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Saving Ukrainian culture, bard of the nation picks up a gun

Taras Kompanichenko singing his songs in the workshop place workroom of Kyiv Sculptor Bohdan Holoyad where artists met for a meeting on 29 May 2022.
Saving Ukrainian culture, bard of the nation picks up a gun
Article by: Bohdan Ben, Orysia Hrudka
Edited by: Klaidas Kazak, Matt Wickham

Taras Kompanichenko will not let Ukraine go quietly: Ukraine’s victory would preserve the future and Ukraine’s past, which has only recently begun to be unearthed. Taras explains how saving the bandura saves a nation — because Ukraine’s history is full of tragedies told through traditional songs. But for a nation’s tragedies to be remembered, they must be transformed into high art, just like Shakespeare. This is what awaits Ukraine, and Taras will fight to the death to ensure it happens.

We often say about our [Ukrainian] art that we need to finally “stop crying” and create something optimistic. But in fact, tragedy is the highest form of art. We remember Shakespeare’s tragedies, but few remember his comedies. When nations don’t have a really tragic history, they still create films-tragedies. And we have so many tragedies in our history that still have to be skilfully displayed in art,” Taras Kompanichenko, frontman of Khoreya Kozatska ensemble of ancient music and music researcher, says before beginning his next song from the 1917-1921 Ukrainian War of Independence during the opening of the exhibition “Invasion Kyiv shot” dedicated to the 2022 Battle of Kyiv.

A kobzar is a musician who plays the kobza or bandura. Kobzars traveled from village to village in Ukraine between the 17th and early 20th centuries, translating historical tales and lore into songs about Ukraine’s past, particularly from the Cossack Hetmanate. Like those kobzars who passed their knowledge down to other kobzars, Taras got his knowledge from older kobzars. Unfortunately, the number of kobzars in Ukraine has decreased so dramatically over time that they can now be counted on one hand.

There was this funny moment, Kompanicheko recalls. He was recording songs from a known old kobzar Ihor Rachok. And Ihor Karpovych Rachok once said:

“So I taught all the kobzars to sing this song: ‘Hey Ukrainians, our holy deed is still alive.'”

“Who are these ‘all?” he was asked.

“Well, Kompanichenko, Sylenko. Mainly these two.”

Kompanichenko is also on a journey to find lost songs in old books and journals, as well as compose and perform his own original music. He spent years searching archives and libraries in Ukraine, Canada, and Poland for lost songs. While most Ukrainians are familiar with less than 10% of the authors and poets mentioned in the interview, this is a completely new and unknown culture for foreigners. Moreover, Ukrainians have only recently begun to rediscover their past after decades of Soviet-era censorship and repression.

“Russians came to destroy our very name, our culture, everything that we have created, so that there is no emanation of the Ukrainian spirit. Thus, it is really genocide,” Kompanichenko commented on Russian atrocities and determined policy to destroy Ukrainian books, media and change topography to Russian in occupied areas.

Ukrainian music about Russia’s war: a tale of struggle, pain, power, and courage

Taras compares the war crimes of Russian soldiers invading Ukraine in 2022 to those of the Red Army as we walked through Oles Honchar street to the Golden Gate Monument in May Kyiv. The Ukrainian Revolution is critical for Kompanichenko. The Ukrainians then joined the Bolsheviks in their fight for independence from the Russian Empire.

According to Kompanichenko, Ukraine lost the 1917-1921 war because it was unprepared for the Bolsheviks’ ruthlessness.

“Ukrainian soldiers and politicians wanted to remain knights by using clean means, to save respect to themselves and remain human. And although they lost then, in the long run, the truth should still prevail.”

Taras Kompanichenko at the exhibition “Invasion, Kyiv shot”

“For whom Ukrainian culture will be if we don’t save Ukraine?”

Taras claims he knew there would be a war and discussed it with those around him, but most people, including relatives, did not believe it would happen. Although military analysts predicted that the Russians would overrun Ukraine in a week, Taras was not in a doomsday mood. Particularly after Zelenskyy made his infamous barbeque statement on 19 January, attempting to reassure Ukrainians that they would have a typical spring, complete with barbeques in May.

