Another Ukrainian story I have been following is the death of Ukrainian opera singer Vasily Slipak. Slipak was killed in combat a few days ago, 29 June somewhere around the front lines of the Ukraine-Donbass shooting war.
Vasily Yaroslavovich Slipak was born on 20 December 1974 in Lviv. Doing the math, he was 41 years old when he died, which is not old for an opera singer, necessarily, provided they keep their pipes in tune.
From 1983 through 1994 young Slipak sang as a soloist in the Lviv State Academy male acapella choir Dudarik. Showing talent that would put him at a higher level, Slipak began more intensive musical studies at the Lviv National Music Academy named after Nikolai Lysenko. While still studying, Slipak began to widen his classical repertoire, and also settled into his specialization as a bass-baritone.
Slipak’s big break came in 1994 when he won the voice competition for his category at the annual contest in Clermont-Ferrand, a city in the Auvergne region of France, situated on an extinct volcano.
In February-March 2017 the citizens of Clermont-Ferrand will be holding their “25th annual opera competition”. Again doing the math, if they have stuck to this pattern, year after year, then Slipak won at the Second Annual in 1994. I googled all over the place, trying to find some documentation of this particular competition, but it seems to be lost in the mists of time. However, I did find this youtube video from 2011 showing Slipak performing at a different competition, at Armel, here he is singing the famous “Toreador” aria from Bizet’s “Carmen”, and winning the prize of “Best Male Singer”:
After his triumph at Clermont-Ferrand, Slipak moved to France in 1997 and sang with the Paris Opera for the next 18 or so years, enjoying an international career and reputation as an elite performer of classic operas.
Mephistopheles Goes To War
After the Maidan coup of 2014, Slipak, who was a strong supporter of the Ukrainian nationalist side, became politically active in France. He joined a French and Ukrainian diaspora movement («Fraternité Ukrainienne») in solidarity with the Ukrainian nationalists. This movement organized military assistance to neo-Nazi Ukrainian “Volunteer” Battalions fighting in the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” in the Donbass region of Ukraine.
The specific Battalion which Slipak supported, and later joined, was called the “Ukrainian Volunteer Corpus” (in Russian Добровольческий украинский корпус – or DUK). The DUK is the military wing of the Right Sektor political party. Right Sektor follows the teachings of Ukrainian nationalist hero Stepan Bandera. Banderites routinely conduct torch-light parades, brandish swastikas and give the “Sieg Heil” salute. Due to these, and other, reasons, Right Sektor is considered an extremist organization and is officially banned in Russia as a political party. Articles in the Russian press are allowed to mention the party in news stories, but are legally required to always follow this with a disclaimer footnote. This is the reason why you will see this warning time and again in the Russian press, every time these people are mentioned, thusly:
* Организация, в отношении которой судом принято вступившее в законную силу решение о ликвидации или запрете деятельности по основаниям, предусмотренным ФЗ “О противодействии экстремистской деятельности”
(*An organization in connection with which has been established by law the decision as to their liquidation or banning of their activities, in according with the legaling ruling “On the banning of extremist activities)
Be that as it may, Slipak abandoned his opera career in France in order to return to his native country and fight for what he believed in. Volunteering for the war, he was off to the Donbass to fight against pro-Russian Separatists. In what has become a long and protracted trench war, resulting in the death of thousands of civilians, and in the displacement of millions of refugees. Slipak adopted the call-sign of “Mif”, short for “Mephistopheles”, a role he had sung on the stage. But unlike Mephistopheles, who lives forever, Slipak met his end near a Separatist checkpoint outside a small village in the Donbass.
A source within the Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) is quoted as saying dismissively: “Slipak… yeah, on 29 June he conducted a chaotic shoot-em-up of the DPR positions, thus provoking some units of the DPR army to shoot back at them. He (Slipak) led his comrades into the attack.” The source goes to claim that Slipak’s incompetence and hot-headedness led to, not only his own death, but those of all his comrades as well.
Another source, a sniper named Moryachok, claims that he shot Slipak. This source gives Moryachok’s story. According to Moryachok, the incident happened outside of the village of Luhanskoe. The Ukrainians were shooting at them all night long from heavy artillery. Towards dawn, the Ukrainian militiamen advanced more aggressively on the Separatist checkpoints. “My comrades were pinned down by automatic rifle fire, they couldn’t even raise their heads. I made the decision to liquidate the machine-gun nest.” Moryachok says he was able to vaguely detect in his sights the figure of the machine-gunner. He had no idea who the man was, whom he liquidated, let alone that it was a famous singer. Only later did he learn the identity of his target.
Separatist soldiers were able to collect Slipak’s body and ship it back to Kiev, where the singer was given a hero’s funeral. In this particular competition of Toreador vs Bull, Bull won:
Le taureau s’élance
en bondissant hors du toril !
Il s’élance ! Il entre, il frappe !…
un cheval roule,
entraînant un picador,
“Ah ! Bravo ! Toro !” hurle la foule,
le taureau va… il vient…
il vient et frappe encore !