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‘I’m sick and tired of this war’ Meduza’s dispatch from a Warsaw music festival where Ukrainian and Russian artists shared the stage

Source: Meduza

On June 8, under the open sky at Poland’s largest club, Ukrainian singers Luna and Ivan Dorn shared a concert stage with Russian singer Monetochka and rapper Noize MC. The performances were part of a charity event called Music 4 Life, and a portion of the ticket proceeds were donated to the organization Gen.Ukrainian, which helps provide psychological support to Ukrainian children who have experienced trauma as a result of Russia’s invasion. Here’s how the evening unfolded. 

“We listen to them constantly. I mean, everyone knows Monetochka and Noize’s position on the war,” say Olya and Pasha, two fans from Belarus, as they wait at a tram stop on their way to Warsaw’s Progresja club.

“If all of the artists have decided that they’re fine with being together [on the same stage] and the listeners aren’t opposed to it, then why not? For us, a person’s nationality and passport don’t matter. What matters is their position,” Olya adds.

Waiting in line for drinks at the venue itself, a woman named Katya, also from Belarus, recounts a similar music festival she went to after the start of the full-scale war. “The stars always ask where the audience members are from,” she says. “When they asked about Russia, there were some voices that responded. But I can imagine how emotionally difficult it must be [for Russians in emigration]. They might need to fib sometimes, to hide their country of origin. But I don’t consider all Russians bad.”

Olya pauses for a moment, hearing a familiar melody from the stage. “Is that the theme from that one Luna song, or is it just me?” she says to her friend.

Luna, a 33-year-old indie pop singer from Ukraine, is indeed starting her performance, a bit ahead of schedule. She opens her set with her 2018 song “Sleeping Beauty.” She’s come all the way from Kyiv to perform in the festival, and she’s gotten heat for it in Ukraine. The news outlet Obozrevatel, for example, criticized her for performing alongside Russian artists and continuing to use the Russian language. Luna has spoken in the past about her “personal difficulty” writing songs in Ukrainian and her desire to continue writing in Russian, though in 2023, she released “Illusion” — her first ever Ukrainian-language album.

Meanwhile in Russia

Silence and success Ukrainian-born singer Anna Asti became a superstar in Russia by ignoring the war. Then she attended the ‘almost naked’ party.

Meanwhile in Russia

Silence and success Ukrainian-born singer Anna Asti became a superstar in Russia by ignoring the war. Then she attended the ‘almost naked’ party.

“Good evening, Warsaw!” she says to the crowd, before launching into her song “Buttercups”:

I stroke the buttercups with my bare foot

I’ll pick a few and put them on our bellies

I’ll stomp on the dandelions

Since the boys didn’t give me any

“Is Kyiv here?” she asks the audience after the song. “I came here to see you, and I brought you some good vibes from home.”

As Luna talks to her fans, a man makes his way through the crowd with a big bouquet of flowers. When he gives it to the singer, the crowd applauds, and she thanks him with a smile. Then she says:

You know, in life, you’re always having to say goodbye. Even to Nikita (Note from Meduza: Luna’s five-month-old son), who I had in my belly. All year, we were on tour together, and now he’s at home, in Kyiv. Thank you to everyone who took part in this charity concert. As the mother of children living in Ukraine, I’ve very grateful to you all.

A woman in the audience with green hair and a tank top reading “Glory to Ukraine” appeared moved. She tells Meduza’s correspondent that she was born in Ukraine, lived in Russia for 30 years, moved to Belarus, and then moved to Poland less than a year ago. Asked if she likes the atmosphere at the concert, she shouts over the loud music: “It rocks! Everything’s perfect!”


Meanwhile, Luna begins singing her song “Flame”:

The quiet flame has faded — it burned out silently

Peaceful jazz is playing here, all is well

You go off to war, I suffer at home

Leave me alone with my albums

The crowd continues filling the space around the stage as she sings.

“Is Belarus here today?” Luna cries into the microphone. A rumble of cheers and shouts of “Long Live Belarus!” sounds in response.

“Russia?” she asked. This time, the cries are more subdued.

“Good on you for being here! Respect!” the singer says. She then performs one of her Ukrainian-language songs before announcing brand new music: “Your favorite Kyiv witch is finally coming out of her long quarantine to release a new album! I needed to take some time to understand a lot of things. To accept myself for who I am.”

* * *

“I think this kind of [concert] format is what people need right now,” says Ksenia. She came all the way from Moscow for the chance to hear some of her favorite artists.

Dasha, another attendee, traveled 17 hours from Kyiv with two of her friends for the festival. All four of them are originally from Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region. Dasha watches the concert with a Ukrainian flag wrapped around her.

“I fully support [Noize MC and Monetochka]. ‘Good Russians,’ for me, are those who oppose Putin and are doing everything they can to help Ukrainians and refugees. Ones who don’t remain silent. My feelings about them are positive,” she tells Meduza.