I was pleasantly surprised to see him struggle. Then I said it was time to put all political squabbles aside. Get rid of our house quarrel, once said Ivan Styshenko, Ukraine’s first Minister of Education and Science, who was killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918,” Kompanichenko recalls.

The singer was offered refuge in Germany, Poland, or the Ukrainian Carpathians, but deemed it “unethical” to flee after “calling to fight for Ukraine in songs and fighting for Ukraine through culture.” During the early days of the war, Ukrainian writer and publisher Ivan Malkovych, who was well-known for publishing Ukrainian translations of Harry Potter and other children’s books, published Kompanichenko:

“Taras, do you realize that if you die, your entire unique world will go with you, and all your knowledge will pass away. There is nobody who could replace you. It would be a catastrophe for Ukrainian culture.”

“And for whom will be this entire culture if we don’t save Ukraine,” Kompanichenko replied.

“Go to the Carpathians. Anyway, your main weapon is bandura.”

“Ivan, excuse me, but no. Stay safe”, – Kompanichenko said but pondered “Maybe he was right.”

“I’m crying now,” Malkovych confessed. “I feel very uncomfortable and like a coward,” –

“Stop, nobody is a coward. I’m also afraid,” – Kompanichenko replied.

“Eros and Thanatos struggle inside everybody, fear and love. Everybody feels fear sometimes but what wins in this internal fight finally defines everything,” Kompanichenko said, quoting one of his verses:

Eros and Thanatos fighting in the core of our heart,

Frightened, scared? Yes, I’m scared. A trembling nightlight is faith.

Eros and Thanatos fighting in the core of our heart,

In earnest is this duel!

One who prevails in duel with himself,

will prevail in the fight as well.

Lord, in this battle, do not cover us by disgrace,

mantle in glory us, turn into your holy lance!

Бореться ерос і танатос в наших осердях сердець.

Боязко, страшно? Таки страшно. Віра – тремкий каганець,

Бореться ерос і танатос в наших осердях сердець,

Ох не на жарти той герць!

Хто переважить в двобої з собою

той переможе й в борні.

Боже, в тім бою не вкрий нас ганьбою

Славою нас огорни, в меч твій святий оберни.

“We can’t drive nails with a microscope”

Taras enlisted in the Territorial Defense Force on February 28, 2022. When Kyiv was bombarded by missiles in the early days of the war, Taras moved his family to Boyarka, a suburb of Kyiv, to collect all paintings, banduras and other musical instruments, sculptures, and the entire library and transport them to Polonne in Khmelnytsk Oblast in western Ukraine.

“After we loaded everything, I sat down and said, ‘You know, I’m not going.'” My two sons then said, ‘We’re not going either, dad.’ We’ve had enough of running; our forefathers fled and were killed and oppressed.’ ‘Dad, what are you doing? You’re provoking,’ two daughters said. You have no idea what will happen.’ It was a heartfelt moment. We exchanged hugs. It was decided that we would fight to defend our world, that the boys would remain with me, and that the girls would take the collection. It was the third day of the war.”

[bctt tweet=””We’ve had enough of running; our forefathers fled and were killed and oppressed.” Taras Kompanichenko.” username=”Euromaidanpress”]

Then Kompanichenko called Andriy Kovaliov, a cultural researcher who served as the Kyiv Territorial Defense Force spokesman during the invasion. Kompanichenko called him because he was not required to serve in the military and could only join the defense forces through friends. However, Kovaliov first responded, “Your weapon is a bandura.” Other territorial defense friends made a slightly different comparison, saying that if he fights, it will be “driving nails by iPhone,” “driving nails with a microscope.”

“I just didn’t want to be shot on my knees.” I wanted to die with dignity, with a weapon in my hands, protecting my family and our world. “Or to survive and win, protecting our world, not allowing our world to be destroyed,” Kompanichenko says of his motivations for fighting.

