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“We have awakened!” Ukrainian actress Ada Rohovtseva talks about key events in past decade

Ukrainian actress Ada Rohovtseva
“We have awakened!” Ukrainian actress Ada Rohovtseva talks about key events in past decade
Article by: Volodymyr Runets
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Ada Rohovtseva (born July 16, 1937) is a popular Ukrainian theatre and cinema actress. Since 1957, she has appeared in over 30 films and television shows. Professor at the Kyiv National University of Arts and Culture, she was awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine in 2007 and is a member of the Taras Shevchenko Prize Committee.

Ada Rohovtseva performed countless times in the USSR and the Russian Federation, but she stopped all shows and concerts in Russia in 2014 after the invasion of Crimea and the Donbas. She explained to journalists that she could not interact with audiences that hated her country and its people.

Today, Ms Rohovtseva often travels to the front lines and communicates directly with the soldiers, organizes solo or group concerts on the front lines.

Ms Rohovtseva explains Russia’s aggression by the way Russians are taught to perceive Ukrainians:

“They are taught that Ukrainians are not good people, that we are a fictional nation, that our language is fictional, that we are “Russia’s younger brother”. They are very condescending towards us. I never felt it because I didn’t allow it. To work there, one has to know their language. I knew Russian very well, and spoke without an accent. They believe that Crimea is Russian and Sevastopol is a “Russian city”; this has been drilled into their heads for decades. They can’t be convinced otherwise, they can’t be re-taught. The only solution is to isolate ourselves from them.”

She once met with Putin and recalls him as impenetrable:

“He is an emotionally closed man, although he seemed to enjoy eating his borshch. He also read Shevchenko out loud, but I got the impression that his heart and soul weren’t at all open to others.”

We sat down with Ada Rohovtseva to talk about the major events and the most important achievements of the past ten years.

– What’s the most significant event of the past ten years?

– The Maidan.

– Why?

– Just because it happened. It was the Maidan. Because our country finally woke up.

– How did you feel at that time?

– I felt a great sense of responsibility. You know, we live from day to day. We go about our business, perform our tasks and duties; and then one day – hop! Suddenly, something more important happens. What do we do then? We join the others and take part in the Maidan. We rise up and call on others, those who understand the importance, solemnity and historicity of the event.

– In your opinion, who are the most important people of the past decade?

– You know, I can’t give you any names. Actually, I don’t want to. Because there are many and not so many. But, I’ll say one thing… the most important figure in our country today is the volunteer fighter!

Lesia Ukrayinka once said: “Enslavement is more shameful when it’s voluntary.” She was talking about enslavement. But, what is freedom? For me, it’s a great honour to know these people, to know what they do and why they do it. I’ve met many of them; we’ve become good friends. I know who they are and how different they are from other people.

– What are the greatest disappointments of the past decade?

– It’s the general inertia, the apathy of our people when the need for change is so urgent. It’s the people who don’t understand what’s happening in our country, and it’s also the smart ones in our society who don’t want to get involved. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to learn more, get to the bottom of things. They don’t want to let themselves feel their emotions. They don’t want to listen to intuition, to reason, to their inner voice, to other intelligent people. For me, these people are very disappointing and unfortunately, there are more and more of them…

Recently, I was in Mariupol where I spoke on stage during the city fest celebrations. I was waiting for the train home at Mariupol train station when a woman came up to me and said: “Ada Mykolayivna, calm down! Don’t be so worried! 20 percent of our countrymen are for Ukraine!” You see, that’s my greatest disappointment. You understand, don’t you? But, at least I know that these 20 percent are real people, great people!

– Can you give us some concrete examples? Maybe a specific person that has really disappointed you?

– No. I never let myself get fascinated or overwhelmed by another person, as I don’t want to be disappointed. It’s been like that since childhood. Maybe it’s my nature; I immediately begin to analyze myself and put myself in this person’s place. But, when it gets really bad, I say: “Oh, you poor, poor soul; oh, you stupid, unhappy man.”

– What should have happened in the past ten years, but didn’t?

– Our victory. The quick victory that we’ve all been waiting for, the one that has dragged on for so many years… and we’ve waited so long and so patiently. Today, our country is in even more danger, but victory is nowhere near. I understand that it’s not going to be a victory on the front lines where we face a more powerful enemy. We’re such a small country compared to the state that’s fighting against us.

– For you, what’s the most important word or expression?

– Dignity. I came out on the Maidan with this word, right on the first, or second, or third day of the Maidan protests… I don’t quite remember. I spoke that word loudly, and it echoed everywhere, everywhere… all across the country. I was not the only one to pronounce this word. It was born because it was the most important word. Born again. Our country was born again; it woke up.

– Why not love? Why not hope? Why dignity?

– Well, you asked and I answered.

– What one word best defines the past decade?

– Well, I’ve already answered that! As for love, it’s eternal!

– How long should this word be considered the main reference for our country?

– It should be eternal. For Ukraine, it must be as eternal as love! As God, as love, and so is our dignity. We have always fought for and upheld the idea of dignity.

I’m currently reading a book about Petro Mohyla. You see, it seems to me that he was doing and thinking the right thing; he understood that education was essential, and most importantly, that we should not be stupid idiots, that we all need a good education, a humane and natural one. And, we must follow God’s commandments.

Petro Mohyla (December 21, 1596 – January 1, 1647) was an influential Ruthenian Orthodox theologian and reformer, Metropolitan of Kyiv, Halych and All Rus from 1633 until his death. Not only did he want to strengthen Orthodox spirituality and enhance the sense of national identity, his main mission was to to raise the educational level in the country to equal that in Western Europe. He stressed the need for students to ponder over and understand, and not simply repeat scientific, religious and moral truths. Mohyla underscored the need for the younger generation to use their minds and not emotions in striving to achieve goals.

I think the government is neglecting this aspect. I grew up at a time when it was the other way around. People used to say: “Oh my, you’re so smart!”

Well, why do we all need to be so stupid? For as long as I can remember, I haven’t been able to understand why it was so bad to be better? Why is it bad to be first? Why is it bad to know more than someone else?

– What are your hopes for Ukraine in the upcoming year?

– I’ll tell you what…People don’t understand what they’re saying, but they continue to be patient. It’s impossible to bear, but we still need to be patient. We act, we do something, we intervene, we speak out, but we must remain patient so that our country is not bathed in blood. But, blood is already being spilt, every day…

It seems to me that our country suffers like a mother who has lost her son. I know how this feels, as I lost my son and yet, I continue living. It happened, and a mother’s life continues. It’s not easy. That’s how it is with our country – it’s losing, losing and yet, continuing to exist. And, it must continue living, striving to create a better world and achieving what’s possible… and it must not fall on the fresh graves and weep from morning to night, but must stand up, act and do something so that other mothers do not lose their sons!

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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