In 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 visitors.
    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 never explained.
    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.

Other related links:

Who Murdered Wolodymyr Ivasiuk - (Ukrainian Archive)


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