Taras Kompanichenko singing during the exhibition “Invasion, Kyiv shot”

After multiple attempts Kovaliov finally replied: “Ok, if you wish. You have 15 minutes to collect your things.” On the same day that Kompanichenko joined the defense forces, he performed an impromptu concert for soldiers.

At first, they refused to give me a weapon, claiming that my weapon is a bandura. However, a gun was finally issued a few days later. And then, like everyone else, I got to participate in various training: shooting, first aid, the fundamentals of mine laying and demining,” Kompanichenko recalls.

Singing between fighting: In war, culture and love becomes even more important

Kompanichenko recalls that during the first few weeks of the war, Kyivans were willing to “eat anything, sleep anywhere, just to repel the invasion. Everything worked like a hive.”  Many Kyivans volunteered to assist the military, so when Kompanichenko arrived at the military base, he was greeted by a mountain of food.

Created in three days, Ukraine’s territorial defense ruined Russian plans to capture Kyiv

Despite the fact that they were busy between February and March until the Russians were pushed out of Kyiv Oblast, soldiers “felt that all matters should be resolved now,” Kompanichenko recalls. As a result, people began to marry in large numbers, and musicians from the military were invited to perform. People could coexist for years, but during the war, they desired to “close this gestalt and be in love before God.” Those who had only recently met decided to marry as well, Kompanichenko recalls.

On the one hand, these were risky decisions because you never know what will happen tomorrow. However, it was a life affirmation that inspired hope and faith, assuring us that there would be a continuation, that there would be children. Young beautiful girls and young men were getting married, and there was no way this could continue. These weddings were numerous. These were very positive messages for the whole society. Although we are at war here, life wins over death.

[bctt tweet=”Kyivans were willing to “eat anything, sleep anywhere, just to repel the invasion. Everything worked like a hive.” Taras Kompanichenko” username=”Euromaidanpress”]

Helmets were used instead of wedding wreaths during these much-simplified wedding ceremonies, and green veils could be made from military camouflage nets. People did, however, sometimes greet the couples with roses, and prayer and song remained central to the ceremony. Kompanichenko and guests performed various variations of the Ukrainian traditional song “[Wish you] Many Years [of Life],” church chants, and folk songs.

During the air raid sirens Kompanichenko would not leave for the underground shelters without his bandura. While waiting for the air raid sirens to clear, Kompanichenko would sing with the soldiers. Kompanichenko recalls how in the bunker soldiers learned many Ukrainian songs they did not know existed.

As Russia continues bombing civilian structures, Kyiv residents take shelter in city’s vast Metro network (photos)

There were also a lot of military oaths taken near the frontline. One day in Novi Petrivtsi, north of Kyiv, the military oath lasted four hours, because soldiers were taking them one by one, not altogether as is usually custom. Kompanichenko tells us that he and other musicians sang 20th century era and other older Ukrainian military anthems during these oaths, like the anthem of Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought for Ukraine’s Independence at the time of WWII “We were born at the great times” (“Зродились ми великої години”), “For Ukraine with the fire of ardor” (“За Україну з вогнем завзяття”), or “Ukraine, beloved mother, we swear to you” (“О Україно, люба ненько, тобі вірненька присягнем,” as well as “Flag” (“Стяг”) by Ukrainian writer Borys Hrinchenko and “The ruin, covered with black clouds” (“Чорними хмарами вкрита руїна.”) There were many different military anthems which they sang together with soldiers.

Musicians visited frontline positions as well, bringing their songs with them. They went to Obolon in Kyiv’s north, as well as Brovary, where there was active fighting. Military units, including the Security Services and Special Operations Forces, invited musicians to perform and host concerts.

“It will be forever unforgettable when the counter-subversive brigade joins me in singing Azovstal,” Kompanicheko recalls.

Azovstal, one of his most popular yet simple songs, was written to support soldiers during the active fighting in Mariupol at the Azovstal plant.

