‘Strangers Will Choose My Grave’ is part of the lyrics to a folk song that can bring a Iowan Ukrainian-American to tears. A video of that song appears below.
Writer-in-residence at Grinnell College Dean Bakopoulos grew up in a Ukrainian immigrant neighborhood in Detroit. Bakopaulos shares his reflections on the situation in the Ukraine. Hear the story of his great uncle coming to visit from Ukraine in the late 80s. The last time his grandmother had seen her little brother was when they we fleeing their village. As he got off the plane and the reunited siblings embraced, Bakopaulos realized what is so easily taken for granted in the U.S.
Here is the interview:
There is an old Ukrainian song that was heard again recently after protesters were fatally shot in Kiev. It is the story of a woman whose son leaves to fight. Bakopaulos says “anytime I hear Ukrainian music I tend to cry because it was such a part of my childhood.” He offers this translation of a portion of the lyrics:
Hey, see the mallard floating on the Tysyn River/ Mama, do not scold me./You will scold me at the wrong hour/I don't know where I will die./I will die in a foreign land/Who will choose my grave?/Strangers will choose my grave./Will you not grieve then, my mama?/How will I not grieve then, my son?/You once rested on my heart./You rested on my heart.