Imagine traveling to a country you had never visited and being welcomed as a hometown hero.
That's what happened to Bohdan Andrusyshyn, an American born to a Belarusian mother and a Ukrainian father in 1960s New York. After a chance encounter with a Joan Baez record, Andrusyshyn picked up a guitar and launched his own singing career as Danchyk
, eventually building a wide repertoire of Belarusian and Ukrainian ballads and folk songs that earned him an enthusiastic following among U.S. diaspora communities.
"Belarusachka," Danchyk's first album, released in 1977
Danchyk's music, carried back to Belarus on homemade cassettes, unwittingly earned him a fan base -- including members of the Belarusian Soviet super-group Pesniary
, who recognized the young singer during a rare tour of the United States in the late 1970s.
Eventually, they helped Andrusyshyn make his first-ever trip to his ancestral homeland, where he was eagerly welcomed by thousands of Belarusians hungry to hear music in their native language, whose use had dwindled after years of russification. (Contemporary musicians like Lavon Volski
have taken up the mantle, continuing to perform in Belarusian despite state disapproval.)
After four CDs and a successful tour with Leanid Bartkevich
, the lead singer of Pesniary, Andrusyshyn settled into a new life as deputy director of RFE/RL's Belarus Service. But this week he dusted off his guitar and joined us in The Blender studios to play some of the American songs that inspired him early on and to talk about his life as a Belarusian folk hero.
We hope you enjoy this very musical episode of The Blender, hosted by Daisy Sindelar
This week's songs include "There But For Fortune," written by Phil Ochs and performed by Bohdan Andrusyshyn; "Donna Donna," performed by Joan Baez; "Belarusachka" and "Kharashukha," performed by Danchyk; "Pesnia ab Radzimie," performed by Danchyk and Leanid Bartkevich; "Kasiu Jas kaniushynu" (Jas Scythes the Clover) by Pesniary; and "Tudy, siudy -- sudy, sudy" (Here, There -- Trials, Trials) by Lavon Volski.
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Danchyk (Bohdan Andrusyshyn)