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Nightingales, Kobzar Taras and our Ukrainian family

At BirdLife we are of course anxious for our local partners there, the Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds, and their families and communities. We are in constant touch and are told by Oleg Dudkin, USPB’s CEO, that they are all currently “relatively” safe.  The nature conservation they so effectively do, for birds and biodiversity, is ultimately about saving life.

The grim and tragic news from Ukraine has shocked the entire planet.

War is the most urgent and immediate threat created and faced by man, and our hearts fill with awe for the courage of all Ukrainians. We demand political leaders put a stop to this outrageous tragedy.

USPB – Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds

The nightingale has long been invoked in Ukrainian culture as “a creator of sweet sounds, a builder of homes, and a harbinger of spring. In Ukrainian the word for nightingale, sсоловейко – soloveiko,  is a term of personal endearment.” The nightingale is an icon of Ukraine.

Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko (1814 – 1861), also known as Kobzar Taras, or simply Kobzar (kobzars are bards in Ukrainian culture), is a famous Ukrainian poet, writer and artist, who in 1847, the year he wrote the poem below,  was convicted for supporting the independence of Ukraine, writing poems in the Ukrainian language, and ridiculing members of the Russian Imperial House.

 “Садок вишневий коло хати” 

A cherry orchard by the house.
Above the cherries beetles hum.
The plowmen plow the fertile ground
And girls sing songs as they pass by.
It’s evening—mother calls them home.

A family sups by the house.
A star shines in the evening chill.
A daughter serves the evening meal.
Time to give lessons—mother tries,
But can’t. She blames the nightingale.

It’s getting dark, and by the house,
A mother lays her young to sleep;
Beside them she too fell asleep.
All now went still, and just the girls
And nightingale their vigil keep.

Taras Shevchenko; 1847

photo by Margaret Bobb

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