In addition to military and wedding songs, Kompanichenko’s musicians and friends sang divine services in their brigade church. He recalls how one day they consecrated the brigade icon of the 112th brigade depicting Archangel Michael. This icon is dedicatedo the 1658 miracle when during the fighting of Ukrainian Hetman Ivan Vyhovskyi against Muscovites, Muscovites sought to to loot the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra but the Archangel Michael appeared and saved the Lavra. After the icon was consecrated many copies were distributed among units.

By the way, just now during the war I finished a song about this miracle of Archangel Michael. Now I’m satisfied with it. This is a stylization of the chants to the Mother of God about her miracles,” Kompanicheko says.

“War is the continuation of politics. And politics is a continuation of culture.” 

We were invited to accompany Kompanicheko to a meeting of Kyiv artists before our interview, where they took a 2-hour artist break amid the war to talk and sing songs. Among those present was Hryhoriy Lukyanenko, guitarist and composer for a number of Ukrainian folk-rock bands, including the iconic Ruthenia band from the 1990s.

“”War is the continuation of politics,” said Lukyanenko, “and politics is the continuation of culture.” So, as a result, even during times of war, it is critical to foster culture. Because we are primarily fighting for our culture, which is distinct from that of Moscow. Several guys told me in 2014-15, ‘If I hadn’t listened to Ruthenia, I wouldn’t have gone to fight.’ So it works.”

Lukyanenko describes Kompanichenko as a genius, explaining that, unlike many artists, Kompanichenko found strength early in the war and managed to compose new songs about it despite the destruction and chaos.

We listened to all of their songs in a circle, going from one artist to the next. Then, a group of friends gathered at the studio of Kyiv sculptor Bohdan Holoyad. Along with Kompanichenko and Lukianenko, there was Mykhailyna Skoryk-Shkarivska, Deputy Mayor of Bucha, as well as the military chaplain and other intellectuals and artists from Ukraine.

Sculpture by Bohdan Holoyad, part of the memorial for his mother Marta Hai, servicemen of Ukrainian Insurgent Army during the WWII.

New wartime songs

Some of Kompanichenko’s military songs were written during the beginning of the first phase of the war in 2014 and 2015. For example, “In the foreign museum about our war” was written in 2015. “Bayraktars and Javelins” were written at the end of February 2022, when the invasion began. “Let Bayraktars and Javelins thunder and fire but spirit is stronger than weapons, know we well,” is the main refrain part of the song.

I tried my best to insert NLAWs and Stingers to the song as well as Ukrainian Stuhnas and Vilhas. There’s still many weapons left unsung. People sometimes joke that it’s a Lend-Lease song,” Kompanichenko says.

Yet, Kompanichenko stresses that writing songs is not that simple because the main message, that spirit is stronger than weapons, was taken from older traditional Ukrainian songs, and then merged with modern contemporary text. Long before the war he made an audio version of a Ukrainian writer [who wrote the first book in modern Ukrainian language in 1798] Ivan Kotliarevskyi’s text about the Cossack Hetmanate where the refrain is “Where love for the motherland leads heroes, the power of the enemy will not stand, there the spirit is stronger than cannons.” ( “любов к отчизні де героїть там сила вража не устоїть, там дух міцніший від гармат.”)

Therefore, it was a modernization of an old motto but under the influence of contemporary events,” Kompanichenko says.

In general, lyrics are very important for Kompanicheko’s songs since he maintains the old traditional Kobzar style where music is mainly the reinforcement for the lyrics. He often sings his songs to dozens of different versions of melodies until finally reaching what he deems is satisfactory.

During the first night of the invasion Kompanichenko also wrote a verse “Chivalric brotherhood” (Браття лицарство”) that later became a song. Later during the full-scale invasion, which Kompanichenko termed the “big war,” he also wrote the songs “Take away from the stage the troubadours of the empire” (“Заберіть з-перед очей геть трубадурів імперії”) and Hostomel, Irpin, Bucha” (“Гостомель, Ірпінь Буча”). In another song he praises the Ukrainian city Okhtyrka that stopped the movement of Russian troops and Kherson, occupied at the time of the interview, which is Kompanichenko’s native Ukrainian Oblast.

