Paul Manandise is a French singer who won a Golden Prize of the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. The singer was born in Brussels. Paul’s father is Italian, and his mother is French. Paul absorbed all the best from the two cultures. But since 2015 he has considered himself Ukrainian. He moved to Ukraine in the tense period of Russian aggression, Crimea annexation and warfare in Donbas. Hereafter, read an exclusive interview with Paul Manandise by Andriy Galat, Deputy Head at the Information and Analytical Center of National Security of Ukraine.
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Can you first tell us about yourself? I understand, those who follow your artistic and patriotic activities, know quite a lot about you…
Yes, they know that my father is Sicilian, my mother is French, and I am Ukrainian! But few people know that a while ago my brother got leukemia … Not only was our family devastated by a potential loss of my brother, but also the costs of treatment were unsurmountable. That’s when my mother launched an initiative so that oncology patients from the European Union could be treated at the expense of the state. And she succeeded! I think this is our family trait — to see and feel pain of other people and try to do something to help. I am a humanist, I love people and life …
How did you come to feel that you have the roots of one of the most ancient peoples of the planet — the Ukrainian roots?
I do not really believe in mysticism, but when I first stepped on the Ukrainian soil, I immediately felt at home … As if a stork returned home …
What did you feel when the Russian aggression against Ukraine began?
Here I am not a Frenchman … Here I am a Ukrainian. I feel at home … When Russia began war, hardly anyone in the west understood what was happening … Russian propaganda is very strong there. It is felt in France, Germany, other European countries … When the Maidan started in Ukraine, it was difficult to understand what was going on. But, I had the opportunity to receive information from several unrelated sources and also I wanted to know the truth! I am brought up so that if you are strong, you do not have the right to offend those who are weaker … And Ukraine has been fighting for more than 7 years with a much stronger enemy, just now there are 150 thousand Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, and the Ukrainian people take all the fight and deter the Russian aggression.
But Ukraine receives aid from the EU, the UK and from the U.S. …
Yes, it’s true, but Ukraine still fights all alone, and, I am deeply convinced — needs much more assistance, especially military … Today, the European state of Ukraine defends all of Europe on the front line, and Europe should thank Ukraine because its best sons and daughters are giving their lives for peace in Europe as well.
Tell us about your friendship with Vasyl Slipak.
We met one at one event. Vasyl was a great singer and a true Ukrainian, and he represented Ukraine in Paris. He was genuine. When the Maidan began, he was one of those who tried to let the world know the truth. He took to heart everything that was happening in Ukraine. First he began to help out as a volunteer, and then he could not just stand by and went to the front. We met in France, I think, when he was on rotation — Mephisto became a true Cossack.
Vasyl Slipak was a huge loss both for Ukraine and for world culture … And he could still do very, very muchby telling the world the truth …
Yes, but he was a man, and it was his choice — to go to war when his country desperately needed protection.
What do you think is the role of a famous person in history? The role of a public person, an actor whose audience is big and diverse?
I would like to talk about the role of an actor. God gives actors more than others, and that puts more responsibility on them. And I believe that my mission is to tell the world the truth about Ukraine, about its history, its culture … and its fight. That’s what my album “Mission in heaven” is about. Unfortunately, Vasyl did not have time to do this, but this chance now is mine. I have a desire and strength to show the world what is happening here. I am a man of art. There are practically no boundaries for me. And I can do a lot more, or differently than some diplomats in a certain situation … Russian propaganda is strongly affecting people’s minds in the West, but there is no propaganda stronger than the truth. And I am already making steps in this direction, building a team of professionals who are true Ukrainian patriots.
You saw the world with your own eyes … And how is Ukraine compared to other countries of the world?
I visited over 70 countries. This is interesting, but after the first time, the keenness of perception somewhat fades away. However, not with Ukraine. Here I have new experiences every day, I see something new every time… Also, I really love freedom, just as Ukrainians do. But the whole world knows about the French revolution while this world has yet to learn about the Ukrainian revolution that occurred in the 21st century … For it is also part of the history of mankind.
Do people in the world, particularly in Europe, know about the role of Rus-Ukraine in world history?
As to history, Europeans predominantly know Russian culture, this practice has existed since the Soviet Union, which was percieved as Russia. And this influence continues. Ukraine has great musicians, writers, poets, artists … Many prominent personalities have Ukrainian roots. But it is necessary to inform the world, to translate Ukrainian literature so that people all over the world can read it! So that they know and listen to Ukrainian music! Ukrainian mentality is very important too … Europe is accustomed to individualism, people are egotistic in Europe. An example of Ukraine — its volunteer movement — can remind Europeans that we, people, are very strong when we are together.
