Thousands in Lviv mourn slain songwriter Ihor Bilozir

LVIV - Tens of thousands of Lviv residents participated in the funeral on May 30 of popular composer/songwriter Ihor Bilozir, reported RFE/RL Newsline.

Earlier that day some 3,000 angry protesters had marched through the city, chanting "Down with the Russians," to protest Mr. Bilozir's death, which resulted from a savage beating several weeks earlier by a group of Russian-speaking young men.

An RFE/RL Newsline newsbrief noted that Mr. Bilozir was fatally injured by Russian-speaking attackers who did not like the fact that he was singing Ukrainian songs with friends in a cafe. One of the attackers turned out to be the son of a senior police officer in Lviv.

The protesters in Lviv demanded that the authorities "de-Russify Ukraine" and sack all Russian-speaking servicemen from the city's police force.

The Kyiv-based daily newspaper Den reported on May 30 that Mr. Bilozir, 44, had died overnight on May 27-28 in the Lviv City Hospital, where he had been since the attack on the night of May 8-9.

Den noted that Mr. Bilozir and a group of his friends had been at the Tsisarska Kava cafe, where they started singing some of his songs. This apparently drew the ire of another group in the cafe. Members of that group later found Mr. Bilozir and his friends in a square across from the oblast procuracy building and proceeded to beat the songwriter. He was taken unconscious to the hospital.

Mr. Bilozir, who was recognized as a national artist of Ukraine, was the leader of the Vatra musical ensemble, one of the most popular ensembles in Ukraine during the 1980s. He was also a pianist and pedagogue.

Last year Mr. Bilozir appeared in concert at Soyuzivka during the Labor Day weekend festivities and performed many songs from Vatra's repertoire, leading off with the nostalgic "Svitlytsia," which has become a modern-day classic. He also sang and played his own works, among them his first song, written at age 14, "Pershyi Snih" (First Snow), and his latest work, "Divchyna z Pisen" (Girl of Songs).

Lviv authorities declared May 30 as an official day of mourning. Community leaders have described the situation in Lviv as tense.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, June 4, 2000, No. 23, Vol. LXVIII

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