Ruzhena Vladimirovna Sikora (Руже′на Владими′ровна Сико′ра, August 20, 1918, Novorossiysk, Soviet Russia, - December 23, 2006, Moscow, Russian Federation) was a Soviet traditional pop and jazz performer of Czech and Polish origins, highly popular in the late 1940s and 1950s. Sikora is credited with being the first Soviet artist to have started performing international jazz, swing and pop standards in their original languages.
Ruzhena Sikora was born in Novorossiysk. Her father Vladimir Vladimirovich Sikora was a second-generation Russian Czech, son of a wine-maker Vladimir Sikora, Sr. who in the mid-19th century left his country for Tiflis, Georgia, then settled in Abrau-Dyurso, Krasnodar Krai. Vladimir Sikora, Jr., an accountant in a local cement factory, was a part-time opera singer, well known among the Novorossiysk connoisseurs. Ruzhena's mother, Veronika Adamovna Sikora, came from Poland.
Encouraged by her father, Ruzhena started singing as a three-year-old, first at family concerts, then in the street, entertaining people gathering at the courtyard of the Engels Street, 12/14, where the family lived. At 5 she started studying the piano and four years later was able to accompany her father on a professional level, taking part in concerts as one half of a family duet, then starting to perform solo with her own program at the local Pioneers' Palace and the City's Theatre.
In 1936 Vladimir Sikora was invited to join the Kiev Opera. In July of the same year he died of heart attack. To make a living when only state workers received provision card, Ruzhena went to work at the Proletary cement factory. In the evenings she was playing the piano at the factory's cinema club and still managed to continue her musical education. Impressed by one of her public performances, the city authorities sent the 18-year old to the Rostov-on-Don musical college, with the reputation of being one of the best in the country, which she graduated in 1941, as a professional vocalist.Career
While a student, Sikora joined Dmitry Voronin's North Caucasian Railways Orchestra, working part-time. A self-styled proponent of what was later to be known as the 'Theatre of Song', the girl was spotted in Baku by an established pianist, composer and conductor Alexander Tsfasman who invited her to join his own musical collective. In May 1941 in the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition's Green Theatre in Moscow she debuted as a singer of the Tsfasman-led Soviet Radio Jazz Orchestra. The young singer was looking forward to a grandiose tour all over the USSR after which she planned to join the Moscow Gnesin College, but all this was put to an end by the War.
Never thinking of the evacuation, Ruzhena Sikora continued to perform in besieged Moscow. In the nights she was taking part in volunteer patrol groups, putting incendiary bombs out, helping minors and elders into air-raid shelters. Then she joined the small artistic 'frontline brigade' (three other members were entertainer Mikhail Garkavi, and the pair of dancers, Anna Redel and Mikhail Khrustalyov) and embarked upon the continuous 'trenches tour'. "Strangly, in frontline forests and in trenches we felt safer than in Moscow. Our audience were enthusiastic, sprightly people getting themselves ready for next day's fight... Things were more depressing in hospitals. But we knew our concerts meant a lot for the injured boys and were doing our best," she remembered. Decades later, in 2005 she was awarded the Medal "For Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945".
After the War in 1946 Sikora re-joined Tsfasman's Orchestra. She took part in the 2nd All-Union Competition of Soviet Popular Music Performers (the 1st one in 1940 brought Klavdya Shulzhenko into the spotlight) and won the 1st prize. Also in 1946 Sikora debuted as a recording artist when "The Crescent in the Blue Sky" was released on record. Other popular songs of her extensive late-1940s repertoire included "A Friend", "Remembering", "Wait For You", "The Light of Stars", "Lights", "I Won't Be Writing To You", "Little Rain".
In 1947 the Radio Jazz Orchestra disbanded and, as Tsfasman became the director of the Moscow Hermitage Theatre, Sikora joined the theatre-based Sympho-Jazz band. Established composers like Nikita Bogoslovsky, Matvey Blanter, Mark Fradkin, Vano Muradeli and Kirill Molchanov were now writing originals for her. Critics praised her artistism, restrained and elegant manners, the ability to achieve dramatic effect by simple, almost ascetic means. Ideologically, though, Ruzhena Sikora was not considered entirely 'reliable'. Being the first Soviet singer to start performing foreign originals in different languages (Czech, Polish, Italian, French, Spanish), she received serious chastasing in the Soviet press in 1955, blamed (by Sovyetskaya Kultura newspaper) for, among other things, condoning the 'hostile ideology' by performing songs of 'dubious origins'. Several years earlier such verdict could mean serious trouble, but this mid-1950s anti-'West-worshippers' campaign was the last of its kind. Sikora's success continued, she visited Poland, Bulgaria and East Germany with solo concerts.
In the early 1950s Sikora married Viktor Goryshnik, a gifted pianist in his own right, who became her accompaniator on stage. Tragically, in the early 1960s the pair suffered a serious car accident. Goryshnik died, Ruzhena Sikora spent 7 months in hospital. Having recuperated, the singer returned on stage, then married band leader Nikolai Taranenko. But giving full-time concerts for her was becoming more and more difficult and in the 1970s she had to quit, continuing to teach vocals, at the Central House of Artists in Moscow.
After the retirement Sikora appeared on stage twice, first at the Alexander Vertinsky memorial, alongside Nikita Bogoslovsky and Bulat Okudzhava. Then in February 1993 music historian and writer Valery Safoshkin organized the Ruzhena Sikora special concert at the Moscow Central House of Artists. In the finale of this highly successful show the legendary performer Izabella Yuryeva rose on stage to present the bouquet of flowers to Ruzhena Sikora. Also in 1993 she was granted the prestigious title of the People's Artist of Russia.
Ruzhena Vladimirovna Sikora died on December 23, 2006, in Moscow and was buried at the Khimkinskoye Cemetery.
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