On the day Russia declared war on Ukraine, the country’s biggest rock star, Sviatoslav ‘Slava’ Vakarchuk got on to Kyiv’s glass bridge in a show of solidarity. As people gathered around him, singing along, Slava said that the people of Ukraine were together and that “we shall overcome.”
Slava, who is the lead singer from the band Okean Elzy, has been at the forefront of the country’s Maidan Movement, also called “Ukraine’s revolution for dignity.” In May 2019, Slava launched his own party, Holos (Voice). He was himself expected to run for the President’s office, but chose to bow out of it ultimately. His party, though, won 20 of 423 seats in the parliamentary elections two months later. A year afterwards, Slava also quit as Ukraine’s member of parliament, declaring that his “mission was accomplished.” But, as Melinda Haring of the Atlantic Council wrote, “He may have created the first real political party based on ideology, not personality, and one without a direct financial relationship to Ukraine’s oligarchs.”
Slava spoke to Open’s Rahul Pandita somewhere from the outskirts of Kyiv – both of them were in the 2015 class of the Yale World Fellowship Program.