Something unusual happened during the sold-out concert of the Ukrainian band Boombox. It starts with a handful of spectators this week evening in November. A second later, the rest of the audience follows and deafeningly waves the Armed Forces of Ukraine shorthand across the entire auditorium of The Hague’s pop-bar venue: “ZS-Oe, ZS-Oe, ZS-Oe.”
Singer Andrei Chlevnyuk achieves this. He looks on over 1,050 cheering spectators, many of them carrying the Ukrainian flag slung around their shoulders or draping around in the national football jersey. Blue and yellow flags adorn the two balconies.
“I can’t imagine a concert where people would declare their support for the army,” Chlevniuc said two days later in a hotel in The Hague, a little tired from a series of performances. “That makes this tour different.” Chlyvnyuk, 42, is currently touring Europe with Boombox, one of Ukraine’s most popular bands, including Paris, The Hague, Berlin and Frankfurt. By selling tickets, Boombox raises money for reconnaissance drones and for humanitarian aid.
Ukrainian spectators, Khlevnyuk says, sing along with “ZSOe” their brother, father or friend who is fighting at the front. And they cheer him too, as the defender of Ukraine.
Russian mortar attack
Before Boombox kicked off its European tour last month, Chlyvnyuk was headlining in southern Ukraine. He is part of a volunteer special police battalion that performs tasks for which the armed forces do not have time. Shows a video of what he does. You first see him singing in a car, and a little later Khlyvnyuk drives a drone in a green field dropping bombs on Russian positions. He also films her with his drone.
Khlevnyuk — who wears a gray hat and an earring in his left ear — wears a green T-shirt with Saint Javelin, an internet meme of a holy person wielding a spear, an anti-tank weapon common in Ukraine. A scar can be seen near his nose, obtained after he did another job with the Police Battalion. Khlevnyuk calls this work “cleaning up” a liberated city: eliminating the armed Russian soldiers left behind. “The military doesn’t always have the opportunity to inspect every house, so we go house to house,” the singer explains.
During one of these operations, a piece of iron from a Russian mortar hit his face. “I ran then, bum, I was on the floor. I thought: Fucking Russians, I’m out now. I tasted blood in my nose and mouth. But a comrade said: ‘It’s all right: your head, legs and arms are still attached.'” The metal was removed in the hospital. .
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Khlevnyuk, like other men, was summoned to report to a police or military station. A planned tour of the United States was cancelled. Instead of a microphone, the singer now walks around with a gun, in camouflage clothing that he usually wears when barbecuing.
On the second day of the war, he had to defend the police headquarters in Kyiv. I was anxious and nervous. We waited all night until the moment to shoot the Russians who would go down in helicopters.” Khlevniuk did not have to act. Helicopters were shot down, he said. The next day he was assigned to the police battalion and given weapons and better protection.
It is a life far removed from that of the famous singer. Chlyvnyuk no longer thought about creating a new album. Instead, he worries about Russian missiles that could kill his children, ages 9 and 11. He saw his son’s eyes wide with fear as they hid together in an underground car park. His children are now staying in a safe place, and he won’t say where.
The world has changed, says Chlevnyuk, but it has not become unusual. “This isn’t just a rock star’s life change. The world has changed for everyone. Also for you. World War III has begun. You fight alongside us, you just don’t walk around in your army clothes. Not yet.”
He believes that war should also be considered a part of normal life. “It’s normal to defend your country. You can run or fight. Both reactions are natural to human beings. Some are ready to fight. It’s in my blood for me. I got it from my ancestors who got it from theirs and the generations before that. We’ve been fighting wars against Russia since Centuries. We have never had the opportunity to say goodbye to this brutal empire that kills you if you are not Russian. ”
Because of the war, Khlyvnyuk no longer sings in Russian. Russia uses language as a weapon. They are looking for regions where people speak Russian and they say they will liberate those regions. So we don’t watch Russian films. We cancel everything Russian. But it’s not about fighting culture. It is a war against tyranny.”
When the concert is already halfway through, blue and yellow lights shine across the hall and heavy beats sound from the drummer. The audience applauds rhythmically. Klevnyuk then puts together the first sentences of the Ukrainian battle song Oj u loezi chervona kalina (In the meadow is the red snowball bush) in. A patriotic song over a hundred years old about the resurrection of Ukraine and the struggle against Russia. In translation, he writes the first two lines: “Oh, in the meadow a red snowball bush hangs, Our glorious Ukraine is sad about something.”
The room explodes. The cheers fell silent from the throat, and the phones went up in the air en masse to shoot. Ukrainian flag waving. The passionate singing, no, all the spectators roar, even louder than the songs Boombox played earlier this evening.
This is the song they all know, for which they came to The Hague tonight, the song that connects the Ukrainians who have fled. “Before, concerts were about Boombox and our songs,” says Chlevnyuk. “Now they are like a gathering of a large Ukrainian family.”
dawn Oh Luzy, Chervonna Kalina personally revived. It went like this: “On the second day of the war, the boys asked me if I wanted to sing something. At that time we passed a square in the center of Kyiv,” he recalled. At the end of February, the capital was under siege and seemed deserted. Residents fled or took refuge in basements or subway stations. The acoustics in such an empty square with the surrounding buildings should make it sound great, Khlevniuk suddenly thought. “I felt like I had to sing this song. Everyone knows that.”
The filmed performance went viral, with Chlyvnyuk in camouflage overalls and an automatic rifle in front of the chest. Young and old have been singing it ever since. Chlyvnyuk believes that the popularity of the song is due not only to the lyrics, but also to its role. “Ukrainians have seen a celebrity who they thought lives in his own world where everything is made of gold. He sits in the pool with topless women, drinks champagne and drives around in a Ferrari. But he runs away when things get serious. And now they might be thinking, ‘If a celebrity gets pregnant Weapon, we can too.”
Read also Oy u luzi chervona kalina is the second national anthem of Ukraine
The song gained worldwide popularity when Pink Floyd came up with their own adaptation of it Oh Luzy, Chervonna Kalina Contain Chlyvnyuk performance. He tells of the time he called the owner of the gas station to ask if he could get one hundred liters of petrol for the soldiers. Gasoline was scarce at the time. The owner knew him because his kids sang the song every morning. Thus, Khlevniuk got gasoline.
Because of his fame and the donations for his music, Khlyvnyuk receives calls from army units asking if he can help them with ammunition, medicine, or food. After this interview, he went to The Hague to look for winter clothes for the soldiers. “You also have it in Ukraine, but the quality is better here.”
Khlevnyuk will return to Ukraine next week. During the tour, he constantly feels uncomfortable needing Ukraine. And not only that: “When I’m outside, I feel ashamed, because I’m safe.”