A few days ago the vocal formation Pikkardiiska Tertsia, holder of the Shevchenko Prize, came back from a tour in eastern and southern Ukraine. The tour included eight cities: Poltava, Sumy, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kryvy Rih, and Mykolaiv. The gig in Mariupol was called off at the latest moment: the organizers could not guarantee even a modicum of safety. But the band will go to Mariupol by all means, later in July or August.
The Day talked with the band’s artistic director about the tour and its program, sold out houses and the public’s sentiments, some TV channels’ information policy and the trust between Ukraine’s east and west.
“Our tour was planned way back, last year,” shared Volodymyr YAKYMETS. “Last March we gave three concerts in Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk. Even then the organizers said that such concerts should be more frequent because they gathered crowds (it was said of the new, extended tour). No one could foresee that there would happen so much in the country. We were prepared to go, but there were safety concerns. Apparently, it is our super responsibility that snapped into action: we knew that the public was waiting for us. Moreover, we come from the west of Ukraine!
“There are many blinkered, informational dependent people there. We came without political slogans. Nor did we support any of the presidential candidates. It was all about singing, nothing more. We even did not call to the unity of Ukraine at our gigs: everyone should decide for themselves, what kind of country they want to live in. After all, no one who dreams of Putin’s Russia will want to visit our concerts.”
Did you prepare any special program, given the current situation?
“Our concerts were held under the motto ‘The Best’ and they comprised 28 songs. This time we relied more heavily on folklore than usually, and we have also brought up one of our first songs, ‘Tuman yarom.’ Not a single concert missed ‘Plyve kacha,’ and the crowds always stood up from their seats at the first sounds of the song, which commemorates the Heavenly Sotnia.
“We did not make an entertainment program, but we tried to compile it in such a way as to distract the audience from bad news. You will agree that some Ukrainian TV stations do abuse negative information. This is not the way to do it. I think that due to the heavy negative information flow people are becoming aggressive and cynical, but this is not what Ukrainians essentially are! Therefore we had to give some hope, something positive, some light at the end of the tunnel. And we did give it. People came to us in Donetsk and Luhansk to thank us for having the guts to come there. They said that it was very important for them. By the way, there was not a single provocation at our performances. Maybe, due to the fact that our audience consisted of connoisseurs of our music, who know (and most importantly, share) our attitude towards Ukraine.”
What are your personal impressions of the tour? What would you say about today’s Ukraine? What sort of country is it?
“In general: yes, it is a united country! On the other hand, in the east there are opponents of the DNR and LNR, people who will not even hear of Russia. But unfortunately, they do not see any effective steps taken to meet them. I will say something about us. We are just simple musicians from the west, and we went to the east and south to do our duty. But why only us? I do not say that the top leaders of the country should go there. A war is going on, albeit an undeclared one. So why party leaders are not going there? They spend so much time online on radio and TV talking about the situation. Why don’t business people, CEOs, company presidents go there? Where are the civic organizations, the representatives of other region’s Russian-speaking communities? Such meetings must be held, by all means! Ordinary people should hear about what is going on at such meetings. I sometimes feel horrified when I look at news at different channels about what is going on in the east. For example, we came to Luhansk, and the city lives its normal, peaceful life. We were also told that all the events are unfolding outside the city. Of course, now that the anti-terrorist operation is going on, the situation has changed.
“I would also mention another thing. None of the central TV channels sent their reporters to our concerts. But they should have come, they should have talked to the people. Pikkardiiska Tertsia does not need any PR! What is necessary is positive news. I would like to say this to the newsmen: try at least to alternate bad and good news. Work despite, as they say. Not every person in the east is a separatist. There live normal people, who take it close to heart. We even heard some young, critical-thinking young people, who spend days in the web, that it is Germans and Americans who are waging this war against our people in the east. Where does anything like this come from? Even if they do not watch Russian channels, they do not trust their Ukrainian counterparts. This produces a vicious circle. Therefore I say: it is necessary to go to the east and talk to the people. Not necessarily about politics, you know. Just about some ordinary human things. Such conversations will surely help break the ice. Isn’t this the main thing? I have always said, ‘Treat people just like you want them to treat you.’ This is my golden rule.”
P.S. It should be noted that Yakymets was very reserved during the interview when it came to the impressions of the tour. Maybe he was tired, or maybe he needed time to contemplate and interpret them. That is why I find it opportune to quote a few of his Facebook notes made during the tour:
“Today I fell in love with Luhansk for a second time.”
“How could I possibly have forgotten about it? Our fans from Konotop came to our gig in Sumy. They had booked a bus in advance to be able to do it! For any artist, this is the best sign of recognition and gratitude. THANK YOU SO MUCH!”
“If someone should ever answer my question ‘What is Khortytsia?’ saying that it is a brand of vodka, don’t you hope that I am just a softie who studied music. I will beat the living daylights out of them, because Khortytsia means Zaporizhia, the land of open-hearted, sincere people with gentle and kind thoughts and with the invincible, freedom-loving Cossack spirit.”
“Today we have found another sincere and true Friend. What a shame that we made our acquaintance with Kryvy Rih only after 22 years. But this meeting will leave the best impressions of one of Ukraine’s extraordinary cities. Ok, now we have to pay our debt by giving frequent concerts in Kryvy Rih. We wish you all the best of luck, Kryvy Rih!”
“Dnipro, my old good Friend, how we missed You. It was a real, easy meeting with people who understand you without words, whose hearts beat in unison with yours, who join in the song at the first note. I will describe it in the Galician way: imagine that you are at a zabava (party), where you met some fine colleagues whom you have not seen for a long while, and now you start singing together. This is a gig in Dnipropetrovsk!”
“Mykolaiv was a grand finale to our tour. I did not even expect such a reception! A three-year-old kid shouting, ‘Glory to Ukraine,’ people singing along all the songs, lots of Ukrainian spoken there, and the organizers say they can hardly remember such a success! Such concerts return you to your music youth, and you are inspired to go on creating! I saw it again: this nation is NOT TO DEFEAT! I bow to Mykolaiv and its people! By the way, negotiations concerning a bigger tour to the east and the south in December are going on now, and this is thanks to all the people who have come to communicate with us. We in our turn will do everything we can for them. GLORY TO UKRAINE!”