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excerpt from the Interview with Antonevych, JarKo

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YarKO antonevych

Date of Interview: February 22, 2020
Place of Interview: Toronto, Ont.
Length of Interview: 2 hours 10 minutes
Interviewer: Ariadna Ochrymovych
Language: English


Date and Place of Birth: October 9, 1958, Toronto, Ont. Canada
Mother: Kristel von Ranter, b.1923 Germany
Father: Danylo Andrievych Antonevych, b.1923 Stanislaviw, Ukraine

Yarko Antonevych, a musician and master bandura player, studied classical guitar at the Florida Atlantic University. As a child he attended Bandura camps at Hawkstone and Kyiv and he played with Hnat Khotkevych at 404 Bathurst in Toronto. In 1986-87 he took master classes in Welland, Ontario on the bandura with Konstantin Novytsky from Kyiv. Yarko performs at Ukrainian festivals throughout Canada and the United states, at weddings ( in non- Ukrainian churches) and funerals, on street corners and subways, sometimes blending Ukrainian songs with contemporary music and jazz.

As a youngster, due to his father’s overbearing nature, Yarko often felt forced to attend Ukrainian functions. He felt conflicted about his identity and the Ukrainian community in Oshawa which he found to be narrow-minded and judgemental. He was often criticized for his long hair and braid, did not relate to Ukrainian kursy* which he felt were out of touch with young people and he did not feel supported as a musician. Today he is living in Toronto and is very proud of his Ukrainian heritage.

*Ukrainian high school courses


Interviewer: Do you know of any traditions, or stories that were maybe more cheerful?

Yarko: My mom’s tradition, the German Christmas tradition of the Bunter Teller, it’s basically a sweet plate put under the Christmas tree if you have one, and there are specific sweets for Christmas, marzipan, nougat, these, I can’t remember what they’re called but made with gingerbread….lebkuchen, lebkuchen, and my brother and I, we go out of our way, even if it hurts us financially, we’ll pull out the credit card and we’ll go and we’ll buy these things and this is our Christmas tradition to remember our mother by. And it’s a great sense of joy for us. Sadly a lot of the Ukrainian traditions, they’re very painful for us. Carollers coming to the house, when my father wasn’t there my mom wouldn’t let the carollers in, she was scared. Someone would come drunk and she didn’t know what would happen so she didn’t wanna let them in. When my father was there, he of course, let everybody in, and he was friendly, it was… it’s a friendly tradition.

And we enjoyed it, it was a  little embarrassing, we lived in a non-Ukrainian neighbourhood. The southern part of Oshawa was known as Ivanivka. When I was growing up,  you could actually get lost in south Oshawa but if you spoke Ukrainian, you’d find your way around. We lived in North Oshawa, and we had, we didn’t know it at the time, we had a lot of immigrant neighbours who had changed their names, they anglicized their hames and they discriminated against me even more harshly than my British ancestry classmates. So having carollers coming to your house, it’s like the fine line is being crossed, it’s a definite ethnic thing going on and you don’t want your English neighbours to find out about it. So it wasn’t until high school that I actually started playing bandura at school during folk club concerts, but the other part of my Ukrainianess I kept away, it was under wraps, even though my name was obviously very Ukrainian, I couldn’t hide it. I didn’t have an Anglicized name, my first name was Yarko, it wasn’t George or Jerry, so both of my names were ethnic so I had double trouble when it came discrimination but the bandura*.…

Interviewer: Did you  ask to change it ?

Yarko: When I was younger I so wanted to change my name, I so wanted to change my name and by the time I turned eighteen you couldn’t pay me enough money to change my name now, I’m very proud of it.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to say about, you know, your first impressions of being in, in  Ukraine?

Yarko: Amazing experience happened in Yalta, we were at Lesia Ukrainka’s house, and at the end of the tour, we were in the music room and the tour guide said in keeping with the tradition, with the wishes of Lesia Ukrainka, if there is anyone here in the room who knows how to play the bandura, they could come forward and they could play on Lesia Ukrainka’s bandura. So I didn’t say a word and I had my two feet firmly planted on the ground, I wasn’t going anywhere, but my father pushed me forward and said, oh, “mij syn vmije hraty,”** and I was quite upset but I went forward and I pulled up this instrument that they gave me and I don’t think the instrument had been tuned since she died.It was in very, very poor shape but I found about an octave where the strings were sort of , kind of in tune and I think I played Vsiav by Ja Banduru*** on those strings and, I just thought, what an amazing moment for my father, that his son was born in Canada, he learned to play the bandura and here he played …on the instrument of one of the greatest Ukrainians, Lesia Ukrainka****, and in addition to that,  when I lived in Florida, and I would talk to my mom and ask her, How’s it going? Oh, I went to visit Lesia’s grave [monument] today in High Park, and she would go to visit  the pamiatnyk (monument ) in High Park and that’s how she would refer to her, as Lesia, like she was visiting a friend. So that lady, Lesia Ukrainka, really meant an awful lot to us, this lady who had to deal with an illness and she just wrote such amazing things.

  1. *traditional Ukrainian  stringed instrument
    ** My son knows how to play
    *** ”I take my Bandura”
    **** one of the greatest Ukrainian writers/poet/playwright (1871-1913)