There I was – in the Kvitka Cisyk Museum in the Kvitka Cisyk School on Kvitka Cisyk Street across from Kvitka Cisyk Park in Lviv. She is very much a presence in Ukraine, even though she passed away at the young age of nearly 45 in 1998. A possibly irreverent and strange thought flashed through my mind as I stood in the museum: if Kvitka were here, she’d love it.
With her voice gently surrounding the museum visitor, her albums and photos and family history on the walls, her personal items displayed in the cases – the white open rooms invite the visitor to learn all about her. The museum, opened in 2011, is on the first floor of the Kvitka Cisyk School (School No. 54), in northeast Lviv. It just happens that Kvitka Cisyk Street joins Mykola Khvyliovyi and Abraham Lincoln streets. And Hetman Mazepa Street is one block over.
Kvitka’s school, founded in 1975 and one of the largest in the city, is a middle school for students ages 6-16. The principal is Rostyslav M. Pelyshchyshyn. There is an English-language program, directed and taught by Margaryta Savchenko. Students from this program who are members of the museum’s club offer tours in English, in addition to Ukrainian. The directors of the museum are grateful to Kvitka’s husband, Ed Rakowicz, and their son, Edward Wolodymyr, and Kvitka’s extended family for donating her items to the museum. They will be thankful for other items, such as recordings of her “Your Light Up My Life” and the LP “Ivanku” and photos.
The founder and promoter of the museum and the complex is Dr. Roman Hrytsevych. He is a three-term Lviv city councilor, the head of the community organization Nezabutnia Kvitka (Unforgettable Kvitka), and a philanthropist of the museum. One of his projects, in memory of Kvitka, is a mobile mammography clinic for the rural areas of the Lviv region (Kvitka passed away from breast cancer). He is now working on developing the proposed Kvitka Cisyk Park across the street to be used as a facility for performances and festivals.
There is much more information on Kvitka, her career, and the people who loved and supported her available online. There is the American who heard her voice in a taxi in Kyiv, and was captivated. Alexander Gutmacher of New York was so taken with Kvitka’s voice that he just had to learn more about her and did so much to make her known to the world and Ukraine. He started the numerous concerts and festivals devoted to Kvitka that continue in Ukraine and the U.S.
To see how this always-young woman from Queens, N.Y., is loved, honored and revered in the homeland and city of her parents was an emotional experience. Kvitka is still very much alive in Lviv and the rest of Ukraine – her CDs sell well, and her music is very often played on the radio. When I took the Chudo-Bus/Wonder-Bus sightseeing tour of the city (a great way to spend an hour or more), it was her “Dva Koliory” (Two Colors) CD playing in the background of the narrative – except for Pikardiyska Tertsiya singing “Siadesh u Poyizd” (You’ll Get on the Train) as we drove past the Lviv train station. There is a plaque at her family’s home on 8 Hlyboka St.
If you are visiting Lviv, do not miss it.
Orysia Tracz may be contacted at email@example.com.