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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Presidential Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.