We defend Valentina Lisitsa’s freedom of speech denouncing Ukraine’s HR violations

Statement by Swedish Doctors for Human Rights, 26 Oct 2015

valentina lisistsa - SWEDHR, If freedom of speech shall prevail in Sweden

The issue of Valentina Lisitsa’s upcoming concert in Norrköping has been raised in two articles in Norrköpings Tidningar (NT). An spokesperson from the organization “Young Ukrainians in Sweden” put forward in NT his opposition to the pianist’s scheduled performance in Sweden of her Beethoven’s Piano Concerto.

It certainly is not strange that a Swedish newspaper gives space to a protest like this. Everyone has the right in Sweden to express his or her opinion – what is call in Sweden, “Yttrandefrihet” (freedom of expression).

Conversely, what it is extremely odd is that “Young Ukrainians in Sweden” utters that they oppose precisely Valentina’s right to express her opinions. Even stranger, to our knowledge, Valentina Lisitsa – which has given concerts in Sweden in several occasions, latest at her debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – has not even mentioned the Ukrainian conflict in connection with these accusations during her visits to Sweden.

For Valentina Lisitsa is not just world famous for her artistic talents; she is also known for her strong condemnation of the perpetrations against human rights in Ukraine. Especially international attention Her statement in an interview for Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten this year has deserved particular attention. There, Valentina Lisitsa declared that “members of Azov battalion can be as brutal as IS” and therefore “they are not ordinary Ukrainians.” [1]

And maybe just there is to be found the origin of this irritation against the Ukrainian-American Human-Rights’ advocate Valentina Lisitsa:

Paul Olavi Kuivanen writes in his article in NT 15/10 that the organization Young Ukrainians in Sweden does not rule out demonstrations against Valentina Lisitsa. The author quotes spokesperson Andriy Kachur: “Within at Young Ukrainians in Sweden, we plan nothing, but it may happen that it will come people from outside who want make a point.”[2]

A former member of the Swedish Army, Mikael Skillt, now a recognized sniper in the above-mentioned Azov battalion, and who according to BBC “in fact his [political] views are typical of a neo-Nazi” [3] was asked recently in Twitter, “What do you mean she [Lisistsa] is not welcome in ‘my country’?” Mikael Skillt replied: ”Exactly that, and I just deciding if I should go to Sweden to stir something together.” [4]

Swedish Doctors for Human Rights has previously documented human rights violations in Ukraine, in particular the alleged war crimes such as the bombardment of several hospitals in Donbass, or the aerial raids against civilians in Lugansk.

Sweden is not supposed to be a Ukraine; a country whose government has silenced oppositional press and forbidden inconvenient political parties with earlier representation in the Ukrainian parliament. Shall freedom of speech prevail in Sweden for criticism of human rights violations in Ukraine?

Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli PhD, Chairman

Professor Anders Romelsjö PhD, Vice Chairman

Professor Marita Troye-Blomberg and Dr Lena Oske, from SWEDHR Board of Directors

Dr Leif Elinder senior member of SWEDHR

Dr Armando Popa, editor SWEDHR Research & Reports

Swedish Doctors for Human Rights (SWEDHR)

[A Swedish version of the statement above was submitted 27/10/15 for publication in Norrköpings Tidningar (NT)]

Referenser

[1] ”Star-Pianistin Lisitsa: „Es gibt Pläne für einen großen Ausverkauf der Ukraine“. Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, 19/01 2015

[2] Paul Olavi Kuivanens, ”Starka reaktioner inför konsert”. NT Kultur, 22/19 2015

[3] Dina Newman, BBC News, ” Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden”, 16/7 2014.

[4] Twitter https://twitter.com/MikaelSkillt/status/657622177165000704, 23/10 2015

Felix Gustafsson (@UpcomingFront): What do you mean with “She isn’t welcome in MY COUNTRY”?

Mikael Skillt (@MikaelSkillt): Exactly that, and I just deciding if I should go to Sweden to stir something together

Valentina Lisitsa is a world known pianist, born in Ukraine and living with her family in the U.S. She has distinguished herself not only by her brilliant concert performances all over the world, including Sweden, but also by her outspoken criticism around human rights violations in the ongoing civil war in Ukraine. For this she has been target of an illegitimate repression, including a last event in Canada where she was denied her right to perform. Swedish Doctors for Human Rights publishes here an appeal issued by the acclaimed artist on the 7 of April 2015. The image below correspond to a twitter done by @SWEDHR  7/4/2015.valentina on AZOV

Valentina Lisitsa’s Plea

Published 7 April 2015

Dear fans, DEAR FRIENDS!

I have a confession to make and a huge favor to ask all of you. I really REALLY need your help now.
But first, my confession.

