Ukrainian pop star details escape from war to US to use her voice: 'The war must be stopped'

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Oleksandra Zaritska woke up to a phone call on Feb. 25 at 5 a.m. On the other end of the line was her mother informing her Russia’s war on Ukraine had begun. From there, her “big” – and brave – journey from Kyiv to the United States would begin.

Zaritska, also known as Sasha, is the frontwoman of the popular Ukrainian pop band Kazka. Kazka intended to celebrate their five-year anniversary together weeks ago, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine scrapped those plans.

Sasha was the lone member of her band to flee Ukraine and travel to the United States to perform at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The 29-year-old performer arrived in Austin last week admittedly in a “bad mood” over the state of her war-torn country, and the fact that she was without her bandmates, consisting of three females currently in Kyiv, and three men who have no choice but to stay in Ukraine to help their country.

“It was a long journey,” Sasha told Fox News Digital in a phone interview from New York City on Tuesday. 

Oleksandra Zaritska, also known as Sasha, of KAZKA performs onstage at the Sounds From Ukraine SXSW Music Festival Showcase during 2022 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Speakeasy on March 19 in Austin, Texas.
(Amanda Stronza)

“Long” is an understatement. Sasha, who was born in Kharkiv –  a city that is “now 90% destroyed,” she said – was living at her apartment in Kyiv when the war broke out. She also has a home outside of Kyiv. On Feb. 25, Sasha, her dogs and friends traveled from her Kyiv apartment to her house, which is around 2.5 miles from the Hostomel Airport. What was normally a 30-minute car ride took “five or six hours” due to heavy traffic as panic set in.

“We all get to my house because we was thinking that there would be a safe place because this house is not in Kyiv. On the first day of war we were thinking the war will be only in Kyiv and in big cities. But actually my house, it was near the airport, and on the second day of war, this airport was bombed,” she recalled.

Sasha, her friends and some family members, barely slept the first five days of war.

“It was very hard because we heard big explosions, like all the time, mostly in the evening,” Sasha said. “My walls were shaking. Every two minutes we heard explosions. There were such huge explosions at one time that we all, from different rooms, would run into the bathroom. After this, on the sixth day, we decided to leave the house.”

Kazka is made up of Oleksandra Zaritska (lead vocalist), Nikita Budash (keyboards, guitar), Dmytro Mazuriak (wind instruments_, Vasylyna Tkachuk (back-vocal) Daryna Salii (back vocal), Sizyk Iryna (back vocal) and Yevhenii Kostyts (drums).
(Andrii Maxymov)

Sasha took her three dogs, her mother, sister and a friend, and drove to the west of Ukraine. From there, she drove through Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and eventually landed in the Czech Republic. She left her loved ones in Prague – the rest of her family is still in Ukraine – and took a flight that stopped in London before ultimately arriving in Austin last week.

“They are safe, but I don’t want to say that it’s safe because I’m afraid there are no places for sure to be safe,” Sasha said of her family still in Ukraine, including her dad, who has ammunition and a uniform to fight. “Because the sky is open, we have a dangerous sky, so you’ll never know.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Sasha still has no clue what’s left of her house outside Kyiv. “I don’t think about this too much because it’s really terrifying for me to know that in my house probably lives Russian soldiers, or maybe they burned my house already,” she said.

“It’s very hard because this is my home, my dream. I always wanted to live near the forest and I kept my own money that I earned by Kazka concerts and all of this and bought the house. Now I don’t know if this house even exists. But it’s OK, you know why? Because it’s just a home and all of my family are safe and that’s more important,” the musician added.

Although she’s missing her loved ones and her country, Sasha said she decided to travel to the United States for her performance because it’s a place she can continue to do what she does best: use her voice.

Oleksandra Zaritska of Kazka and Charlie Sexton attend the SXSW Conference and Festivals at Speakeasy on March 19 in Austin, Texas.
(Amanda Stronza)

“I know I can’t do anything in Ukraine besides be a volunteer. I have a voice and I need to use this voice, so I’m here to talk about this,” she said of the war.

On March 19, Sasha took the stage at South by Southwest for its “Sounds From Ukraine SXSW Music Festival Showcase.” She was the only Ukrainian musician in attendance. Fortunately, Americans provided instruments so the soloist could perform Kazka hits. Then, she was joined on stage by Charlie Sexton for a powerful performance of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.”

“It was a big honor. The first few days I actually don’t want to sing at all,” Sasha recalled of her arrival in Texas. “Because of Ukraine, I felt so sorry about it all. But I have so much support and so many requests for the people’s favorite songs and I decided to perform.”

Sasha of Kazka performs onstage at SXSW. She tells Fox News Digital it was one of the first times she’s performed for an American crowd.
(Amanda Stronza)

Performing “Masters of War” was by Sasha’s design. “It was my straight message to Putin. I got big support from Charlie Sexton. We were together on one stage, and he was playing on guitar. They have American musicians with me, these guys who really was very helpful. I was feeling not so alone in America.”

Sasha said she hopes “Putin will see” her performance. She called “Masters of War” a “very powerful song” in that it “can be an anthem of war and the message to all dictators in the world.”

The Austin performance was also unique in that she got a chance to perform for a majority of Americans.

“It was like the first time I perform for Americans because when we have tour there are mostly Ukrainians there. Now, I feel a big support, really. I have no band with me, and it’s scary for me, but I felt so much support from everybody.”

Currently, in New York, Sasha said she hopes she can help bring her female bandmates to the U.S. so they can put on charity shows for Ukraine. On Wednesday, the singer had the honor of performing the National Anthem for the raising of the Ukraine and American flags in lower Manhattan. The event was attended by Mayor Eric Adams.

In terms of what Americans can do to help Ukraine at this time, Sasha shared: “The war must stop. It has to be stopped. Actually Americans can make it stop a little bit faster. They can call and write to Congress, and they can call to senators in the government to let them know you care about Ukraine. It’s really important. Also, show up to rallies and protests and use your voices to help Ukraine.”

Kazka is a Ukrainian band that performs pop with elements of electro-folk.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian singer said she will continue to hold onto hope for her country.

“I know we will win this war because our people stand for peace and truth. People want to be in a free country, so they will stand til the end. I really hope that the people will be alive, and it will stop as soon as possible.”

Although she did share a stark warning for other countries, including the U.S.

“Russia will not stop at Ukraine, actually. Ukraine is fighting for all of Europe and the West, and that’s why we need to help Ukraine and democracy for everyone. The war must be stopped right now, and we need to save everybody. I think we need to scream to everybody and talk with everybody. We need to say we really care for Ukraine.”

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