Odessa home to Ukraine's Vader

While Star Wars fans have waited 10 years for the next film instalment in the franchise – Star Wars: The Force Awakens is due in theatres next week – residents of the Ukrainian port city of Odessa have become used to regular sightings of the original films' arch villain, clad in his famous black helmet and cape.

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader Ukraine Star Wars Dec 2015 likes dogs

In his trademark black outfit, Darth Mykolaiovych Vader is a regular sight around Odessa. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader Ukraine Star Wars Dec 2015 takespublic transit

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader, unlike his namesake in the Star Wars films, has built a reputation around being a ruler for the people, of the people. Here he is riding a streetcar on Dec. 3. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader Ukraine Star Wars Dec 2015 helping hand

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader tries to lend a hand whenever he can. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader officially changed his name

He also caused a stir in October with a run for the Odessa mayoral office. At one point a supporter, dressed as Chewbacca, was kicked out of a polling station and then arrested for failing to provide the appropriate documents at a traffic stop. Ukrainian police posted this photo to their Instagram account: 

 

Chewbacca's detention made the rounds on Twitter, too

However, Vader lost the mayoral race

Ukraine Darth Vader April 2014 Ukrainian Central Elections Commission presidential run

There was also a Vader who made a run for president last year as the leader of the Internet Party of Ukraine. There's no confirmation that it was Mykolaiovych Vader, but here is the candidate during a rally in front of the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission, in Kyiv, in April 2014. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader's popularity may be 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 an economic crisis and a violent separatist conflict.

In October, Lenin was toppled and replaced by Vader

Some Odessa residents, meanwhile, clearly prefer the evil Galactic Empire to communism of the past. In October, artist Alexander Milov refashioned a monument to Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin into a statue of Darth Vader. Darth Mykolaiovych Vader attended the unveiling.

Star Wars Ukraine Darth Vader statue replaces Lenin in Odessa Oct 2015

A Darth Vader monument replaced a statue of Soviet founder Lenin in Odessa in October. Vader has become an oddly prominent figure in local politics. (Volodymyr Shuvayev/AFP/Getty)

Vader took the loss hard but still holds hope for a top job

In an interview with Reuters in December, Darth Mykolaiovych Vader said he was taking things slowly after his recent election loss, but had not abandoned hope of gaining a top government job.

When not campaigning for public office, Vader enjoys embroidery, home improvement and caring for his golden retriever in the apartment he shares in Odessa with his wife and children.

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader walks his golden retriever in Odessa in December

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader walks his golden retriever in an Odessa park. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader Ukraine Star Wars Dec 2015 mundane tasks like ironing

When he isn't campaigning, Darth Mykolaiovych Vader leads a fairly mundane life, judging from the photos taken by Reuters' photographer Valentyn Ogrienko for a recent feature story. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader Ukraine Star Wars Dec 2015 kitchen get together

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader is joined by two costumed comrades in his kitchen on Dec. 3. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader Ukraine Star Wars Dec 2015 likes horses

Vader demonstrates his soft spot for animals at a horse stable near his Odessa home. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Darth Mykolaiovych Vader Ukraine Star Wars Dec 2015 shopping

Vader and his entourage go shopping. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

With files from the CBC