His aunt, uncle, and two sisters were under Russian occupation in Kherson during the time of our interview. Kompanichenko wanted to take them back at the beginning of the war, but they refused to leave their home. His 80-year-old mother was also under constant Russian bombing in Sumy, upset by the fact that she could not plant a vegetable garden as usually done in the spring. Kompanichenko’s brother, who used to be a policeman, also signed up for the Territorial Defense Force but 250 kilometers afar and fought in the Battle of Sumy. He says that in the first days of the war there were almost no weapons in Sumy, not even body armor, but they still held the city.

Beyond Go_A: a playlist and guide to modern Ukrainian folk music

Historical songs must be sang in the contemporary interpretations, not just stay forgotten in the textbooks

Taras Kompanichenko and his band Khoreyia Kozatska reconstructed hundreds of old Ukrainian songs. These reconstructions were either direct performances from historical notes or new melodies composed for old verses and text, which with time had their melodies wither away. Kompanichenko composes his own songs in a variety of styles, blending noble and folk songs with church anthems, and they almost always include intertextuality that connects to the past.

“I began by researching and singing ancient carols. Then there’s ancient Ukrainian poetry. I was also involved in the reconstruction of ancient pre-Christian hymns,” Kompanichenko says briefly, listing his activities. “However, there are many old Ukrainian carols whose texts have been preserved but not the melody. That’s why I sang them to melodies I recorded from various grandmothers, and sometimes I composed my own for the publication of carols by [historians and intellectuals] Antonovych, Drahomanov, and Holovatskyi. Then I studied ancient and medieval works, followed by Renaissance and Baroque Ukrainian poetry, where I recorded audio versions of Demyan Nalyvaiko, Danylo Bratkovskyi, Ivan Velychkovskyi, Theofan Prokopovych, Hryhoriy Skovoroda, Tarasiy Zemka, Herasym Smotrytskyi, Mokrievskyi, and others from the 16th to 18th centuries. Specific poetry texts sometimes inspired me; for example, I composed music for several Vasyl Vysyvanyi works. I sang a lot because I was fascinated by poetry, but there wasn’t music everywhere. Then colleagues commented that these verses are finally interesting for students because they are no longer dead poetry.”

Vasyl Vyshyvany: the Habsburg prince who chose Ukraine

Soviet Smearing: Recovering the meaning of Ukrainian Revolution songs (1917–1921) 

Few years before the war, Kompanichenko joined a project led by the Institute of the National Memory aimed at recording lost songs stemming from the Ukrainian Revolution.

At first Kompanichenko worked undertook the project in the Ukrainian library of Chicago where he discovered a large number of works from the 1917-1921 period produced by Ukrainian composers Yaroslav Yaroslavenko, Kyrylo Stetsenko, Yosyp Kyshakevych, Vasyl Barvinskyi, in particular a lot of military marches. He thought it was a great discovery but then he entered the Ukrainian library of Vernadsky in Kyiv, which has not yet digitized its records, to check the lyrics of some songs by Kyrylo Stetsenko and Stanislav Liudkevych, Vasyl Barvinsky and Ivan Levytskyi. He discovered a number of newspapers from the days of the Ukrainian Revolution an immense amount of printed songs, which had previously been unknown.

Those newspapers, poetry and songs printed there drew me in. Then we sat in the library for three months non-stop, scanning page by page,” Kompanichenko says. I had to study all those papers to check the texts because the Bolsheviks intentionally rewrote many of them to cut them from the Ukrainian past and incorporate them into Soviet ideology. Originals were printed in newspapers, while books often had “edited” versions. All songs from the Ukrainian Revolution are in the music library. But when the choir opens notes and begins to sing it will sing the Soviet approved texts. The Soviets smeared the names of Hrytsko Chuprynka, Oleksandr Oles or Spyrydon Cherkasenko and changed their text into something Soviet, distorting the original meaning.”

