Verka Serdioutchka during the Eurovision Song Contest final, May 13, 2023, in Liverpool (England). OLI SCARFF/AFP
“Andriy, open up! It’s Roman! There was a knock on Andriy Danylko’s door in Moscow in the early 2000s when he was dressing up for a private show as Verka Serdioutchka, the character he played on stage. “But who is this Roman? Let him be patient! “replies the Ukrainian artist. On leaving her dressing room, the drag queen realizes that “this Roman” is the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who has come to greet her. At the beginning of the millennium, Serdioutchka is a star adored by the public of the countries of Eastern Europe. She will perform on Sunday August 20 at the Théâtre de verdure in Nice.
In 2007, Verka, in a sparkling silver outfit, a star on her head, represented Ukraine at Eurovision in Helsinki with her song Dancing Lasha Tumbai. The title caused a scandal in Russia because of the chorus, where we think we heard “Russia goodbye” (“goodbye, Russia”). “The Russian media have launched a real propaganda campaign against me,” indignant Andriy Danylko, favorite in the competition that year, who finished second with only thirty-three points behind the representative of Serbia, who won the competition. Several concerts of the one who would have “spit in the face of Russia” are canceled. She will have to reinvent herself, as this queen of Ukrainian kitsch knows so well how to do.
Andriy Danylko was born in Poltava, capital of sourzhyk, this smooth mixture of Ukrainian and Russian, in 1973. Verka Serdioutchka was born there on March 8, 1991, during a concert on the occasion of Women’s Day, on the stage of the Gogol Theater – the city is the birthplace of the writer. The Poltava public welcomes the one who appears as captain, wearing a beret and high heels, a whistle on her imposing chest, with a standing ovation. A star is born.
Verka Serdyuchka, and her grumpy, childish personality, made her first appearance on Ukrainian national television on the day Andriy Danylko celebrated his 20th birthday. The success is immediate: the audio cassettes of his sketches are sold at exorbitant prices, we listen to them on the markets, we learn them by heart. “Soviet humor was no longer funny, and modern Ukrainian humor was not yet born. Verka was a bridge between the two,” Andriy Danylko says today. His jokes about the post-Soviet daily life which demands the permanent D system in the face of the crisis of the 1990s hit home. Endowed with unfailing optimism, his character accompanies the train of the young Ukrainian democracy and its derailments.
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