Five ambassadors from iLIVE2LEAD, a DC-based youth leadership-training program, that conducts training in various nations in each region of the world were invited to the 2014 Women in the World Summit. The following report comes to you from iL2L Ambassador: Megan Madeira
She was an iconic figure and leader of the Orange Revolution and Euromaidan demonstrations. She has served in Parliament in the Ukraine. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She worked with the UN in a campaign against human-trafficking. She was awarded the “International Woman of Courage” award by First Lady Michelle Obama. Upon introducing Ukrainian performer and activist Ruslana Lyzhychko, Ambassador Melanne Verveer was accurate in stating, “internationally acclaimed pop singer does not even begin to describe her!
Ruslana took the stage at the Lincoln Center in New York for the 2014 Women In The World Summit and began by passionately singing Ukraine’s national anthem. As she sang, she waved the Ukrainian flag in one hand and held her microphone in the other as she belted out, “We’ll stand up together.” The crowd in the theater later exemplified those lyrics as Ruslana encouraged everyone to hold up a light in solidarity and support for Maidan Square, where the Euromaidan demonstrations against government corruption, cronyism and Vladmir Putin took place. The theater became a “mini Maidan” with hundreds of lights. Ruslana smiled while looking up at the crowd and all the lights, as she explained that the lights “mean that we are power. It means we are free!”
Looking at Ruslana smiling on stage, one would never guess the struggle she has faced through her activism. During the Euromaidan protests, Ruslana spent about 100 nights out in the brutal cold. She would sing the national anthem, just as she had on stage in New York, to help keep up the spirits of the protestors. Amongst death threats and snipers searching for her, Ruslana remained on stage and continued to sing. She recalls, “Maidan is not just a place. But it’s an amazing place, the center of Kiev…We have amazing heroes, and we lost a lot of people. People were killed by snipers.” Ruslana also went on to talk about Putin and how the U.S. does not understand him the way Ukrainians do, because of the legacy of the Soviet Union. She stated, “I remember the USSR…All this comes from this period. What the Russian empire means is that human life means nothing. The Empire means everything. There is a lot of fear and a lot of bad things happening.”
Yet, Ruslana remains optimistic and upbeat about her country’s future and will continue to fight for her country. In an interview with ILive2Lead intern Paige DeRouin, Ruslana told Paige, “I stop the police with music. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s magic.” One can see the “magic” that Ruslana brings with her to Maidan and to the Lincoln Center in the multitude of lights she encouraged people to shine, symbolizing the light, and the spirit of freedom. Often compared to Joan of Arc and Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games, Ruslana shines as a light, a leader, and a role model for women everywhere. She is the embodiment of the quote by Marianne Williamson, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others the permission to do the same.”
iLIVE2LEAD is a youth leadership-training program based in Washington, D.C., that conducts training in various nations in each region of the world. iL2L brings the most exceptional young leaders together for International Leadership Summits and works with them to develop social initiatives which they lead back in their home nations, thus creating global examples of social responsibility and a ripple effect of impact worldwide. Contact us at www.iL2L.org.