One of the examples Kompanichenko gives is from the lyrics of Spyrydon Cherkasenko written towards the end of the Russian Empire and the abdication of the Tsar Nicholas II “Ukraine-mother, executioner died” (“Вкраїно-мати, кат сконав).

Spyrydon Cherkasenko was from contemporary Mykolayiv Oblast, and was one of the leading young poets of 1917-1921 together with Mykola Voronnyi, Oleksandr Oles, Khrystia Alchevska, Hrytsko Chuprynka.

The Bolsheviks made a seemingly minor but significant change::

“We fought for freedom not in vain,

because even the executioner died for your happy fate.

All those who love Ukraine join free labor

to turn [original:] a holy ruin [bolsheviks changed to:] a terrible ruin into a magnificent paradise.” /

“Не марно бились ми за волю

бо й кат сконав тобі на щастя і на долю.

До праці вільної ставай хто любить Україну,

щоб обернути в пишний рай [original:] святу руїну [bolsheviks changed to:] страшну руїну.

But the most terrible change was to the third verse:

Ukraine-mother, will shine your gem of tears and blood,

will shine it in [original:] diadem of universal love [bolsheviks changed to:] friendship of peoples. /

“Вкраїно-мати блисне твій самоцвіт і сліз і крови,

засяє він в [original:] вінці вселюдської любови [bolsheviks changed to:] дружби народів

“These changes are seemingly simple, seemingly small, but they completely geld the content and make the song some kind of collective farm work. Because the Holy Ruin, [which is also the name for the history period of late 17th-18th century] has a special connotation for Ukrainians. It is, ‘love the great ruin with a sincere heart.’ For Ukrainians, this great holy ruin is a synonym or definition of Ukraine. Holy ruin. But not a terrible ruin. Because a terrible ruin is already a fallen tsarist regime, it already has a completely different meaning.”

There were also many valuable additional discoveries made in these newspapers like missing verses by Ukrainian poets who were relatively unknown. Hrytsko Chuprynka, for example, had many of his works published in the Narodna Volia newspaper; Stepan Ivanchenko, a colonel of the Ukrainian National Republic army, now a lesser-known poet who was famous during his time was published in Respublikanka; first poems of Volodymyr Sosiura who was then a cossack of the third Haydamatskyi kurin (battalion) were published in Ukrainian Cossack newspaper and so on.

Kompanicheko names dozens of newspapers they researched non-stop as to them it was important because “they showed what people fought for at that time, what were their ideas. And it turns out their ideas, songs and poems are relevant in 2022 more than ever, as if they just returned from a 100-years-ago and continued their fight with new support and new power Ukraine has today but didn’t have then.”

Moscow’s big lie and dirty methods in 1917–1921 similar to 2022

Jewish assemblies were conducted within the Ukrainian republic in Kamianets and newspapers testify that the attitude to these assemblies by Ukrainian authorities was positive.

“The Ukrainian movement for universal love and for their own national state was falsified and lied about by Bolsheviks, turned into so-called ‘anti-Semites’, Kompanichenko explains. You read Ukrainian newspapers and see what a big lie poured about our predecessors from Soviet propaganda.

Now this lie has become such an established rock that is difficult to move. Because when a lie is told – and such a big lie – it becomes hard to turn it around. It is as if a man publicly says ‘your daughter is a whore’. ‘I don’t have a daughter,’ you answer, but this already doesn’t matter. A lie was said, people have heard it, and you can do whatever you want. This is how Moscow propaganda worked. When you study these newspapers and journals, you see what our ancestors fought for.”

To explain the mood of that struggle Kompanichenko chooses the verse of Hrytsko Chuprynka, who was executed by Bolsheviks in 1921.

Hrytsko Chuprynka was arrested in Irpin for the first time in 1919, when the entire team of the magazine Krynytsia were executed. Chuprynka then managed to escape from guards and afterwards Kyiv was liberated by a united Ukrainian army. However, after the bolsheviks took Kyiv for the second time, Chuprynka was killed in 1921.