Does the world know the truth about another attack of Russia on Ukraine? What are your personal observations?
We have already spoken about Russian propaganda and I also consider it my mission to counteract it in the world. My and my team’s mission.
Now you permanently live in Ukraine. You help defent the country from Russian invaders. Tell us about it.
I have friends at the front and when they need something, I try to help.
Do you buy ammunition?
Infrared imagers, drones … I’m just trying to help. People give life to protect the world from the “Russian world,” which is actually terrible … I give only money, and I will help further.
I know that you have already experienced attempts to discredit you and remove from participating in the struggle for Ukraine …
Yes, I, unfortunately, have such experience. I do not feel like going into details, but I will say that Russia and its special services know my position. They really do.
What about your participation in combating the aggressor in the Ukrainian and international information field? You mentioned a team …
Yes, the team will soon begin to work and we will be engaged in counterpropaganda against Russia. It is very important both in Europe and the whole world because they still idealize the former USSR, whose successor the Russian Federation has announced itself … It’s important to know the truth about the USSR as well as the truth about how people in Russia live now, to say nothing about how people live in the territories occupied by Russian troops — Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Crimea … My plan is to tell the world the truth about what Russia is and what Ukraineis.
Aren’t you afraid to join the battle with the aggressor on the front where you have the greatest opportunities — on the front of influencing people’s minds and sentiments?
I’m not scared. I have been doing it for six years. However, it is not so easy to wake up Europe on my own, so now I will do it with a team.
There was a meeting of Presidents of Ukraine and France on February 8, 2022. What can we expect? What significance can the position of the leader of the French Republic have for Ukraine??
The more Europeans know about Ukraine, the fewer people will doubt that Putin is an invader. In my opinion, big and strong France should protect Ukraine, because today it is weaker economically and politically, and also because it is the right thing to do. “Steps to peaceful settlement,” which France, Germany and Hungary are trying to promote,should not mean any concessions to the aggressor who understands only the language of force — not only militarymight, but also the force of economic sanctions, and the force of material and technical support of modern warfare,the force of peoples’ unity against changing the existing world order through war or armed occupation, as was the case in the Ukrainian Crimea. Of course, Macron helps Ukraine, but he is not the president of Ukraine. By the way, if Ukraine joins the EU, France will cease to be its largest state. Then it will be Ukraine. It also matters, doesn’t it? I think the President of France should have a clearer and harder position towards Russia. Any president of any state that is aplayer in the international arena should remember that no one has the right to decide that soldiers of one country can go and kill people in another, seize someone else’s territory or establish their laws.
The UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov, “Russia is quite capable of making a choice that can lead to a better future for all European peoples.”
I agree that both the UK and the U.S., and other major players in the European arena are already trying to take lots ofdiplomatic steps to prevent Moscow’s further aggressive actions … But in response, Lavrov called the talks with her “a conversation between the dumb and the deaf” … So, the danger of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has not disappeared and this is evidenced by the practical steps taken by these players — from evacuation of their citizens and relocation of embassies …
Jonathan Marcus, former BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent and honorary professor at the Strategy and Security Institute at Exeter University wrote in January this year that “what is under way at present is the essence of ‘grey-zone warfare’ – the blurring of the boundary between peace and war” and this is exactly what Russia is doing.
I read that … Marcus writes that “the Russian military has articulated a sophisticated doctrine that sees war and peace as a continuum where various tools are applied at different stages, sometimes in sequence, sometimes together, though with the same strategic aim. And that ultimately is why the conflict has already been joined.” But for some reason Europe forgets about it … or prefers “not to notice” … The danger is that history can be repeated. Once they did not notice the preparations of another dictator —Adolf Schicklgrubrer. But I believe that now, unlike last century, there are all necessary mechanisms for preventing an open war of Russia against Ukraine. Europe cannot just stay byin this case … as well as the entire civilized world. Although I am not a politician, I know well that at this stage Russia, or rather, its president cannot, does not want to understand that it is still possible to protect the world from a new war and preserve Russia at least as it is now … Otherwise it is difficult to predict the outcome of the war for Russia. As for Ukraine, I know many Ukrainian patriots personally and they are not only military, and not only men, in fact, they are ready to fight for Ukraine to the last breath. And there are many of them.
Probably, I don’t need to ask the last question, but it’s interesting to hear a direct answer — what is Ukraine for Paul Manandise?
My life, my Homeland, for which I’ve been fighting for over six years. Your center (Information and Analytical Center ofNational Security of Ukraine), has the following motto on its website — “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This is what I do for Ukraine. But, if I have to protect Ukraine with the weapon in my hands like Vasyl Slipak, I’m ready.
Deputy Head at the Information and Analytical Center of National Security of Ukraine