The memory of Oleksandr Vyzhenko / Випуск пам’яті Олександра Виженка

Випуск проекту «НЕумовно» присвячений пам’яті відомого запорізького казкаря Олександра Виженка. Під час останньої зустрічі з ним на «Запорізькій книжковій толоці» ми говорили про сучасну українську казку, її щільний зв’язок із геть неказковими подіями сьогодення та місію казкаря. Про найважливіше з обговореного слухайте в новому випуску проекту «НЕумовно». 

I learned to read early and the pictures in my head, when I read fairy tales, were born by my own inner voice and my imagination. Still, I never rejected the help of guides to the fairy tale world. Their voices, either mom’s or dad’s, in my case, mostly my mom’s, added a special taste to the fairy tale – that I tried, digested, and was hungry for again… There were also so-called ‘professional’ or radio story tellers. Many of us probably remember them and have bright memories and cherish warm emotions. For my generation, let us say, this charismatic story teller was the television character Grandpa Panas … In any case, these guides necessarily had a bit of warmth in their voices and an unconditional belief in the laws of fairy tales …

Without a hide-away hat and shoes of swiftness, but together with a forelocked friend trying to save his mother from the captivity of Bear Stamper, he makes a long way, he travels to mountains, goes around them, and visits Sky Eagle to ask for help. Everywhere they tell him: ‘You know, Boy, we all know what Bear is like, but we do not want to quarrel with him. And Boy goes back, where he finds the power and strength he had from the very beginning’.

The voice of Oleksandr Vyzhenko, a Zaporizhzhian storyteller who is famous as Sanko Syto, definitely had all the required qualities for a perfect guide to the world of fairy tales. At the latest Zaporizhzhia Book Forum, he enthusiastically and extendedly told me about another fruitful year of the life of ‘Ukrop Boy’. It was, as it turned out in December, his last and fairy work for children ‘from two to one hundred and two years old’.

With staggering swiftness he acquires new friends. The faces of kids shone when they got a book. It was a social project, we won a grant. We gave them at boarding schools, at schools with not so well-off kids.

We were speaking about the whole year of active cooperation of Oleksandr Vyzhenko with the Art Center ‘Art-space’ and the amateur theater-studio ‘Pygmalion’. His performance ‘Ukrop Boy’ successfully premiered in September 2017 in the Regional Youth Center. It was also performed at Zaporizhzhoa Book Forum, at the Festival of Children’s Literature ‘Knyholissia’, in Zaporizhzhya Regional Art Museum, local schools… After the show, the children got a book about ‘Ukrop Boy’ so that they could live through his exciting adventures once again.

The army of Ukrop Boys, as I call them, or the friends of Ukrop Boy spread across Ukraine. Because the one who understands the message of the fairy tale becomes his supporter. Today, some fathers have come to me with their kids who bought the books last year. They said that they started rereading or coloring the books. This is the feature of this book, you do not just read or color it once and then forget forever’.

Oleksandr Vyzhenko was quite sure that the readers would easily and unmistakably interpret the meaning of the name of the protagonist of the fairy tale. It has a clear association between the Ukrainian resistance movement ‘Ukrainsky opir’ and ‘Ukrop’ – literally ‘dill’. This is where the name of the protagonist Ukrop Boy comes from. Still, the attitude to ‘Ukrop’ varies across Ukraine depending on the attitude to the war in the East. According to Oleksandr Vyzhenko, the name of the boy symbolizes the raw power and desire for novelty and free life since the dill is a useful plant that starts growing right after the winter.

When I finished the fairy tale, I was puzzled as I could not understand what it reminded me of. And then I remembered a story from the Bible – David and Goliath. This is the case when someone small, but with noble motives, can move mountains. This is what my story is about. What does he defend? – He defends the most sacred things – peace, respect to parents, love to animals, a goat that represents the Crimean Tatars is also here… All the allegories, all the metaphors, I managed to wind into the plot.’

For Oleksandr Vyzhenko it was important to find interesting forms for his own stories which are not always easy to perceive. He often spoke in twists and turns. It was not always easy to grasp the meaning of the thread of associations, allusions and metaphors in Vyzhenko’s style what it was rich in. As well as the style of his stories. By far, not always so airy-fairy.

Oleksandr Vyzhenko began developing the idea of ‘The History of Zaporizhzhia Cossacks for merry children’ in the late 1970s. His son Artem was the first and most important reader of his book which was awarded the prestigious literary prize ‘Granoslov’. Much later, together with him, Oleksandr Vyzhenko translated more than two hundred Beatles songs into Ukrainian. This equirhythmic translation, where the original and the translation follow the same rhythm, attracted the Cherkassky rock band ‘Singing of the Brothers’. This is thanks to their interpretation of the hits of the Liverpool Quartet that Vyzhenko’s translation made its way to the hearts of the true Beatles lovers. Oleksandr was convinced that his Ukrop Boy would be as easily appreciated by everyone.

Everyone will understand him, in any country of the world, in Africa, Europe, America… because everyone understands the ideas of mother, motherland, strength, enemy who destroys your fence, your bee hives and steals the beautiful girl’.

On December 26, 2018, Oleksandr Vyzhenko unexpectedly died. Shortly before, the ‘Public Broadcast Company Zaporizhzhia’ began to broadcast his own program ‘Zaporizhzhia tales from Sanko Syto’. He had many ideas and plans that he spoke passionately about. He tried to show the people of Zaporizhzhia his Gogol, his Skovoroda, his Kipling, Burns, Shakespeare… He sought to convey to his readers his understanding of life where, despite everything, there is time for a real fairy tale.

I learnt to live without a rush, calmly, in a balanced way. As both Skovoroda and Epicurus said ‘everything good is easy’.

Together with Oleksandr Vyzhenko at the last Zaporizhzhia Book Forum, there was another well-known storyteller – Sashko Lirnyk. Despite his stylistic distinction from Oleksandr Vyzhenko, he seems to have found an answer to the question: ‘What is the purpose of the Ukrainian storyteller?’ And I am sure Oleksandr Vyzhenko, a.k.a Sanko Syto, Starchyk, would agree with it.

Most believe he is just an animator who entertains his friends before going to bed. They treat a fairy tale as something unimportant, as a lullaby that takes to sleep. I treat a fairy tale as a dominant genre of literature and culture, because a person became a person when it started talking. All we see and do is a fairy tale. Some write computer games or film scripts – they are all made up. A tale for me is a myth and creation. The mankind developed on myth, not facts. Even the perception of the Russian-Ukrainian war varies dramatically on either side. The winner is the one whose myth wins. The mission of a story teller is more honorable than just of a writer or politician. What a politician says today is forgotten tomorrow. The time flies faster now. What an author writes is forgotten, but a fairytale is the genre that repeats itself, it forms the minds and imagination of both the children and grown-ups.’

The program was prepared by Pavlo Miroshnychenko and Rostyslav Diahiliev. The text was read by Pavlo Miroshnychenko.