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Lesson 8

Ukrainian folklore

Author: Siuzanna Motruk

Research of Ukrainian folklore

Thanks to folklore, we can see the identity of the Ukrainian people and its uniqueness. Oral folk art is rich and varied, colorful and multifaceted.

Oral folk art appears in the period of primitive Orthodox tribes, there are cults (Sun, stars), calendar ritual poetry, and ritual mythological magic.

The embrace of folklore grew in the 19th century due to Romanticism in Europe, and the tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Ukrainian fairy tales

  • Fairy tales point to national characteristics.
  • Fairy tales can also be a manifestation of Ukrainian courage.
  • Fairy tales and cartoons help maintain a patriotic spirit.

Well-known Ukrainian figures wrote fairy tales, including Ivan Franko and Lesia Ukrainka. For example, Lesya Ukrainka's tale about a giant:

The images of Kotyhoroshko and Kozhumyaka symbolize courage and indomitable spirit. Parents often read these tales to their children, as they show the example of what courage is and how the desire for freedom is manifested. The heroic deeds of our soldiers are compared with the acts of fairytale heroes. They teach us to differentiate between good and evil. Such tales give hope and lead us to believe in the best.

For example, the fairytale about Kotyhoroshko teaches us to respect our mother and to love our land, and the tale about Kyrylo Kozhumyaka teaches us courage and mutual help.

Our people had powerful enemies, so we portrayed them as opponents worthy of heroic strength, like snakes with three or twelve heads.
Ukrainian fairy tales gives us knights and brave Cossacks. Those images are relevant even today.
Today, the image of knights are soldiers from Azov, who did not break, confident in themselves and their actions. They are warriors with their heads held high, and you will see neither the fear of the enemy nor fear of the death in their eyes. They are boldly moving forward.

Ukrainian songs

"Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow" – is a symbol of courage and patriotism. It is a symbol of the modern struggle of the Ukrainian people.
This song dates back to the First World War. It became the anthem of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (USS) in 1914 and was popular in Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) units.

"Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow" during the First World War.

«Oh, in the meadow red viburnum», now in German, English, and French

"Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow" during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

"Our Father Bandera, Mother Ukraine" is a song and story about a severely wounded UPA soldier who his mother mourns. After the victory of the band Kalush Orchestra at Eurovision 2022, the people changed the name and read: "Our father Bandera, Stephania's mother."

There is a musical instrument “koza” (which means goat) in the Carpathians, similar to the Scottish bagpipes.

Koza musical instrument

Bagpipe musical instrument

Folk musical instruments, including the flute, were also used during the performance of the song "Stephania." That is why Ukrainian folklore motifs can be traced here. The bagpipe instrument has been known since princely times. It has been used in many works of Ukrainian literature, particularly in "Forest Song."

"Oh, do not go, Hrytsyu" of Marusya Churai, translated into many languages.

The hit "Yes, my darling daughter" is based on this composition. The song was performed in 1935 at the International Competition for the Best Folk Song in Brussels, Switzerland, and won.

"A Cossack Went Ower the Danube" by Semyon Klimovsky written under the impression of the failed Turkish campaign of Peter I. Beethoven was interested in it. He took it into processing in 1816, and 4 years later created another version of the composition.

"A Cossack Went Across the Danube," edited by Beethoven.
In German:

In the Ukrainian language:

People listen "Shchedryk" of Leontovych among the whole world before Christmas under the name "Carol the Bells".

American singer of Ukrainian descent Kvitka (Kasey) Cisyk "Oh, top my, top"

In 2019, a mural with Kvitka Tsisyk appeared in Ivano-Frankivsk.

"Oh, on the mountain the Reapers are reaping" a Cossack-historical song that originated in the second half of the XVII century (Hetman Doroshenko's time). Modern-day singer Jerry Heil sang this song, and the title sounds "Oh, the Muscovites are waiting on the mountain."

"Oh, the Muscovite is waiting on the mountain" Jerry Heil.

There are more than half a million Ukrainian folk songs have been recorded. No nation in history has had so many songs that the people have created independently.

Ukrainian beliefs

It is believed that the spirits of all people living and dead flock to their families for the Holy Supper on Christmas Eve, so they prepare tableware at the table.

To die for Ukraine is to live forever.
The will of the people, the will of man.


The elements of rituals, particularly the wedding ceremony and its stages, are pictured in the works of Ukrainian literature, e.g., "Natalka Poltavka", "The Courtship at Goncharivka", "Nazar Stodolya".

The celebration of the holiday "Ivan Kupala" is also reflected widely. On this magical July night, young people look for fernns bloom and believe in its miraculous properties.
Girls and boys also jump through fire because they believe fire has a cleansing power and cleanses from evil.

The girls guess for the destined, make wreaths, throw them into the water and collect potions. There are also mystical images of mavkys, waterfowl, chuhaysters, and mermaids. Werewolves are often mentioned in oral folklore, aiming to scare children.

Forest nymphs are mythical creatures. Those are the souls of drowned women and girls who died unbaptized and were transformed into mavkys, according to the folk-belief. The conception of forest nymphs so coming from the Carpathians.
Mavka has no back so you can see her internals from behind.

Poterchata is a mythological way to call children who died unbaptized.

Despite being under occupation, and carving up the land between empires, Ukrainians have not lost their identity. After all, traditions, customs, and oral folk art continue to be passed down from generation to generation. The strongest nation in the world that has survived and continues to stand.

Our heroism, courage, and endurance can be traced by examples from fairy tales, beliefs, songs, and customs. Ukrainians are taught from childhood to be brave by reading Ukrainian folk tales where good defeats evil, where we are educated on how to be fair and to act in good conscience.
From these tales, both children and adults learn morals and lessons for later life.

Courage is not in words, courage in deeds is about Ukrainians. When we wear an embroidered shirt, sing "The glory and freedom of Ukraine have not yet perished" or recite the poem "Love Ukraine" in the basement during shootings or air strikes. The talks about courage should begin with such things.

How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine?
How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine? How to be brave like Ukraine?

It is to sing your national songsn the most difficult times. And also to involve children in the history of their own country through folk art.

Lesson 9

Symbols of Ukraine

Lesson 9