Kvitka Cisyk: The American Singing Sensation Who Never Forgot Her Ukrainian Roots

Culture, Diaspora, History

Legendary American-Ukrainian singer Kvitka Cisyk, also known as Kacey Cisyk, was born in New York City 64 years ago. Over the course of her hugely successful music and acting career, Cisyk’s voice became familiar to millions of people through TV and radio commercials. However, it was her Ukrainian folk song albums that won the hearts of fans. The singer always wanted to visit Ukraine. However, her busy schedule and then breast cancer didn’t allow her dream to come true. Cisyk passed away in 1998. Nowadays, her songs are still popular and charity concerts are traditionally held on the singer`s birthday (April 4). The proceeds from such concerts go to helping women who suffer from cancer. UATV found out more.

Jazz, rock, blues, country, and opera music. It seemed like there was nothing she couldn’t sing with her enchanting voice. It’s 1997 and Kvitka is recording a song in the studio. ‘You light up my life’, a soundtrack for a movie of the same name. But the Oscar for the soundtrack went to another singer, who performed this song a year after Kvitka. A blatant injustice does not unsettle Kvitka as she goes patiently into the advertising business. She had been the unchanging voice of Ford’s jingles for almost 20 years.

But, as the daughter of Ukrainian emigrants, she never forgot her roots.

“I thought that despite my busy schedule, I could do something for Ukrainians, it would be my gift. I have always dreamed that someone in Ukraine would hear my songs too,” said Kvitka Cisyk.

They prepared very thoroughly for the recording of ‘Two Colors’ album. The duties of the producer and the sound engineer were performed by the singer’s husband Ed Rakovich. He gathered the most talented orchestra musicians of New York. Jack Kortner created exquisite adaptations. The album was recorded at one of the best studios in the US, Clinton Recording Studios, where Madonna and George Benson recorded their compositions. The pianist was her sister, Maria. While her mother, Maria watched her pronounce all the Ukrainian texts correctly.

“This was a collective project of talented people, they sincerely believed and saw that Kvitka was more than an ordinary person, that she had a gift from God. Talking with Edward Rak, I saw that he realized that as well. So they decided to do this extremely expensive project, make obvious sacrifices, having a clear understanding that the project would not pay off,”  recalls Kyrylo Stetsenko, Composer.

Kyrylo Stetsenko listened to the first album of Kvitka on a vinyl record in the eighties. He says that there was nothing like it on the domestic stage at that time. In 1990 he went to the United States and promised himself that he would not return home until he got acquainted with Kvitka. There was a call from the singer in February 1991. Kyrylo was invited to the famous Clinton studio:

“I bought a unique Soviet resident cassette tape recorder by Sony and the best and the most expensive film in New York at that time.) We talked for about two hours. I had a lot of questions about the album. I had questions about her plans, I asked why she did not come for ‘Chervona Ruta’ in Chernivtsi in 1989. She was really modest and did not present herself as an outstanding singer. She felt like a student, a person of art, and I saw a colleague in me.”

Ukrainians first heard about Kvitka Cisyk from National Radio presenter Halyna Babii. In the early nineties, a friend from the United States gave her a singer’s plate. A short time later, Kyrylo Stetsenko shared a record of an interview at Clinton Studio with the radio presenter. As a result, two programs about Kvitka were on Ukrainian radio.

“I started working on the first programs that have received incredible support from listeners. Kvitka was talking to Kyrylo and the background to their conversation were cheers and cries of her young son. These programs could have been here, in the Museum of Ukrainian radio, but there was a fire in 1996, which destroyed these unique recordings, where Kvitka first talked to the Ukrainian audience. Her position, her language, and performance showed that she was a true Ukrainian, although born and raised in the US,” tells Halyna Babii, Ukrainian Radio Presenter.

The singer’s son is currently studying the Ukrainian language and is actively involved in the Ukrainian-American community in the United States. Ed junior plans to popularize the creative heritage of his mother in Ukraine. The former Odesa musician, and American producer, Alex Gutmaher doesn’t let us forget about Kvitka. It all began in 2006 in the back of a Kyiv taxi.

