Vakarchuk at LSE: Ukraine today and the challenges of tomorrow

November 19, 2014 • Articles • Views: 2419

“I’m here not to lecture, but to talk about things I think are important” said OE bandleader… and thus began his lecture. Over 300 people in the audience, most of whom probably had been to his  concert the day before at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo. Vakarchuk didn’t show any sign of being exhausted or sleepy; he spoke in English although it seemed that at least 80% of the listeners could understand Ukrainian.

It might have been surprising for the audience, but he didn’t speak immediately of Maidan, the war, recent parliamentary elections or any other ‘burning’ issues. He tried to explain the grounds of Ukrainian crisis and his view of the challenges of the country’s future.



“We’ve become used to hearing that Ukraine is the country that needs change. But do we really know what needs to be done? We might know the goals: to make Ukraine a prosperous country, if not the top in the charts, but at least one of the first 30-40 in the World. But do we know what to do to achieve that goal? Politicians always say – we need reforms. But what kind of reforms? Is there anyone who knows?”

Probably few of Vakarchuk’s fans know that he’s got a PhD in physics. Apart from his pretty successful singing career, he is educated and well-read, with  a curious mind. Trying to explain the challenges of Ukrainian future, he started from quite far – from Newton and Einstein.

“Why do we all know and like Newton and Einstein, and don’t know much of other scientists of their era? Why are some considered great scientists and others are not known. Because those few managed to create concrete values for science, on which  science was later built. They were not investigating a small problem, they tried to make the horizon broader, looked at everything with a different much more fundamental perspective.”

Following this example, Vakarchuk called on students to think more broadly of the background of the current situation in Ukraine.

I believe that our main problem is not economics or legislative system. We should start from people’s values. That is our fundamental cause, the space in which we live. There are different sets of values worshiped in different parts of the world. In Ukraine people say they want to be European, but not everyone knows what it actually means. Freedom of choice and dignity of person: you can derive everything from these two things.  If you wish, you may add honest labour to the list. Living here in London, you may think these are universal and fundamental. But there are many societies where personal freedom is not the first value. Some prefer safety to freedom of choice. And the same split of values is present in Ukraine.

You can’t choose both freedom and safety as basic values. If you choose safety, you will never get freedom. If you choose freedom, you’ll get safety as a consequence, but it might take some time to achieve it.

Making reforms without changing the values in the people’s minds – is a Sisyphean task. Hence, the most important task is to educate people, show them that there are other, better ways of living, building the country and the society.


My recipe is the following: you need to think about reforms and do it day by day in the economy, policy, finances, and the courts. But while doing that – you have to remember that you need to change the minds of people. Reforms should be a tool. All reforms should be tailored to the values. That’s the only way it could work.

Second issue – time. I don’t believe in fast change. You can’t change minds of adults; you can only work with the kids. So it will take several generations before we can see the result we want. We need patience. A typical feature of Ukrainians is impatience. We always want everything right now and right here. But it doesn’t work that way. If you are interested in doing something for your country, you should see the goal and act toward its achievement for your whole life. Your lifetime won’t be enough to see the goal achieved, but you should be happy to see your country on the right irreversible path. That’ll be already a huge victory.

Ukraine started to rebuild its values. The first step – Maidan. It’s like civil war in the US, revolution in France. We might seem to do this much later than others. But there are many societies not even close to the point where Ukraine is now.

Ukraine has decided to make decisions for its future itself. There is no evidence it’ll succeed. Just hope and belief.

“We can’t change our history or geography, but we can change our future”, – these were probably the most important words for me personally. Please also see some reviews shared by those from the audience.

Lev Grybov, Economics student at LSE, LSE SU Ukrainian Society Secretary

I was very pleased that Mr. Vakarchuk decided to give his lecture at LSE and it was my pleasure to organise it. Taking into account the current situation back at Home, it was particularly important for us to hear some encouraging and motivating words, as well as suggestions on how we can actually help Ukraine. After all, many of us are constantly thinking about what we can really do in order to change our country’s future. Sometimes, you just lose your faith, seeing how complicated the situation is. That is exactly why we need such ambitious and committed people like Svyatoslav Vakarchuk to inspire us.

Olya Afanasyeva  

I want to thank the organizers of the meeting with S. Vakarchuk at the LSE. This lecture was a rare opportunity to listen to one of the most inspiring  person in the Ukrainian music world. The singer talked about events in Ukraine in a very down-to -earth and open manner, he was doing exactly what he was asking others to do: raise the question about the place of Ukraine in the World, to support brave Ukrainian activists in fight for justice, to inspire minds for changes! I sincerely hope there will be more events like this, and I am very happy I had a chance to attend. Thank you very much to everybody who made it happen!

Iryna Pereginyak 

The main highlights- personal values as the basis for the better future of the nation in whole and the country. Freedom of choice and personal dignity. Do people choose freedom or do they choose safety – therefore what do they get as a result. Many in the audience, I believe, were waiting for more “material” thoughts and more suggestions or advice, on how exactly Ukrainian people can build a prosperous country, but yet again Svyayoslav was coming back to personal values, personal attitude and individual contribution which each of us can make. I cannot agree more with this principle, let’s start from ourselves and bring it out and pass it on, and let’s hope that, as Svyatoslav suggested, after two generations, we shall see that our dream came true, our goal has materialized. Was his speech mainly political? – I would not say so, although he did not avoid direct questions and voiced his own political views. Was it inspirational?- totally yes. Did make people visualize How We Can Make Our Future Happen. 

Anna Slobodyanyuk

The talk was interesting and involving. Svyatoslav enjoyed sharing his views and philosophy on the future and development of Ukraine. The audience seemed to respond well. There were few interesting questions. One compared Ukraine’s crisis to the Georgian and the way Georgia did not follow a chosen few years ago route. Is the same happening in Ukraine now after Maidan? Svyatoslav was clear that Ukrainian government does the best it could in such a difficult situation.  The last question was the great ending of the talk. Svyatoslav was asked if he would write a song with the oldest group of CYM – Спілка Української Молоді (Ukrainian Youth Association), London. Svyatoslav promised to fulfil the children’s dream and to do it. The children will be a Star Struck! Let’s hope a new Ukrainian single is born soon.




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