Over the last year I have been leading a double life. There was me – a “celebrity” pianist hopping from a concert to a concert, all over the world; learning new pieces, meeting fans, recording, chirping about my happiness in upbeat interviews.

But there was another me: not a musician but a regular human being – a daughter, a mother, a wife. And this human being was watching helplessly how the country of my birth, of my childhood, of my first falling in love – this country was sliding ever faster into the abyss. Children die under bombs, old ladies die of starvation, people burned alive…

The worst thing that can happen to any country is fratricide war, people seeing each other, their neighbors as enemies to be eliminated. This is what has befallen my beautiful Ukraine. My heart was bleeding. You all saw on TV screens all over the world a magnificent revolution, the people of Ukraine raising in fury against their corrupt rulers, for a better life. I was so proud of my people! But the ruling class doesn’t let go easily. They managed to cunningly channel away the anger, to direct it to other, often imaginable, enemies – and worse, to turn people upon themselves. Year later, we have the same rich people remaining in power, misery and poverty everywhere, dozens of thousands killed, over a million of refugees.

So, I took to Twitter ( how many of you know I have a Twitter account? LOL) under a name “NedoUkraïnka” – a word roughly meaning “Sub-Ukrainian”, a stab at Ukrainian Prime Minister who called Russian-speaking Southern and Eastern Ukrainians “SUBHUMANS”! Yes, I kid you not. In an official written document. I am a subhuman, my husband, my mom….I mastered Ukrainian language perfectly, far better than a so-called “president” of Ukraine. But I don’t speak it to my family, I didn’t sing lullabies to my son in Ukrainian, when I sleep I never see the dreams in Ukrainian, when I will be dying my last words will NOT be in Ukrainian….

Sorry, I got carried away telling you those things… To get back to my story – I took to Twitter in order to get the other side of the story heard, the one you never see in the mainstream media – the plight of my people, the good and bad things that were happening in Ukraine. I translated news stories from Ukrainian language websites, I translated eyewitness accounts of atrocities…. I became really good in unmasking fakes published by Western media in order to make one side of the civil war look whiter and softer than Easter bunny, and another – as sub-humans, not worthy of mercy, the “collateral damage.

To give you just one example: one of my feats was to confront French fashion magazine “Elle” who published a glowing cover story about women in Ukrainian army. After the research I have shown to the magazine in my Twitter posts that the “cover girl” they have chosen to show was in fact a horrible person, open Neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semite who boasted of murdering civilians for fun! The magazine issued a written public apology.

I was very proud! But with time my activities attracted a lot of vicious haters. I was a particularly important “target” because of being Ukrainian, thus – a traitor. I thought I knew hate – my playing on YouTube certainly “attracted” a fair share of hate mail. But I was mistaken. Death threats, wishes for my family to die, calling me “paid Kremlin wh*re”…the list goes on and on.
My haters didn’t stop there. Trying, in their own words, to teach me a lesson, they have now attempted to silence me as a musician.

I am scheduled to play Rachmaninoff Concerto #2 with Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week. Back in December someone in the orchestra top management, likely after the pressure from a small but aggressive lobby claiming to represent Ukrainian community, has made a decision that I should not be allowed to play. I don’t even know who my accusers are, I am kept in the dark about it. I was accused of “inciting hatred” on Twitter. As the “proof” , ironically enough, they presented to the orchestra my tweets containing, of all things, Charlie Hebdo caricatures depicting lying media!!! We all know what those who can’t tolerate free speech did to Charlie Hebdo journalists.

Now, the orchestra based in one of the freest democratic countries is bending over to the same kind of people, helping them to assassinate me – not as a living person yet , but as a MUSICIAN for sure.
Yes, Toronto Symphony is going TO PAY ME NOT TO PLAY because I exercised the right to free speech.
Yes, they will pay my fee but they are going to announce that I will be unable to play and they already found a substitute.
And they even threatened me against saying anything about the cause of the cancellation. Seriously.

And I thought things like this only happen in Turkey to Fazil Say?

Now, the plea.

Before you decide to help me – If you wish, please take time and read my tweets. You might find some of them offensive – perhaps. The satire and hyperbole are the best literature tools to combat the lies. Bear that in mind when reading.

Here is what I ask you to do for me, and in defense of freedom even if you disagree with me on politics (LOLl!)

I ask you to raise your voice and tell Toronto Symphony that music can’t be silenced.
Ask them to let me play.

If you want to write something – great!

Or just share a photo I made ( sorry, I made it on my phone, nothing fancy)

Ask your friends to join in.

If they do it once, they will do it again and again, until the musicians, artists are intimidated into voluntary censorship. Our future will be bleak if we allow this to happen.

Please stand with me.

Here are the links :

https://www.facebook.com/torontosymphonyorchestra

! valentina red dress & piano4