MNOHAYA LITA – МНОГАЯ ЛІТА

(Click here or on the movie window at the bottom of this page to hear the Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton sing Mnohaya Lita.)

When I was  a little girl on Gallagher Avenue in Winnipeg, every wedding, shower and birthday celebration involved people standing and singing Mnohaya Lita.  Generally it was sung in a sad way, with a slow tempo, and occasional harmonies. Women wept and hankies appeared to wipe their tears and blow their noses. Someone was always blowing their nose at these affairs.  It seemed odd to me, to have such a sad song at such joyous occasions, but it was very clear this was a tradition that was not to be questioned, so I didn’t ask.

Though Ukrainian was the mother tongue of my parents, and who knows how many generations before them, my brothers and sisters and I did not grow up speaking Ukrainian.  This, despite the fact that our home was rich with Ukrainian culture, food and celebrations.  We attended church, sporadically, at St. Mary’s the Protectress, a Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Winnipeg’s North End.  My parents, Carl and Mary Krawchenko, were married there.  They brought five “boomers” into the world to be Christened at “Sobor”.   You could always count on hearing Mnohaya Lita at the Church.  I loved it, and as I grew older, I started to weep, too, when I sang it.

Because the five of us children were born after the Second World War, Carl and Mary had limitless dreams for our success, and by their choice, we were not taught Ukrainian. It would not serve us.  We were fifth generation Canadians and we were to be assimilated for the sake of opportunity.  We were taught that we were as good as anybody else, including “The English”.

Years later, visiting at my Mom’s kitchen table, I asked what the words of Mnohaya Lita meant. When she told me, I was genuinely surprised that this was a happy song.

My Mom will turn 80 in a couple of weeks, so I went in search of Mnohaya Lita to be able to practice singing it.  To my utter joy, I found this version from the Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton.  Now this is the way to do a choir rehearsal.  You will find the transliteration and translation of the words at the bottom of this posting.

Not a hankie in the bunch. How wonderful that these men have a passion for Ukrainian music and a heritage that runs deep in my blood.  My thanks to the Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton for sharing their joy. Click on the window below to see the video of them singing.

In the photo at the top of this post: My mom, Mary Krawchenko (nee Bachynsky), and Baba, Tillie Bachynsky (nee Strumbicky).  The children are me and my sister Margaret and the photo was taken at our home on Gallagher Avenue.  I believe this picture was taken on the occasion of my grandmother’s 50th birthday party.  Mnohaya Lita was most certainly sung that day. Baba was born on March 24th, 1909.  I was born March 24th, 1956.

I miss saying:  “Happy Birthday to you, too, Baba!”

Update on March 21, 2011

My friend Chris Mota in Montreal sent me a link to this wonderful choir singing the version that is more familiar to me.  The information posted on youtube with this item is as follows:

МНОГАЯ ЛІТА, Державний академічний Волинський народний хор, 2009 рік, Луцьк, українська народна пісня, колядка, щедрівка, фольклор,http://proridne.com

Thanks, Chris!

Mnohaya Lita (transliteration)

Mnohaya lita.

Mnohaya lita.

Mnohaya lita.

Vo zdroviye,

vo spaseniye.

Mnohaya Lita!

Translation:

God grant you many years.

Many happy years.

God grant you many years.

Many happy years.

May you be blessed

with health,

wealth,

and happiness.

And many,

many happy years.


About Sandi Krawchenko Altner

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6 Responses to MNOHAYA LITA – МНОГАЯ ЛІТА

  1. lorraine krywy says:

    Sandi – like you never really understood what the lyrics were all about. I too thought it was a sad song, and mom and baba insisted it be sung at my shower. Well you solved the mystery. Maybe the problem was we should have had men at the shower!!!! Thanks for this

  2. Reginald VanGleason says:

    The reason it’s sung like a funeral dirge is that Ukrainians always sing happy songs like funeral dirges. When I mentioned Mnohaya Lita to a friend in and from Western Ukraine, he laughed and said it was sung mostly to really old people who were going to die soon and it was meant to make them feel better.

  3. Larry says:

    Wonderful!

    My mother’s family sang a version very similar in melody and words as the one sung by the choir in the second YouTube video. Her family was from near Rava-Ruska (Рава-Руська) in the L’viv Oblast .

    Многая літа, літа, многая літа,
    Многая літа, літа, многая літа,
    Во здравіє, во спасеніє
    Сотвори, Господи, многая літа.

    Here’s a YouTube link to the version my family sung: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg1TGJzlmuI

    • Hi Larry,
      Thanks so much! When we celebrated my Mom’s birthday we sang a version of this song that certainly did not have the gusto of the one in your link. I am quite surprised and delighted at the number of people who have come to my blog in search of this lovely and traditional song.

  4. dancingcrane says:

    We go to a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church out of a deep love for the Divine Liturgy. None of my family are Ukrainian, but we all know this lovely song by heart now, we sing it so much! Almost every week, for someone’s special occasion. Thank you for the videos, and the translations, so we can share it with our English-only friends!

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