Hrytsko Chuprynka wrote the verse “My friend called the enemy”:

“My friend called the enemy, we are all obliged

to the battle by the calls of honor.

We will honestly and frankly

carry our flags.

We will use clean means,

to be respected by people passing by.

Proud and brave,

in every place all are spotless.” /

“Друже мій вороже, стати до бою

всіх нас примушують поклики чести.

Будемо ж чесно й одверто

ми з тобою прапори нести.

Будем вживати ми засоби чисті,

щоб поважали нас люде побочні.

Горді й одважні,

на кожному місці всі непорочні.”

“This is an appeal that if you are already waging a war, then use fair means. We still can understand the soldiers who fight against us. They have their own way of thinking, it does not correspond with ours, they are our ideological opponents, and we defend our truth. And still, use clean means. But they don’t use clean means. Because such a notion didn’t exist in their culture. Nobody wrote such a poem, nobody called for such a thing. Russian culture, Moscow culture failed.”

At the time of Chuprynka, Ukraine did not have the army enough to win as well as the Western support as it has now which gives Ukraine more of a fighting chanceto defend itself from the Russian invaders. Ukraine lost the 1917-1921 war but at least, Kompanichenko ponders and says confidently, is that Ukrainians remained humane.

How to find and reconstruct historical songs. Bringing the past back to life

Kompanichenko says he doesn’t like when fans mix reconstructions of old songs and new songs, saying he has reconstructed something which in reality is his own melody but performed in the traditional manner.

Long work in archives and libraries precede the reconstruction itself. It is hard work because often there are different versions of the text. Kompanichenko names many 19th and 20th centuries poets whose verses inspired him to make songs, including Panteleymon Kulish, Yakov Shchoholev, Liudmyla Starytska-Cherniahivska, Lesia Ukrayinka, Hrytsko Chuprynka, Oleksandr Oles, Vasyl Stus.

Sources to find older songs are very different. Some are old manuscripts while othersare old printed books. There are also many republished versions of musicologist and researchers. Kompanichenko studied a lot of this special literature.

If we are talking about a layer of cantos or religious songs, then this is the Pochaiv Bohohlasnyk (with full title of Great Anthology of Spiritual religious songs of Ukraine-Rus) of the Vasiliyan Fathers from 1791,” Kompanichenko tells about one of the examples. “I found it for the first time in the Skovoroda Museum in Pereyaslav. I dreamed of having this collection of songs and I see a music book lying in a far corner of the museum, and it is it. The director of the museum then gave it to me for a year. My wife wrote her bachelor’s thesis on this particular copy. It was with losses, so I scanned it and started working on it.

These are songs that functioned on our land in the 17th and 18th centuries and were included in one collection thanks to the editorial work of father Yulian Dobrylovskyi. This is also a message to Ukrainians, who at that time were already divided religiously, mostly along Orthodox and Uniate lines. Both were called Greek Catholics at that time. It was a message from that time to the Ukrainians of today, so to speak, hopelessly into the future, because it included music and poetry of both Orthodox and Uniate poets in old Ukrainian, Church Slavonic, a few in Latin and old Polish.

Sometimes good people just gift old manuscripts to Kompanichenko. They call and ask: “Taras, do you have this.” “No, I don’t.” “So, you have now.” Sometimes he buys expensive old books in antiquarian shops. He, for example, has a Yermolegion of the late 17th-early18th century gifted by the Lviv family of Linynski. Also, in the autumn of 2021, before he went to Shchastia to support the 79th Brigade, father Serhiy Tsioma gave Kompanichenko the first edition of church hymns, also the Ermolegion, printed in the 1700 in Lviv.

Some sources Kompanichenko also found in special musical libraries, like Koshyts library, or in the Winnipeg library and some in Poland. This is true for older music, whereas 20th century songs were mostly found in newspapers.

Edited by: Klaidas Kazak, Matt Wickham
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