The Volunteer Front. Victoria Rodko

The volunteer movement in Ukraine is another front. A solid team of philanthropists based on the Women’s Veterans Movement NGO has been working in the rapid response headquarters in Kyiv since February 25, 2022. Over 9 months of full-scale invasion, about 300 volunteers worked in the headquarters, from drivers, project managers for humanitarian aid, inventory of medicines, ammunition, to the net weaving workshop, and designers of the military workshop where they sew women’s military uniforms and underwear. At the moment, the headquarters has processed more than 4,000 applications from defenders, female defenders, and civilians.

One of the volunteers in our headquarters is the embodiment of the creative volunteers, a representative of this year’s National Eurovision Selection, frontwoman of the OY Sound System band, Victoria Rodko. The only performance of the band during the war was at a charity concert organized by the Women’s Veterans Movement, for which we are very grateful.

You can vote for OY Sound System (OYSS) starting from December 17. The participants will compete for the right to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision 2023 contest. And while we’ll introduce you to Victoria and her band.

How and when did you join the Women Veterans’ Volunteer Corps? Why did you choose this organization?

I started actively volunteering on February 28th, evacuating people from Kyiv and helping both civilians and military personnel. I am an auto-volunteer and quickly responded to requests, going on humanitarian missions to the region. I joined the Women Veterans’ Volunteer Corps (WVVC) thanks to a charity concert that was held to raise funds for turnstiles. OY Sound System and I were participants in this fundraising event, and in the end, we were able to deliver 500 turnstiles to the front for 250,000 hryvnias. I really liked the energy of the girls from the WVVC. Later, I started raising funds for requests from the military myself. At that time, I was raising funds for electric bikes for reconnaissance, and I turned to the WVVC for help in conducting the fundraiser and purchasing the bikes. We had a cool collaboration, and that’s when I joined the organization. It was just a perfect match because we shared the same views and started acting together.

Your creative approach is even reflected in fundraising for the Armed Forces – these are non-traditional ways to collect donations, such as a fitness marathon or performing at a charity concert. Is it effective? Your powerful fundraising in 9 months of full-scale war?

Collecting funds has become a bit more difficult now because there are many of them and people are a bit tired. Therefore, donating for a service is now very relevant. People understand that they are getting something and by doing so, they are helping. Besides singing in the OY Sound System band before the war, I also worked as a trainer in a gym for 12 years. I decided to help with my profession.

The biggest collection was for a car for the 129th battalion and bikes for reconnaissance, the goal was 260 thousand. We collected everything, and I’m not proud of the collections, it’s more like a constant form of assistance. It’s not easy for the military there, and we have to help, each in our own way.

The only performance of your group during the war was within the framework of a charity concert, why is that?

To be honest, when the war started, we didn’t think about creativity or performances at all. For a while, I simply focused as much as possible on what was more important in the moment. The performance was like a breath of air that reminded us of what makes our heart beat faster and brings emotion. For me personally, music is the only thing that brings happiness, so the performance was a driving force. It’s not easy for artists, but it’s not like being in the trenches either.

What is the best way to hold up for creative people during the war? Tell us about your experience. Have you experienced burnout, and how did you deal with it?

You need to find the strength and desire to fight on your own front. Music is like a tool that transforms life, especially when it is Ukrainian. Burnout? – Yes, there was. It gave me an understanding that now is the time to do what inspires me. Because if not now, when?!

In the final of the National Selection, who is your biggest supporter? Are there any fans of the OY Sound System among military servicemen and women?

My support comes from my team, people who know me, and the girls from the Women’s Veteran Movement. Everyone is helping in their own way, and that is very valuable. It’s especially cool that these are people I met during the war. The military is also very supportive and happy to see a volunteer among the finalists. They say they will vote with all battalions.

We would like to learn more about your group, did join the OY Sound System from the very beginning? Why did you choose them?

The band was founded in 2012 by the Galanevych brothers. Marko Galanevych, a member of the band “DakhaBrakha,” and Taras Galanevych, the sound producer of the project. I joined as a soloist in 2016. The guys were looking for a female vocalist at that time, and I became its embodiment in the band. We were introduced by Yevhen Slavyanov, who was a guitarist in the band at that time. It was very magical and spontaneous, and now I understand that it was fate. I liked OYSS’s background – since 2014, they have taken an active pro-Ukrainian position. They traveled with concerts to the east – Avdiivka, Vuhledar, Volnovakha, Mariupol.

What is OY Sound System about? What are the main messages you convey, and how do you differ from your colleagues in the industry?

OYSS is all about transformation, about the future. It’s electronic textures that are amplified by ethnic vocalizations. It’s meditative, it’s sensual, and perhaps we’re not as standard and structured as we’d like to be, but that’s where our uniqueness lies. We didn’t come to the National Selection to compete, we’re all colleagues, we all showcase the versatility of Ukrainian music, and we’re here to unite and create something incredible.

What do you want to convey to Ukrainians and the world with your contest song “Ой, Тужу”?

The song is not as simple as it may seem. We all long for something, the whole nation, our land, the sky, we all long for what has already happened, it is a very deep feeling that comes from within, a very powerful energy that we all experience, and it is the strength of these emotions that further motivates us to fight. And to the world and our people, we want to remind once again that all these heavy emotions will make us stronger once again.

In one of the articles about your upcoming performance it is written: “At the National Selection, the band has prepared a surprise – a renewed lineup of musicians.” Hint at what surprise you are preparing and decipher why one of the participants is wearing a metal mask?

We have been joined by the same electronic future that is hidden under the mask of our sound system… Now we both sound and look like this symbiosis. We won’t reveal any surprises, everything will be seen with your own eyes on December 17.

The women’s veteran movement will definitely be cheering for Victoria and the OY Sound System band, and for now, we suggest listening to the contest track of our favorites.