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Ukraine's Orange band loses its voice

Ternopil lake
Ternopil played a big role in Ukraine's Orange Revolution

By James Coomarasamy
BBC News, Ternopil, Ukraine

In 2004, as news filtered through that Viktor Yushchenko had lost a rigged election to Viktor Yanukovych, the town of Ternopil in western Ukraine emptied.

Local people poured into trains, bound for the Ukrainian capital Kiev, to join the swelling ranks of the protesters on Independence Square.

Among them was Ternopil's current mayor, Roman Zastavnyy.

He was a thrusting young businessman at the time, but his experience in Kiev made a politician of him.

Roman Zastavnyy
Ternopil's mayor is a leading member of the orange generation

"It's harder to find someone in Ternopil who wasn't in Independence Square, than to find someone who was - 80% of us must have been there," he told me, smiling wistfully.

"That was the happiest time of my life. We won't have anything like it for another 10 years, at least."

That sentiment is shared by another Roman: Roman Kalyn. He was even more intimately involved in the 2004 revolution and is far more disillusioned at how things turned out.

Green Jolly

His group GreenJolly - the name is a play on a western Ukrainian word for "sledge" - provided the revolution's soundtrack.

At every hour of the day, Independence Square reverberated to the sound of "Razom nas bohato" - "Together we are many" - the protesters' slogan, turned by Roman into a joyous, upbeat rap.

Its success and that of the movement it inspired turned his provincial pop group into national stars, besieged by foreign camera crews and beseeched by the public to represent Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest.

But, five years later - disillusioned with the music business and the politicians he helped propel to power - Roman writes love songs, instead of political ones.

Roman Kalyn
Roman Kalyn remembers when his song was heard everywhere in Kiev

The infighting and corruption, which continue to blight Ukrainian politics, have turned him inwards, replacing the spirit of the barricades with a voyage of self-discovery, in songs like his new ballad, My Way.

He will vote for Yulia Tymoshenko on Sunday, he says, but reluctantly.

"Yes, she can talk well," he reflects, "but talking well doesn't make you a good person - Hitler, after all, was a good talker".

And far right ideas are what, some fear, could become increasingly attractive to disillusioned Ukrainians in this more nationally-aware part of the country.

'Not racist'

The nationalist party Svoboda - whose slogan is "Ukraine for Ukrainians" - got 40% in last year's local elections in Ternopil.

By the town statue of Ukraine's controversial nationalist leader, Stepan Bandera, the party's ideological adviser, Yurij Mykhalchyshyn, told me that representatives of Svoboda had also been on Independence Square in 2004. But unlike the other parties, they had been under no illusion about how things would develop.

"We're not racist," he insisted, "but we reject the European Union of the Lisbon Treaty.

"We don't believe in it and we want to join with other Central European countries in battling against issues such as rights for sexual minorities."

But the party did not repeat its local success in the presidential election.

Its leader, Oleh Tyagnybok, only got 5% in Ternopil, 1.5% nationally. For the moment, fears of a nationalist backlash against the failings of the political elite appear to be unfounded.

'Spirit of kindness'

Hopes for change in Ukraine

And yet, speaking to a group of young Ternopil students, it is clear that there is no room for complacency.

The Orange Revolution's ideals remain popular, but those who have put them into practice inspire more contempt than enthusiasm.

Kristina, Nastya, Bohdan and Yura should be natural Tymoshenko supporters, but words of praise did not come naturally to them.

After quite a bit of prompting, all of them more or less admitted they would be voting for her, but only as the lesser of two evils.

A less-than-ringing endorsement, which suggests the result of Sunday's vote could be close.

For Nastya, the only one who had been in Kiev five years ago, the Orange ideals were, sadly, already a thing of the past.

"There was a spirit of kindness in the country then," she said, "and that spirit just isn't there any more".



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