Memory of Wolodymyr Ivasiuk
On May 18th, 1979, Wolodymyr Ivasiuk, Ukraine's youngest and most famous
composer was found murdered in the Bryukhovychi Forest, a forbidden military
zone ten miles outside of Lviw. The police ruled his death a suicide
in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Wolodymyr Ivasiuk was born on the 4th of April, 1949 in a little town of
Kitsman, Chernivetska Oblast, a region of Ukraine rich in folklore and
music. His father was a professor of Ukrainian literature at Chernivtsi
State University and he himself a student of medicine at Chernivtsi Medical
College, when his soul was haunted by the love of music and especially
the folklore of his native Bukovyna. In May, 1971 his first composition,
The Red Rue, was recorded by a young folk singer Sophiya Rotaru.
It soon became the most popular song not only in Ukraine, but also a favorite
with Ukrainians throughout the world.
Wolodymyr Ivasiuk was indeed a legend in his own time. His composition
of over 60 songs awakened the sometimes dormant national spirit of the
Ukrainian people, and like Taras Shevchenko in the 19th century and Wasyl
Semonenko in the 1960's, he too became a living symbol of Ukrainian national
consciousness. His funeral on May 22 (the same day that Shevchenko's
body was brought from St. Petersburg to Kyiv) was a great manifestation
of patriotism. It was estimated that ten to fifteen thousand people
marched in the funeral procession singing Ivasiuks songs. At the
gravesite patriotic speeches were made that dared police interference.
To this day at the grave site in Lviw's famous Lychakivsky Cemetery fresh
flowers are placed in his memory by a steady stream of mourners, fans and
The unsolved mystery surrounding his death lies in the question posed by
millions of Ukrainians in Ukraine and abroad: Who and why would someone
want to murder Wolodymyr Ivasiuk? Fragmented reports from Ukraine
state that Ivasiuk left his parents apartment in Lviw on April 23, 1979
to go to the music conservatory and was forced into a stange car.
Other sources say he was supposed to have gone to the philharmonic, where
after some time, he was called out to a waiting car and taken away.
Eyewitnesses identified the vehicle as belonging to the Soviet security
police - KGB. This was the last time he was seen alive. Three
weeks later soldiers found his mutilated body hanging from a tree in the
forest. The eyes were gouged out, his fingers broken and branches
of the Kalyna tree stuck into his body. A five man medical team attributed
the case of death to be suicide, although there was no scar on his neck
or air in his lungs. The bruises and lacerations on his body were
Although question remains, could one young Ukrainian composer have posed
such a threat to "the creation of the new Soviet man" that he had to be
eliminated in such a brutal and primitive way?
Although Wolodymyr Iwasiuk is dead, Ukraine has gained another in a long
line of martyrs who gave their lives for a humanitarian cause. His
beautiful compositions, however, will remain immortal and continue to inspire
freedom loving Ukrainians for generations to come.
Murdered Wolodymyr Ivasiuk - (Ukrainian Archive)