Europe in Glitter: DR warms up to Eurovision with Verka Serduchka

Thursday evening DR premiered their new series Europe In Glitter as a warm up to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. In the first episode we met Verka Serduchka representing Ukraine in 2007 and we got the answer to how a country where homosexuality doesn’t exist could send a drag act to Eurovision. 

Europa I Glimmer (Europe in Glitter) is a TV series in six parts leading up to the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest held in Copenhagen in May. The series is hosted by journalist Sisse Sejr-Nørgaard who describes herself as a Eurovision enthusiast and judging from her engagement in the programme that is very belivable.

In the first episode all attention was on Ukraine, not because of the current situation with Russia, but due to the country’s 2007 act, Verka Serduchka. Sisse had recently visited Ukraine to find the answer to one question in particular: How could a country who is so much against homosexuality as Ukraine is send a drag act like this to Eurovision?

When meeting up with Verka, host Sisse Sejr-Nørgaard soon realises that the man behind Verka, isn’t openly gay and won’t say either that he is fighting for gay rights. Lasha tumbai, is told to have no meaning, and it is mentioned to be a total coinsidence that it sounds like the words say "Russia Goodbye".

Verka see herself as a cartoon figure, and not a tranvestis or a drag as others do. She also refuses that there should be any problems being gay in Ukraine, should some feel that they are that. The host Sisse isn’t too sure Verka is telling her the thruth as Ukraine was the first of the former USSR countries to forbid homosexuality, back in 1991, so she goes into the underground and soon find out that their life isn’t easy and that it very much is a problem being openly gay in Ukraine, which is why singers and acters wanting success aren’t openly gay and never would say in public that they believe in gay rights.

But isn’t it obvious that Verka is a drag act and that the person behind it, is gay? Sisse wondered as she went out into the country side talking to the average Ukrainian. Verka is popular and her fans to be found in all ages all over the country. Elderly ladies in the country side far away from capital Kiev had no problem saying that they loves Verka, and when asked if they thought the man behind her was gay, it came natural to them that he can’t be as homosexuality doesn’t exist in Ukraine!

Verka Serduchka speaks Surzhyk, which is a language mixed of Ukrainian and Russian. In the capital of Ukraine people look down on the ones speaking this language as it is very much seen as low class, which might be why it is much more spread in the country side, which again might be explain a part of why Verka can be successful here. She is seen as a funny figure that bring together a split nation, but, as it is being mentioned, only as long as he/she denies being gay, denies being a drag act and just is an ordinary straight man who becomes funny when he puts on a dress! 

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Below you can see the performance of Dancing Lasha Tumbai from Verka Serduchka at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest – a song which came second:

Source: DR, EuroVisionary
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