Alex recalls that there were tears in their eyes, as he had never heard anything like that before. Back in the States, he began to collect information about the mysterious singer:

“I found out that in 1997 and in 1998 we both were in the cancer center, I had an aggressive sarcoma, and Kvitka had breast cancer.) I decided that apparently, I had a certain mission in life, that is why I managed to survive 11 surgeries and chemo…”

“It’s a symbol, it’s a legend, it’s an amazing woman, an amazing patriot, it’s a Ukrainian.) You can say a lot about her, but the most important thing is that her name saves people, thanks to mobile mammographs called ‘Kvitka,’” says Alex Gutmaher.

There will be a traditional concert on Kvitka`s birthday in the National Opera Hall. The organizers have donated 100,000 Ukrainian hryvnias (approx. $3,700) to purchase a mobile mammograph.

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  • Randolph Carter

    What a contrast – Valentina Lisitsa, an American pianist born in the former USSR had her performances cancelled for her appalling public comments. Ms. Lisitsa’s prejudice against the Ukrainian people and other groups is very pronounced. She regularly tweets how primitive the Ukrainian culture and people are: that Ukrainians are pigs, mentally ill and so on. She regularly mocks Ukrainian national colors and symbols. She also mocks people with mental illness and with Down Syndrome.

    Contrast American-Ukrainian singer Kvitka Cisyk, born in New York City 64 years ago. It was her Ukrainian folk song albums that won the hearts of fans. The singer always wanted to visit Ukraine. However, her busy schedule and then breast cancer didn’t allow her dream to come true. Cisyk passed away in 1998. Nowadays, her songs are still popular and charity concerts are traditionally held on the singer`s birthday (April 4).

    One singer uses her gifts to spew hatred and venom, xenophobia and even ridicule of sick people. On the other hand, another singer celebrates her heritage and her love of her native land. People still hold concerts on her birthday out of love and respect for her.

    Which is stronger – love of your birthright, your people and your art? Pride about those people whose lives and traditions are celebrated in songs so loving that even now, almost 20 years later, they are still sung in her honor?

    Or bitterness and vitriol packaged into a state-sponsored tour by a singer whose racist, hate-filled public tweets and comments reflect nothing but a soul blackened by rage and bitterness, venom and loathing for an entire people who have done nothing to her?

    I’ll bet on Kvitka Cisyk – ultimately, love wins over hatred and 20 years from now, I believe her music will still be sung in reverence and love. Valentina Lisitsa’s performances will be consigned to the two-for-a-ruble bin in the back of the local Putin-Mart and eventually discarded completely to make space for a garbage dump.

  • Alex George

    Thanks EP – a very positive story about Ukraine, and it’s living heritage.

    I have never heard her material before reading this article but now I am impressed!

    • Andrew Chmile

      STFU you ***LYING*** POS RUSKI ***MOLE***.

      You only want to DESTROY UKRAINE & put her UNDER RUSSIA’S COMMUNIST BOOT AGAIN! — POS MOSKAL!!!

      • Alex George

        Ah yes, Andrew the putin troll turns up reliably on schedule, when people say positive things about Ukraine.

        You don’t like the idea of a Ukrainian being a great singer, do you?

  • Andrew Chmile

    Voice of:

    Have You Driven a Ford Lately? 1984

    ————————

    Квитка Цисык. Голос в единственном экземпляре – Документальные проекты – Интер

    YOUTUBE page above also some of her amazing songs!
    As does:
    квітка цісик
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%D0%BA%D0%B2%D1%96%D1%82%D0%BA%D0%B0+%D1%86%D1%96%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%BA

    Wiki entry on her is amazing!
    Kvitka Cisyk – Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kvitka_Cisyk

    Квітка. Голос в єдиному екземплярі (“Інтер”,2013)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDP8oGa-Wt0

  • Andrew Chmile

    THE FULL “FORD COMMERCIAL”:

    Kacey (Квітка Цісик) – You’re Winning The World Over.avi

  • Andrew Chmile

    Called “the most heard voice in America.”

    Kvitka’s Biography – The Official Kvitka Cisyk Website
    http://kvitkacisyk.com/about-kvitka/

    The Myth of Kvitka
    How a Ukrainian-American singer became the “golden voice of Ukraine”
    http://ukrainianweek.com/Culture/77186

    N.B.: you can search for the first name of “Kvitka” or “Kacey” along with her surname.

    A POWERFUL VOICE! Yet she was a tiny, slender 4’10.

    See also:
    Behind the Scenes
    Brent Ramsey’s images, videos and accounts of filmmaking
    http://brentramsey.blogspot.com/2013/01/kasey-cisyk-singer-april-4-1953-march.html