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“Do people like that actually exist?” her friend interjects. “Only famous people [are helping]. I don’t know anybody like that personally. All of my relatives are from Russia. Since the start of the war, none of them have called or sent me any messages. Even though my brother is at the front, and [my relatives from Russia] could easily just ask whether he’s still alive.”

“Well, they’re in the ‘no-good Russians’ category,” Dasha says, laughing.

But both Dasha and her friend agree that events like Music 4 Life are good, since their main purpose is to raise money to support Ukraine.

* * *

“She’s one of a kind. You know her songs by heart. Let’s welcome Monetochka!” the announcer says, using the stage name of 26-year-old Russian pop star Liza Gyrdymova.

Monetochka runs out onto the stage in a frilly white dress, white tights, pearls, and cowboy boots. “How are we feeling?” she asked the crowd. The first song she performs is her 2018 hit “90,” and the energetic crowd sings along with her.


Later, after singing her recent hit “Mom Has A Secret,” Monetochka jokes: “An era is reflected by its mothers; these days, they’re ‘foreign agents.’” (The singer, who has two young children, was added to the Russian Justice Ministry’s list of “foreign agents” in January 2023.) She continues:

I didn’t want to get into politics today, but I’ll say it. I don’t like Putin — I’m sick and tired of him. I’m sick and tired of this war. I’m sad that we have to meet here, rather than at home.

Many of the festival’s guests have lost their homes since the start of Russia’s full-scale war. Svitlana and her husband Alexey are among them. She’s Ukrainian and he’s from Russia; he jokes to Meduza’s correspondent that he emigrated from Russia “before it was cool.”

“I left for political reasons back in 2013, after Bolotnaya. I spent 10 days in jail before being released on house arrest, which I ignored,” he says.

He and Svitlana lived in Kyiv until February 26, 2022, when they left because of Russia’s invasion, but they returned about three months later. “We spent the next six months there, up until [Russia ramped up its shelling of Ukraine’s] energy infrastructure, and then we went back to Poland, in November 2022,” Alexey explains.

A very different concert

‘Tsar Putin!’ Meduza’s dispatch from Russia’s ‘rally concert’ celebrating 10 years of an annexed Crimea and six more years of Putin

A very different concert

‘Tsar Putin!’ Meduza’s dispatch from Russia’s ‘rally concert’ celebrating 10 years of an annexed Crimea and six more years of Putin

It’s been “seven years or so” since he last spoke to his family in Russia, he says. Svitlana has never met her husband’s parents. “There are so many contradictions right now, and some of our citizens have a negative view of all Russians,” she says. “That’s understandable, because there’s a lot of trauma, and it’s going to be that way for decades. But in my opinion, if a person belongs to the opposition, then it doesn’t matter if he’s from Russia.”

The next performer to come onstage is Ukrainian singer Ivan Dorn. Like Luna, he received a fair amount of criticism in the Ukrainian press for agreeing to share a stage with Russian artists, including accusations that living abroad during the war has made him less “radical” vis-à-vis Russian citizens than other Ukrainians.

While both Luna and Dorn once had successful careers in Russia, after the full-scale invasion began, they both condemned the war, canceled their concerts in Russia, and became vocal supporters of their compatriots in the fight against Russian aggression.

Ivan Dorn

When Dorn sings his song “You’re Not Here Today,” the audience silently watches the screen, which shows images of Ukrainian towns destroyed by Russian bombs and videos of pro-Ukraine rallies in cities around the world.

“Glory to Ukraine!” the crowd chants when the song comes to an end.

“Glory to the heroes!” Dorn responds.

At this point in the evening, it’s starting to get chilly, but nobody is leaving: they still haven’t heard the festival’s most famous participant, rapper Noize MC. The crowd starts cheering his name. Almost every audience member Meduza spoke to said he’s the main artist they came here to see.

When 39-year-old Ivan Alexeyev finally takes the stage and begins singing his 2009 song “From the Window,” there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the crowd who doesn’t know the lyrics: “From the window of my hotel room / I chuck the TV out onto a car.”

The crowd continues singing along when he gets to the fiercely anti-Putin song “Everything As it Should Be” from 2019. “Let the old man tremble in fear when Swan Lake comes on / Get Solovyov the fuck off the screen, and let the swans dance,” he raps.

Noise MC

When the song ends, the audience starts chanting “No to War!” and “Putin is a dickhead!”

As it becomes clear that the concert is coming to a close, a woman from Belarus tells Meduza that she thought the evening would be sadder. “I prepared myself for a lot of crying, but I feel like the energy of the people here gave me more positive feelings and hope for the future. I mean, look how many people are united by the idea that things might be okay one day.”

She pauses for a moment, then adds: “It’s a hard time right now: three countries, and everyone’s trying to divide us in unnatural ways. But music is a universal way of bringing everyone together.”

When it’s clear that the concert is finally over and none of the artists are coming onstage for an encore, the crowd starts filing out.

“Have you moved here for good?” one person asks another in the coat check line.

“Yeah,” comes the answer. “I got called in by the KGB several times, so I’m not going back.”

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Reporting by Anna Malashenya in Warsaw

Abridged English-language version by Sam Breazeale