An old Ukrainian folk song takes on new meaning in the current crisis

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Marco Werman: For those Ukrainians who identify more with the west than with Russia, there's an old Ukrainian folk song that's become a sort of anthem. It's called "Plyve Kacha Po Tysyni". The song is especially associated with those who lost their lives during the protests in Kiev's Independence Square or Maidan. It means a great deal to Ukrainians like the BBC's Irena Taranyuk. Irena Taranyuk: I knew this song for a number of years as something very mournful, very sad. I used to have a good cry about it when I felt down. It's a lament. It's about a young soldier, a young recruit going to fight in foreign wars and him having a dialogue with his mother, saying "My dear mother, what will happen to me if I die in a foreign land?" She tells him "Well, my dear, you will be buried by other people." It's really poignant and sad. Werman: So what's the symbolism now and the connection of this song to protesters who died in Kiev's Maidan. Taranyuk: There is hardly anything in any folklore, in any sung tradition anywhere in the world that is more sad, more lament-like than this song, "Plyve Kacha." When dozens of people killed by snipers in Maidan on the 18th and 20th of February were buried and mourned in the mass funeral on February the 21st, it was this song, "Plyve Kacha." It became known to the broader world, it became known to all of the Ukrainians because some of the Russian-speaking Ukrainians from the east never heard this song probably until the mass funeral. It acquired a life of its own, this song, and a new life for the 21st century. Werman: There are parts of this song and the harmonies that sound almost religious, like gregorian chanting. Is that part of the appeal now as well? Taranyuk: It is a particularly appropriate of that song that appeals to the general mood of the country because Ukraine is the country in mourning and actually the country that didn't have the time to mourn its dead. Ukrainians call those people who died, who gave their lives at Maidan, they call them the "Heavenly Hundred," because over 100 people died by snipers in a ruthless and the most bloody page of Ukrainian history since obtaining independence in 1991. This is something we couldn't have foreseen, that it would be possible in our day and age, in a contemporary European country that we all believed Ukraine to be, that 100 people can be killed by snipers, by marksmen like that in cold blood. That was the deathknell of the presidency of Yanukovych, but it was also a reawakening of Ukraine as a nation because they said that the ultimate sacrifice by these people should not be forgotten. We are still lamenting our dead, we are still singing "Plyve Kacha Po Tysyni." Unfortunately now, my fear for the song is that it will be associated with the loss in Maidan rather than a longer folklore tradition. Now the song will be predominantly associated with the "Heavenly Hundred." Werman: The BBC's Irena Taranyuk, thank you very much for your time. Taranyuk: It was a pleasure, Marco.