Ruslana Lyzhychko is a civil society activist, human rights advocate and a leader of Ukraine’s Maidan movement for democratic reform. Her steadfast commitment to non-violent resistance and national unity helped channel a series of popular demonstrations into a national movement against government corruption and human rights abuses. Ms. Lyzhychko started her career as a pop music star, earning international fame for winning the 2004 Eurovision song contest. In November 2013, Ms. Lyzhychko became one of the most powerful voices and leaders of Ukraine’s EuroMaidan movement using her celebrity status and social media connections to encourage citizens to demonstrate peacefully for a change of political course. Her performance of the Ukrainian national anthem every night, even in the face of impending police attacks and death threats, fortified the movement and became a symbol of its commitment to a diverse and unified Ukraine.
When police attacked peaceful student demonstrators, Ms. Lyzhychko personally evacuated students and stood guard outside while alerting the media and calling on the international community to intervene. Then, on a freezing night in December, as security forces with truncheons and shields descended on the Maidan, Ruslana remained onstage to marshal activists to stand their ground and resist nonviolently. Ms. Lyzhychko continues to work actively in Ukraine and with Ukraine’s European partners to further the Maidan’s agenda of democratic reform.