As Americans celebrate Memorial Day this weekend in the United States, Russia’s war on Ukraine is continuing after lasting over three months.
The lead singer of a popular Ukrainian band recently returned back to the Ukraine after fleeing just after her country was invaded to honor her band’s tour dates in the United States and inform Americans about the war.
Just days after Russia invaded the Ukraine, KAZKA soloist Sasha Zaritska fled to the United States with a mission, to raise awareness and spread the truth about the Russia-Ukraine war with KAZKA’s #IAMUKRAINE campaign.
“Of course it was scary, but it was scary to be there, to be in our house,” Zaritska told me over the phone last month about her decision to leave. “But when we were leaving and after this, it was [good] because our house is really near that airport in Gostomel that was bombed … and it was really noisy because of a bombing every day, and especially at night.
“And then we can’t sleep, and it was very scary. And … I was sleeping in until the deep sounds of bombing and I’d just wake up and run to the corridor or some bathroom. It was really scary. Because also, we have maybe eight people, all of my friends, and my family were there.
“And then, maybe on the fifth day of the war we decided to leave because it was [very] dangerous there. And the Russian occupiers [went] to our city. We decided to leave before it will be too [late].
“We had four people in our car. And one car we left near our house. And this car now is very very damaged. And we have three dogs there, we have a lot of stuff, and we go to the West.
“We have some problems with the road, but everything will be okay. Maybe we’ll have twenty hours or twenty-four hours on the road. And we came to the West of Ukraine.
“Some regions were bombed, and some roads were really damaged, so needed to go down a [side] road. That road took a lot of time.
“So, we go to the West of Ukraine, and after this, I decide to go to America to have some performances and to spread word, to tell about the war, to people, to Americans. Because Americans can make the war end soonest. I know that Americans can make this happen. They can make a plight to the government to let them know that they care for Ukraine.”
KAZKA plays u-pop music with the elements of electro-folk and sings in the Ukrainian language. Their song “Plakala” was #1 in many charts across Europe, achieved the #3 spot on the global music chart SHAZAM and is still breaking records views, making it the most successful Ukrainian-language song in modern history. Now it has more than a billion views collectively across multiple platforms.
KAZKA’s tour across the USA was planned 6 months in advance. After the war began, Sasha and her bandmates arrived at a difficult decision, she would go to perform on their behalf and spread the word about what’s transpiring, and they would stay and fight.
Reflecting on the war and leaving her band behind was devastating for Zaritska while she was in the states.
“You wake up every day and live with this news,” Sasha said. “I stared at my phone, maybe every morning for 2 hours, and just checking all of the news. And after this, I’m just crying after this, trying to live my life.
“So it’s very hard to understand all of this, what is going on [in Ukraine]. Our country was a free country and we all lived in peace. And all of it was good. But in one day, everything changed because of some country and (Vladimir) Putin decided to destroy our lives. Yeah. So it’s terrible that in the 21st century, there are things like this. So for me, I just can’t imagine. My brain can’t understand it.”
One US performance for Zaritska during the war in Ukraine was at SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas on March 19.
“I didn’t expect that I would perform because I thought, actually, I need to say some speech and maybe sing one song because at that time, I was just too depressed, and I just couldn’t sing because— I couldn’t. So it was really hard,” Sasha said of her mindset heading into SXSW.
“But when I saw these people, they came to our show, when I see this dude, Charlie Sexton, who was [incredible], and when I see these musicians who came and just wanted to support, and they learned all of our songs, these American musicians, and they just came to help. And we spent a really nice time together on the stage. So I decided to perform more songs than I wanted to. Yeah, it was very, very nice, actually.”
Zaritska’s performance and insight on the war at SXSW received notable attention from local and national US media. The appearance was on par with her goal, but there was a feeling of fear Sasha couldn’t escape like she did the war itself.
“I don’t feel safe anywhere right now, actually,” Zaritska said in the middle of the US tour. “I think it’s because I don’t feel safe and I think I will not feel safe anywhere because I saw and I heard real war zones and I saw bombs and I saw planes and I saw all of this. So for the rest of my life, I will think about it and I will know that there is no place where I can be safe.”
Sasha and KAZKA now perform at charity concerts in Europe to draw more attention to the war in Ukraine and to raise money to help children, refugees and Ukraine’s military.