Darth Vader was bent on galactic domination, but his Ukrainian namesake enjoys more mundane pursuits — local politics, walking the family dog and embroidery.
While audiences around the world have had to wait 10 years for the latest film in the Star Wars franchise — due to be released next week — residents of the Ukrainian port city of Odessa have become used to regular sightings of Lord Vader in his famous masked helmet and floor-length black cape.
A Reuters photo essay paints the picture: Vader on a bus, Vader patting his horse, Vader embroidering in his apartment, Vader’s helmet on a shelf surrounded by Orthodox icons.
The Ukrainian citizen, who officially changed his name to Darth Mykolaiovych Vader, ran in October for the post of mayor, backed up by a phalanx of supporters dressed as Star Wars storm troopers.
The self-declared Sith Lord beat out more traditional candidates to place 15th out of 42 candidates in the mayoral race, while an online petition to appoint him prime minister later gained more than 25,000 signatures.
His popularity is probably less a result of any significant support for the Dark Side among average Ukrainians than a sign of public frustration with the political “status quo” amid economic crisis and a violent separatist conflict.
Some Odessa residents, meanwhile, clearly prefer the evil Galactic Empire to their communist past.
In October, a local artist refashioned a monument to Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin into a statue of Darth Vader.
Asked about his plans for the future, Darth Mykolaiovych Vader said he was taking things slowly, but had not abandoned hope of gaining a top government job.
“Considering the more than 25,000 signatures on the petition, [one plan is] to oust [Ukranian Prime Minister Arseny] Yatseniuk and put me, Darth Vader, on the throne as prime minister,” he said by e-mail.
When not campaigning for public office, Vader enjoys his embroidery, home improvement and caring for his golden retriever in the large apartment he shares in Odessa with his wife and children.
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