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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid