«It used to be a super nationalist motto». Singer Ulyana Horbachevska about singing haivky in Lviv

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It was scary to dance and sing hayivky until independence. The presence at such festivities was considered an act of disobedience and a cultural micro-revolution.

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The first festivities in Lviv’s park «Shevchenkivskyi Hai» took place in 1988. In Soviet times, this Ukrainian tradition, like many others, was banned. This year, due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, there are no celebrations in Shevchenkivskyi Hai either. Ulyana Horbachevska, a singer and researcher of authentic Ukrainian songs and ancient spiritual songs, told Lviv Now how people gathered together at «haivky» festivities in Lviv.

The first hayivky in Lviv took place in 1988. The singer says that at that time, there was a small cohort of 50 people who passed on traditions, and there were up to 200 spectators. The very presence at such festivities was an act of disobedience, a cultural micro-revolution.

Read also: It was the worst during the Russian rule,» – memories of celebrating Easter in Ukraine during wars

«Then, the Tovarystvo Leva [Lion Society] was created, and after that – the Student Brotherhood. These were the first NGOs in post-Soviet Lviv. I was 14, I was the youngest member of the society, it was snowing, it was cold, I took off my mother’s oldest shirts, and we went to Shevchenkivskyi Hai. It was awe-inspiring and scary. Relatives told my mother to cook rusks... Because the words from the ancient haivka at that time looked like a super nationalist motto. It looked like sabotage against the Soviet system,» – Ulyana Gorbachevska said.

She said that everyone who was in the Hai («grove») from 1988 to 2019 knows the popular vesnyanka from the Lviv region «She painted Easter eggs.» This vesnyanka is about Ukrainian guys who were taken to the Austrian war. Today, the topic of war is relevant again, says the researcher.

And Ulyana Gorbachevska told about the other ancient archaic pre-Christian spring song. 

«Ancient examples of the Ukrainian song tradition are ritual songs: vesnyanky [spring songs], Kupala songs [on 6 of July], Mermaid songs. These are loud songs because the purpose is to call for spring. As they sing, so spring will come,» – explains the researcher.

Read also: People took vyshyvanka even in exile. How Ukrainians preserved the genetic code

«Every year, you do simple things, just gather friends, and then it turns out that this is a tradition that is already 30 years old. And when children experience rituals, and we perform these rituals, we pass them on and create a tradition. Our children will continue it, they will not want to sit at home and get bored, because their parents had fun at Easter. That is why next year, I call for «Everyone in the grove!» – Ulyana Gorbachevska called.

By Khrystyna Hogol, translated by Kateryna Bortniak

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media-hub, which also hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.


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