Serduchka

Controversial, bizarre, and talented, there is no one quite like Ukrainian singer/comedian/actor/drag queen Verka Serduchka (Верка Сердючка). Serduchka is the drag persona of Andriy Danylko (Андрій Данилко) and frequently performs and sings at concerts and in films.

Danylko himself is a wide-ranging actor, composer, singer, and performer who was born in Poltava, Ukraine, to rural roots. His family speaks Surzhuk, a sort of creole language that combines Russian and Ukrainian. Always a performer, he attended an arts school, participated in the Russian variety show KVN, and attended the Kyiv Municipal Academy of Circus and Variety Arts (Київська Муніципальна Академія Естрадного та Циркового Мистецтв). He has other projects besides Serduchka—he’s a judge on the Ukrainian X-Factor and has released an album under his own name—but Serduchka is probably his best-known. He’s also a Distinguished Artist of Ukraine.

Danylko first invented Serduchka, a middle-aged rural woman with a unique performing and singing style, in the early 1990s. Her first performance was at a 1993 comedy show in Poltava, where she won first prize. Her next performances, at bigger comedy shows and finally on TV, were similarly successful. She released her first song, “Just Vera” (“Просто Вера”), in 1996 and began hosting her own TV show, SV Show (СВ-Шоу; СВ stands for “спалний вагон,” or “sleeping car,” i.e. of a train) in 1997.

She continued to release songs and video clips over the next few years. In 2006 she starred in a movie about herself, The Adventures of Verka Serduchka (Приключения Верки Сердючки). In 2007 she performed at the notably liberal-leaning Eurovision Song Contest, taking second place for her song “Dancing Lasha Tumbai.” (The words “lasha tumbai” are invented, but when sung, they sound quite a lot like “Russia good-bye.”) She’s even won a number of Golden Gramophones. In the Western world, she might be best known for her cameo in a pivotal scene in the Melissa McCarthy movie Spy.

Unsurprisingly, Serduchka has always courted controversy in her homeland, where drag queens and the wider LGBTQ+ world are not exactly accepted. But she’s still managed to thrive and become an odd but well-loved symbol of Ukraine.

Find Verka Serduchka on Amazon

 

“Dancing Lasha Tumbai,” Serduchka’s greatest hit and her Eurovision pick:

 

Lyrics for “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”:

Hello everybody!
My name is Verka Serduchka
Me
English
Nicht verstehen!
Let’s speak DANCE!

Sieben, Sieben
Ai lyu lyu
Sieben, Sieben
Ein, zwei
Sieben, Sieben
Ai lyu lyu
Ein, zwei, drei

Sieben, Sieben
Ai lyu lyu
Sieben, Sieben
Ein, zwei
Sieben, Sieben
Ai lyu lyu
Ein, zwei, drei

Tanzen!

Weiter, weiter!

Ich liebe!

Sieben, Sieben
Ai lyu lyu
Sieben, Sieben
Ein, zwei
Sieben, Sieben
Ai lyu lyu
Ein, zwei, drei

Sieben, Sieben
Ai lyu lyu
Sieben, Sieben
Ein, zwei
Sieben, Sieben
Ai lyu lyu
Nu ein, zwei, drei

Tanzen!

I want to see… Aha…
To dance or not to dance
I want to see… Aha…
It’s not a question
I want to see… Aha…
Don’t live to dance
I want to see…
Dance to live
Aha…
I love you

I want to see
Lasha tumbai
I want to see
Lasha tumbai
I want to see
Lasha tumbai
I want to see

Tanzen!

Танцевать хорошо!

I want to see… Aha…
To dance or not to dance
I want to see… Aha…
It’s not a question
I want to see… Aha…
Don’t live to dance
I want to see…
Dance to live
Aha…
I love you

I want to see
Lasha tumbai
I want to see
Lasha tumbai
I want to see
Lasha tumbai
I want to see

Tanzen!

Україна – це круто?!
Круто!
Україна – це кльово?!
Кльово!
Танцює майдан!

Ok happy end

 

 

“Chita Drita” (“Чита Дрита”), an earlier hit, 2003:

 

Lyrics for “Чита Дрита”:

Я в любви огонь и ночью, и днём
Так давай огонь мы этой ночью разведем
Твои спички, мои дрова, очень хорошо
Разведем костер любви всем ветрам на зло
Твои спички, мои дрова, очень хорошо
Разведем костер любви всем ветрам на зло
Ой чита чита дрита
Танец заводной
Ой читу читу дриту
Ты потанцуй со мной
Ой чита чита дрита
Так хочется любви
Ой чита чита дрита
Ты вечерком зайди
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
А я красавица
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
Коса до пояса
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
А ты мне нравишься
По-видимому, девки, цэ любовь
Потанцуем нашу читу дриту и опять
Будем до утра мы читу дриту танцевать
Твои спички, мои дрова, очень хорошо
Разведем костер любви всем ветрам на зло
Твои спички, мои дрова, очень хорошо
Разведем костер любви всем ветрам на зло
Ой чита чита дрита
Танец заводной
Ой читу читу дриту
Ты потанцуй со мной
Ой чита чита дрита
Так хочется любви
Ой чита чита дрита
Ты вечерком зайди
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
А я красавица
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
Коса до пояса
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
А ты мне нравишься
По-видимому, девки, цэ любовь
Ой чита чита дрита
Танец заводной
Ой читу читу дриту
Ты потанцуй со мной
Ой чита чита дрита
Так хочется любви
Ой чита чита дрита
Ты вечерком зайди
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
А я красавица
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
Коса до пояса
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
А он мне нравится
По-видимому, девки, цэ
Ой чита чита дрита
Танец заводной
Ой читу читу дриту
Ты потанцуй со мной
Ой чита чита дрита
Так хочется любви
Ой чита чита дрита
Ты вечерком зайди
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
А я красавица
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
Коса до пояса
Ай нэ-нэ нэ-нэ
А он мне нравится
По-видимому, девки, цэ
По-видимому, девки, цэ
По-видимому, девки, цэ любовь!

 

Find Verka Serduchka on Amazon

 

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS’s Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.