead of movement to oust President Viktor Yanukovich.
 
Ruslana Lyzhychko won with a song “Wild Dances” in 2004, becoming Ukraine's only Eurovision winner. For political elites that contest may seem a celebration of inanity, but for Ukrainians dreaming of a European future it brought recognition before a huge continental audience.
 
“Last night was a record for me - eight hours on stage,” Lyzhychko told Reuters. “People look to me and they also stay.”
 
The long nights in freezing temperatures have taken their toll. She looked worn to the bone, her face bare of makeup and hair disheveled, sucking throat lozenges as she whisked into the opposition's improvised HQ for another night.
 
Lyzhychko, her petite form belying a powerful deep voice,  has been on stage virtually all night, every night in more than two weeks since protesters occupied the main square, enraged by Yanukovich's decision to scrap an EU trade deal and move the former Soviet republic closer to Moscow.
 
“She is fantastic. She is our voice, our soul, our face and our inspiration and our endurance,” said activist Yegor Sobolev, draped in a yellow-blue Ukrainian flag.
 
Although she has become a hero to protesters camped out inside the barricades, not everyone shares their qualms about the beckoning of powerful northern neighbor Russia.
 
“When Ruslana won the Eurovision, we were proud of her... but now it is shameful,” a reader from the largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass commented in a local newspaper. “I am ashamed of Ruslana.”
 
President Vladimir Putin wants Kiev, heavily indebted over Russian gas, as a central pillar in a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan to rival the EU and the United States.

Barricades
 
But Lyzhychko sings on as protesters prepare for mass weekend demonstrations and Russia and the EU vie for Kiev's favor, all the while cautious of the country's huge debts.
 
At night, Kyiv's central Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti, is filled with young men in hard hats and makeshift protective guards - volunteering as self-appointed security to man the barricades against any police raid.
 
Instantly surrounded by a half-dozen activists at Maidan, Ruslana plots strategy, ignoring the makeup artist and hairdresser who fuss around her. Minutes later, she is transformed and ready for battle: eyes rimmed in sultry, dark eye-shadow and jet black locks swept up into an Amazonian pony tail.
 
One night, Lyzhychko's voice boomed out from the stage like a commander rallying troops as protesters shoved back against black-clad riot police, who tried to clear the streets without using force but eventually withdrew, far outnumbered.
 
Rock music blaring and fists pummeled the air, she belted out the refrain of a popular hit by one of Ukraine's most popular bands, Okean Elzy: “I won't give up without a fight,” calling on people to wake friends to swell their numbers and rasing chants of “Maidan, exists!”
 
“I am Ukrainian. I believe in my people, I believe in justice. I will stand firm,” she yelled, stamping her Ugg-clad feet to keep warm.
 
Lyzhychko is adored among protesters who see her as one of their own in a civil movement wary of politicians after being disappointed over the perceived failure of 2004-2005 Orange Revolution to get rid of official corruption and bring change.

Christmas tree
 
Some said they would vote for her, if she chose politics, but for now it is a mantle Lyzhychko rejects.
 
“You cannot lead Maidan, you can only join it,” Lyzhychko said. “I think of myself as a volunteer ... showing people that we need to be here because there is no other way.”
 
The pop star was also active in those 2004-2005 streets protests that succeeded in overturning a fraudulent election won by Yanukovich but not in reforming the political system that saw him again win the presidency in 2010.
 
“Russia is our past, Europe must be our future,” said Lyzhychko, who is from Lviv, about 60 km from Ukraine's western border with EU member Poland where many see Russian as occupiers who oppressed their country in the Soviet era.
 
Like others, Ruslana answered a Facebook call on November 21 to protest on the square where days later she had been booked to unveil a Christmas tree. That tree has now been torn to shreds by protesters using it to build barricades.
 
“After that night, the Kyivcity administration called to cancel her participation, but anyway there was no opening and the Christmas tree is no more,” Lyzhychko's spokeswoman said.
 
What is left of its towering wire carcass is now festooned with flags and political messages.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid