Performs for Ukrainian Rock Star Soldiers; The music evokes the spirit of war

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Donetsk Territory, Ukraine – Many rock stars do not wear flak jackets at shows or choose a dark art warehouse as the venue.

However, Ukraine’s biggest rock star Svatoslav Vakarchuk also did not play to the general public on Monday.

In a makeshift military base inside a factory building near the Russian front in Donbass, Vakarchuk sank into a wounded office chair, opened an acoustic guitar and poured folk songs and pep talk to dozens of Ukrainian soldiers who had just returned from the infernal war. He sang for at least 40 minutes and it took almost as long for the soldiers to leave because he was crowded for selfies and autographs.

“It simply came to our notice then. I’m fascinated, in fact, “said Lieutenant Stanislav Kislov, who was part of a nighttime military convoy a few days ago that came under fire after a convoy was spotted by a drone.

Vakarchuk, 47, has been described as Bruce Springsteen of Ukraine. He has long been involved in music, social justice and national politics, including serving two terms in the Rada of Ukraine’s parliament.

Known to his fans as Slava, Vacarchuk, band Oken LG’s frontman, cut his music a little more than an emotional and raspy voice and embarked on a solo tour to awaken his country’s spirit in the war against Russia.

More enthusiastic about the power of music to inspire and unite Ukrainians, the Ukrainian group, the Kalush Orchestra, won top honors at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Vacarchuk performed for workers in the control room of the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant on Friday. In a series of performances for military personnel on Monday, he stopped in Bakhmu to shake hands with postal workers, who received the mail in a still-competitive area, just hours before a Russian missile hit a residential area of ​​the city.

His one-man road show has made him even more attached to the Ukrainians, especially the soldiers who have denied all hope of defeating Russian power.

“It’s good for the morale to know we haven’t forgotten,” said Ihor Sochka, a 23-year-old soldier, after Vakarchuk’s performance here on Monday.

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The Ukrainian military has given Washington Post reporters access to a forward base about 25 miles from the front line, provided its exact location cannot be determined. A spokesman for the unit – the 24th Separate Mechanical Brigade – declined to say how many troops were stationed there.

The makeshift base was close to several Russian attacks on Monday, including shelling at an ammonium nitrate depot and air strikes on Bachmu, which left a hole 40 feet in diameter and severely damaged an apartment building.

During his performance, Vakarchuk (pronounced va-kar-chuk) urged the Ukrainians to remain steadfast at a time when the pace of the war seemed to be shifting in their direction as it intensified eastward. He said Russia had invaded Ukraine because it feared it would be infected by the “freedom gene”.

“But we have to endure,” he told the troops. “I am here to tell you that the whole country is proud of you. You are incredibly calm. No one believed that Ukraine could be like that. But today, I believe that Ukraine is a country that is supported and admired by the whole world. “

He made some remarks aimed at Russian troops, appealed to their conscience and called on them to refrain from further involvement in the war, which is already marked by mass destruction and alleged war crimes.

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“We see Russian prisoners of war saying, ‘I was just obeying orders,'” Vakarchuk said. “I just want to say one thing: either you change the government that gives you criminal orders or you are complicit in crime.”

Then he started playing. Some soldiers sat on steel trusses or other scrap metal. Others stood on pallets piled up with body armor. Some sang along with the soldiers, and many pulled out smartphones to make videos.

The showpiece was “City of Mary”, a song in honor of the besieged Ukrainian fighters inside the huge Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol as they ended their week-long stand. Vakarchuk said he was never able to write a song until the deputy commander of the nationalist Azov Battalion, Sviatoslav “Kalina” Palamar, requested it.

“Now imagine their situation: difficult situation, lack of medicine and a bunch of injured people, lack of food and water, lack of ammunition,” Vakarchuk told the soldiers. “And he wants me to write a song. At that moment, I realized that a real warrior is different from a mercenary with a weapon that he fights with his heart. “

My dream will not be shattered

My heart will never betray his faith

The righteous city of Mary. “

After hitting his last voice, he was crowded by soldiers.

Anatoly Shiponovsky, a huge fan who was re-enlisted in the army the day after the Russian invasion, took a place in the front row. He said he and his wife, Irina, had attended almost every concert in Vakarchuk, near their hometown of Lviv. They even bought advance tickets for a concert later this month, which is unlikely to happen now.

Even before Vakarchuk called his wife to say he would perform for his unit, Shiponovsky knew he would be jealous.

“I want to join too!” She told him.

“Well, come on!” He recalled telling her when the soldiers crowded around for selfies and autographs, most of whom went to friends and family in the village or directly to social media.

“Svatoslav has a big mission, with his songs, with his inspirational speeches,” said Kislov, 36, the lieutenant whose convoy was on fire.

Kislov said Vakarchuk, his varied career and his height now seem to embody something unique for Ukrainians, and his performance near the front seemed to be a particularly effective way to get troops from Donbass to his unit. This region of eastern Ukraine also has neighbors and sometimes families, who have divided allegiance between Russia and Ukraine.

“Many of them come from small villages, small towns and they need extra inspiration to support the whole country,” he said.

Erinka Hromotska, Serhiy Koralchuk, Ivan Semekhin and Anastasia Vlasova contributed to this report.

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