Katya Buzhynska is a Ukrainian pop star from Kyiv. At 19, she’s already collected an impressive number of prizes and awards, one of them at the prestigious Best Person of the Year Contest. Heorhiy-Hryhoriy Pylypenko, a free-lance journalist, interviewed Katya at the request of Welcome to Ukraine magazine.

WU: Katya, for your age you seem to be very mature and full of common sense.
Buzhynska: I don’t know, if it’s true it is may be because I started to earn my living at the age of fourteen. I’m a native of a provincial town of Chernivtsi. I worked as a singer at the most prestigious restaurant in town. I wanted to support myself financially, did not want to be a burden for my parents. My stepfather had two kids of his own. I earned enough to buy dresses and whatever else was needed for performing at the restaurant.

I did not have a producer and an agent. Not even someone who could help with such things. I did work hard, sometimes after a concert I could hardly speak, let alone sing. I was paid 30 dollars a month, and at that time it seemed to be a lot of money. Anybody who went through hard work and hard times would know how it feels to have made it at last.
WU: Did you study at a music school? Or have you learnt singing all by yourself?
Buzhynska: I think God has given me a talent to sing, so I’m trying hard to use it to the best of my ability. But no matter what talent one might have, one still needs some training. Mr Kvelenkov, a producer, did a lot for me. I met him in 1995, at a children songfest. He headed the jury then. Later, I went to Moscow, all alone, and managed to win the first place at a big children song contest. In spite of a hostile attitude of the jury. But I held my own and won.
WU: Yes, young talents from the province are often discouraged by a hostile attitude of the know-your-place type.
Buzhynska: I have enough confidence in myself not to be discouraged. I rely on myself and on God. I’m a member of a protestant church, and whenever I can I donate money for charity. I know the money will be used for a good cause.
WU: You’ve won enough contests to make you famous in Ukraine. Have you tried it at any international contest, of Eurovision song type?
: Not yet. You’ve got to have a lot of money to get into one of those. There is one, held in Sopot, Poland, that might be a good start. I’ll have to look for sponsors. Maybe, President of Ukraine will help.
WU: Is it a joke or just wishful thinking?
Buzhynska: I sure want to go international and I do get invitations from Mr President and his wife to sing at all sorts of concerts. But it is at night clubs mostly, that I make money.
WU: Some of our Ukrainian pop stars do the same, Ponarovska and Dolina, for example.
Buzhynska: Yes, I know, but frankly it’s hard for me psychologically. You sing, you put your soul into your song and people in the audience talk, eat or pay little attention. Sometimes I come straight to the tables and sing people right into the eye, as it were.

WU: It takes some nerve to do a thing like that, doesn’t it?
Buzhynska: I’ve learnt many things the hard way. I know what’s what in this life. I did go to a music school. My teacher, Mariya Kohos, taught me not only to sing the way it should be done but also encouraged me to be brave. I studied hard, real hard, no discotheques for me, no dating boys.
WU: Did your parents encourage your musical inclinations in any way?
Buzhynska: Yes, morally my parents supported me, of course. You see, they were divorced, then remarried and I have good relations with their new spouses. I’m happy to say that my parents have remained friends after the divorce. So, whenever I come to Chernivtsi on a visit or with concerts there’s a big family gathering to welcome me.
WU: You not only sing well, you’re an expert dancer too. You have a nice figure — have you ever thought of moving into other fields, say photo modeling?
Buzhynska: No, I’ll stick to what I’ve chosen to do in life.
WU: Do you have a producer now? And if you do, who is he?
Buzhynska: Of course. My husband Yury is also my producer.
WU: Isn’t it a bit too much — to be with someone all the time, at home and at work?
Buzhynska: It’s great. Besides, there is no time for petty family fights. When I get home there’s no strength left in me for anything, even for cooking. And I love cooking.
WU: Is there anything you’d like to change in your appearances on the stage?
Buzhynska: Yes, I’d like very much to turn them into real shows. I keep asking my husband-producer to find a way of staging a real big show. But so much is needed for that, including money.
WU: If you had a chance of landing a role in a movie, whom would you like to play?
Buzhynska: Lolita, from Nabokov’s novel. Incidentally, my husband is twenty years my senior. But my portrayal of Lolita would be devoid of any sexual perversion.
WU: Is there such a thing as perversion in sex between consenting adults?
Buzhynska: You bet. Don’t know about consenting adults, but there’s a lot of dirty things going on in the artistic world. Homosexuality for one. I can’t accept it. I know people who are gay, I tell them: go to church, repent, but they tell me to mind my own business. Pathetic. I’m sorry for them.
WU: What kind of friends do you have or would like to have?
Buzhynska: Intelligent. Those who would inspire me to go on developing myself. My husband is like that. He plays all kinds of musical instruments. Top professional. I’ve learnt so much from him.
WU: When you want to get away from it all, where do you go?
Buzhynska: We travel, go to different places in Ukraine and abroad. Recently, we’ve been to Turkey. The Intercontinental-Invest-Tour company organized a very good rest for us there. We stayed at a posh hotel, we had five meals a day, each meal of a different cuisine. I’d gained so much weight that I had to work hard to get rid of it. Once we swam in a storm, it was scary but I was sure my husband would get me out of anything safe and sound. He is so strong, in every way. He thinks he should be prepared for any contingencies.

The Gold Rooster prize awarded at the Slavyansky Bazar Song Festival.

President Kuchma holding the Grand Prix Slavyansky Bazar Diploma and
Katya Buzhynska in his office.

WU: Have you cut any discs yet?
Buzhynska: Yes, a few. The latest has been released recently. It’s called "Music That I Love.” Several companies help me and my husband to get things moving, Prozorist, Bahira, Rostok-Records, among them.
WU: Any dreams you wish would come true?
Buzhynska: Grand Prix at a Eurovision song contest.

Photos by Yuriy Kvelenkov