Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus Collaborates with UNWLA on Concerts Honoring Lesia Ukrainka

The idea of holding a series of concerts to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lesya Ukrainka’s birth first came up in 2019 when the president of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus of North America (UBC), Anatoli Murha, proposed a collaboration between the UBC and the UNWLA. The concept articulated by UBC conductor Oleh Mahlay – honoring Lesya Ukrainka’s power and place in Ukrainian culture by highlighting her poetry using original songs set mainly to the poetess’s own words.

The concerts were to be held in several cities across the U.S. COVID delayed the concert series from 2021 to 2022. Five highly successful concerts occurred in Michigan, Ohio, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and Pennsylvania from September-October 2022.

The first half of each concert (Seven Strings) showcased Lesya Ukrainka’s poetry set to music. She traveled throughout Ukraine, recording the beautiful music of the kobzari – wandering musicians who performed Ukrainian folk songs on bandura. These recordings are also precious because they captured the voice of Lesya Ukrainka herself. To create a compelling narrative for the concert, the creators paired them with photos and the live-told story of her rich life. Myroslava Gongadze narrated the concerts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with the final show in Philadelphia, live-streamed to over 2,000 people in Ukraine
and around the world.

The concert’s second half opened with the beautiful “A Prayer for Ukraine.” It featured patriotic songs such as “Brothers: To Arms” and familiar favorites. Appreciative audiences greeted the artists with thunderous applause at each venue. The many standing ovations were a testament to the artists’ exceptional talents and the concerts’ beauty.

Lesya Ukrainka Concert Series FLYER 1 1 | UNWLA - Ukrainian National Womens League of America

A special guest at the New Jersey concert was the great-grandnephew of Lesya Ukrainka, who attended with his family. This outstanding concert series provided new insight into the woman who stands in the pantheon of Ukrainian heroes. It also cemented an excellent partnership between the UNWLA and the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus that we hope to repeat soon.

Monument to Lesya Ukrainka

Prominent writer and playwright Larysa Petrivna Kosach (pen name Lesya Ukrainka) inspired generations of Ukrainian women writers. In 1961 the efforts of Branch 33 and the Regional Council of Ohio resulted in a monument to this extraordinary literary figure. The sister of Lesya Ukrainka, Isidora Kosach-Borysova, was present at the solemn dedication of the memorial located in Cultural Park in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Museum Estate

In 2021, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Lesya Ukrainka, the UNWLA contributed $8,000 to the Museum Estate of Lesya Ukrainka. Located in her childhood home in Kolodyazhne in the Volyn region, this small museum aims to preserve her memory and draw attention to her legacy.

Video: Lesya Ukrainka Statue Rededication, Ukrainian Cultural Garden. Cleveland, Ohio – August 28, 2011

In 2021, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of her birth, UNWLA Branch 125 (New York) dedicated a short film to Lesya Ukrainka. Special thanks to producer Maya Voynarovska (Vice President of UNWLA Branch 125.)