Russian invasion takes Slava Vakarchuk to his most dangerous rock tour across Ukraine

Russian invasion takes Slava Vakarchuk to his most dangerous rock tour across Ukraine thumbnail

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When Russian rockets started hitting his homeland, Ukraine’s rock star Sviatoslav “Slava” Vakarchuk asked himself how he could help a country facing yet another Russian invasion in less than a decade. He enlisted in the armed force shortly after the first bombs went off in several towns. He has since visited more then a dozen of the war-affected areas in the country.

” The best way to motivate people and to boost the morale among those who serve our country was to use my popularity. Vakarchuk says, “I wanted to be useful.” He has been performing in some of the most unusual places for the past month, including underground bomb shelters, children’s hospitals, and empty streets in war-torn cities.

Leader of the Holos Party Sviatoslav Vakarchuk is pictured during the presentation of the party's regional branch and campaign staff, Vinnytsia, central Ukraine. 

Pictured during the presentation of the party’s regional branch, campaign staff, Vinnytsia (central Ukraine): Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, leader of the Holos Party
(Oleksandr Lapin/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Vakarchuk’s band Okean Elzy (Elza’s Ocean) is the most decorated Ukrainian rock band with a record of bringing the biggest crowds in Kiev during the 2004 Orange Revolution and 2013 Euromaidan protests.

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When asked by Fox News how it feels to stand in the center of an underground metro station turned into a bomb shelter and perform patriotic songs? He replied, “Absolutely relevant to this situation” and added “You understand that now you have to sing to these people underground because these people need your much more than you do during peaceful times.”

Slava Vakarchuk is a well-known name in Ukraine. From debuting in 1994 as the band’s vocalist to twice becoming a member of parliament and creating his own political party – 46-year-old singer has a long-standing history of social and political activism.

Okean Elzy band leader Sviatoslav Vakarchuk performs during the Ark Ukraine: Ten Centuries of Ukrainian Music concert in Mykhailivska Square in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's independence, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.

Okean Elzy band leader Sviatoslav Vakarchuk performs during the Ark Ukraine: Ten Centuries of Ukrainian Music concert in Mykhailivska Square in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.
(Evgen Kotenko/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

In the 2019 parliamentary elections Vakarchuk’s party “Holos” (which means both voice and vote in Ukrainian) secured 20 of 423 seats as the opposition party. This seems like an ancient history: “There is no opposition today, everyone is supporting the president and the government, and we all fight against Russia.”

Ultimately, Vakarchuk left both parliament and the party. When asked if he regretted the decision, Vakarchuk quickly replied that politics was never a love story.

“It was something I couldn’t resist doing because it was the right place for me and the best use of my efforts. I wanted to change the political landscape when I founded the party. My goal was to get new people into parliament. When I saw that it was working, my desire was to bring new people into parliament. I then reverted to what I believe I can do better for my country: to create arts, music, and inspire people.

Lead vocalist Sviatoslav Vakarchuk is pictured during an impromptu open-air concert of the Okean Elzy rock band on the pedestrian and cycling bridge across Volodymyrskyi Descent, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.

Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, the lead vocalist, is photographed during an impromptu open air concert by the Okean Elzy band on the pedestrian-cycling bridge across Volodymyrskyi Descent in Kyiv.
(Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Okean Elzy has refused to perform in Russia since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a decision he calls solid. “You can’t perform in the country that annexed you territory and pretend nothing happened.” He stood by that decision for eight years. He said that he cannot imagine himself performing in Russia again and was not ready to answer the question.

“Asking this today is like asking Albert Einstein in 1936 if he could see himself ever going to Germany. The answer is “I don’t know.” It’s difficult to predict. This is definitely not on my radar right at the moment.

Some old hits by Okean Elzy are finding new life in wartime. For example, “Bez boyu”, in which Vakarchuk pledges not to surrender without fighting hard, just like his country. This is something Vakarchuk is proud of.

“Ukraine today is the bravest nation in the world, and I mean it. We had no choice but to fight. We had the option to choose how we would fight, and I am very proud of the way we chose. Everybody, from soldiers to generals, to nurses to ordinary drivers, is doing their best to help Ukraine win.

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As somebody who has spent some time in the States as a fellow at the Yale and Stanford universities and performed in many corners of the world, Vakarchuk believes, Ukrainian’s today are fighting for values that Americans created.

” I believe that it is an obligation for the Western civilization to make some sacrifices when Ukraine is making such big sacrifices to fight the common enemy who wants to destroy what the free world stands for.

Okean Elzy also mentioned “Obiymy”, which means “Hug me” in Ukrainian. The lyrics say “when that day comes, the war’s over.” Fox News asked him what he looks forward to once that day arrives.

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“To see my family and to kiss my young son”, he says. Vakarchuk’s 28-year-old daughter volunteers in Lviv, and they manage to meet once in a while, but he has not seen his 9-month-old son since the war erupted.

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