The stork is a migratory bird, found in Ukraine in spring and summer. The thatched roof of a village house provides a very agreeable nesting place for it, and it often returns to the same building year after year - one reason for its being a beloved bird throughout the country. Many legends and stories are associated with it.
2 HOVERLIA (Ho VER lyah)
Hoverlia is the name of the highest mountain in Ukraine (2,061 m), part of the Chornohora mountain group in the Ukrainian Carpathians. Its rocky peak gives way to brush and then to beech and coniferous forests.
The crane is a nesting, migratory bird which thrives in a wetland habitat. It is found in Ukraine in the spring and summer months. In popular tradition its migration has been symbolically associated with the exile of individuals, or groups of emigrants, from Ukraine, the homeland.
4 TREMBITA (Trem BEE tah)
The trembita is a wind instrument, a variation of the Alpine horn. It is made of three sections of solid wood which have been split open, hollowed out, fitted and glued back into place, and covered with strips of bark. Its shape is that of a narrow cone, 3-4m in length. Its song is a protracted and mournful sound, with a limited tonal range, so the trembita's use in musical ensembles is mainly as a mood-setting instrument. Trembity were commonly used in the Hutsul region of the Carpathians as a means of communication and as part of funeral rites.
5 KALYNA (Kah LI nah) and BARVINOK (Bar VEE nok)
The kalyna is a large bush of the genus Viburnum, with white flowers and red berries. It is popularly invested with much symbolic significance, representing, at the most general level, the inspiration - indeed, the lifeblood - and the undying hope underlying Ukraine's existence and continued renewal. It has served to express the embodiment of the feminine principle in its youthful, virginal aspect. The kalyna was often planted on the graves of Cossacks, the frontier warriors (later army, and statesmen) who became archetypal figures in Ukrainian history and culture. This popularity of the kalyna has found expression in Ukrainian literature, art and music.
Barvinok (periwinkle) is a trailing, evergreen plant of the genus Vinca, having blue-purple flowers. It grows at the outskirts of forests and is cultivated in gardens. A well-loved plant among Ukrainians, associated with courtship, love, renewal, the barvinok finds its place in Easter and wedding traditions, as well as in many a folk song.
6 KOLIADA (Ko lyah DAH) In pre-Christian times, the koliada (whose name stems from the ancient Greek kalandai and the Roman calendae) comprised a cycle of rituals in celebration of the winter solstice. With the advent of Christianity in Ukraine, some of these rituals were incorporated into the celebration of Christmas and persist until today. Koliada is now essentially synonymous with the Christmas season and its festivities, observed between Christmas Eve and Epiphany. Koliadky are festive, ritual carols sung during this time.
7 KOSMACH (Kos MAHCH)
Kosmach is the name of a small town in the Hutsul region of Carpathian Ukraine. It is famed for its production of finely-crafted objects of art native to this area.
8 DOVBUSH (DOV boosh) and DZVINKA (DZVEEN kah)
Oleksa Dovbush (1700-1741) was a Ukrainian "Robin Hood" who, with his outlaw band of 30-50 men, was active in the Hutsul highland regions of the Carpathians. Much of the booty he took from usurers, noblemen, rich merchants and leaseholders he gave to the poor. Dzvinka was his mistress. The legend of Dovbush captured the popular imagination and left a lasting mark in Ukrainian folklore, literature, art, music and film. Many Carpathian sites are associated with him.
9 JORDAN /Ukrainian name: IORDAN (Yor DAHN)/
This name has a double meaning in the Ukrainian language. It refers to the Jordan River of the Middle East in which, in the Christian tradition, St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, and it is the popular name of the religious feast of Theophany, or Epiphany, also called "Vodokhryshchi" (Blessing of the Waters). This festival has associated with it solemn outdoor festivities, whose principal ceremony is the blessing of waters. These festivities took place at a river or well, where a cross was erected out of blocks of ice. (Today water is usually blessed inside the church.) A procession was led to the place of ceremony, and after the solemn blessing everyone present drank the water and brought some of it home, sprinkled it throughout the home and onto the fields, and kept the remainder for the whole year.
10 KUPALO (Koo PAH lo)
In pagan times, Kupalo was the name given to the god of love and of the harvest: the personification of the earth's fertility. The end of the summer solstice and the beginning of the harvest, midsummer, was marked by the Kupalo celebrations. "Kupalo's eve" was popularly believed to be a very special moment in the year, a time when the earth magically revealed its secrets, and the only time that free love received popular sanction. Unmarried young men and women gathered outside the village in a forest, or near a stream or pond, and performed extended fertility rites, including dances, songs, symbolic games and other rituals intended to honor the god and his handmaiden, the rusalka, or river spirit, Магупа. As part of the ritual, the women adorned their hair with garlands of freshly picked flowers. Later they sent the garlands flowing on the water and divined their own fates according to what happened to the flowers. With Ukraine's embracing of Christianity, the Church decided to replace these celebrations with the Christian feast day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The Kupalo festival continued to be observed alongside, however, and became known as the festival of Ivan (John, from St. John) Kupalo.
Kubijovyc, Volodymyr (ed). Encyclopedia of Ukraine (Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 1988)
Makuch, Andrij. Ukrainian Music (Saskatoon: Ukrainian Canadian Council of Saskatchewan, 1981) Subtelny, Orest. Ukraine: A History (Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 1988)
My thanks also to all who shared with me their knowledge of Ukraine, and of our traditions.
Originally Composed: Friday July 17th, 1998.
Date last modified: Monday August 3, 1998.