Although Russia’s war in Ukraine is no laughing matter, Ukrainians are learning to laugh about it anyway. Not because they want to. But because laughter can be like medicine.
Serhiy Lipko will soon be sent to the battlefields of Ukraine. But he also worked as a comedian, a performer who tells jokes to make people laugh. In a comedy club in Kyiv, he took the stage wearing the army fatigue. He joked that the military training with NATO instructors was a great opportunity to work on his English. He also joked about his nervousness about using expensive military equipment. He was afraid to break it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his troops are favorite targets of wartime Ukrainian black humor. But there are also things they won’t joke about. We don’t make fun of Ukrainian deaths or the worst battles like Mariupol. The same is true for war crimes.
“tragedies cannot and never will be the subject of humor, ”said Anastasia Zukhvala. She is Lipko’s wife who also works as a comedian.
“It’s an absolutely crazy time, beyond ordinary experience,” she said. “Our life now is made of paradoxesand it can even be funny.
Ukraine’s most famous comedian is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, now the country’s president. He was elected in 2019. Prior to that, Zelenskyy played a high school teacher who accidentally becomes president in the TV comedy series servant of the people. But Zelenskyy hasn’t had much cause for fun since the Feb. 24 invasion.
As he struggles to garner international support and soldiers fight back, Ukrainians far from the front lines are using jokes and humor as weapons. It is used as wartime medicine anxiety and sadness.
Yuliia Shytko, 29, said she felt in a much better mood after laughing with the rest of the crowd at the performances of Lipko and other comedians. Most of their jokes were about war.
“Laughs and all, that’s how you cope“Shytko said.
Lipko and Zelenskyy crossed paths in comedy before the war. The future president, then still a performer, was a judge in 2016 in the game show, Make an actor laugh. Lipko was a contender.
Lipko always jokes about life in the army, even as he prepares to go to the front. His nickname in the army is “the comedian”. He joked that some things his fellow soldiers say and do are so funny he has to use them for his show.
Afterwards, he said his comedy should help him during battle.
But he has his own worries. He tries to convince his parents to leave their village in the south. He thinks it’s too close to the fighting. But they don’t care about the danger. Her mother joked that if Russian missiles appeared in her potato field, it would save her a lot of work.
“My mother never joked before the war,” Lipko said. “They’re using my weapons against me…and it’s unfair.”
I am Dan Novak.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.
words in this story
fatigue — not. a kind of military clothing worn when soldiers do physical labor
the tragedy — not. a very sad or terrible event
ordinary –adj. not unusual, common
paradox — not. a situation made up of two opposite things that seems impossible but is actually true or possible
anxiety — not. fear or nervousness about what might happen
cope — v. face problems and difficult situations and try to find solutions
nickname — not. a name that is different from a person’s real name but is used by friends and family