Down Singing Centuries: Folk Literature of the Ukraine. Translated by Florence Randall Livesay. Compiled and Edited by Louisa Loeb. Illustrated by Stefan Czernecki. Hyperion Press, 1981.
When I logged into Twitter this morning, the day after the horrific violence on Parliament Hill, I was struck by the top two Trending Topics in Canada: #OttawaShooting and Happy Diwali. "This is my country," I thought. "This is the country that I love."
Today's beautiful book is a fascinating contribution to Canadian cultural history of another sort. Published in 1981, it collects and brings forward the translations of Ukrainian songs and folktales undertaken by Florence Randall Livesay in her Winnipeg home. Mother to famed Canadian poet, Dorothy Livesay, F.R.L. became interested in Ukrainian culture when she took in immigrant girls as 'mother's help' in the early years of the 20th Century. Her interest in their songs was so great that she sought help from Reverend Paul Crath, a Ukrainian Baptist Minister to learn the language so that she might translate these songs. She persisted in her efforts and brought her own poetic sensibilities to bear, publishing Songs of Ukania with Ruthenia Poems in 1916. She continued to work on translating Ukrainian folklore after this book's publication but didn't publish again. Down Singing Centuries is an academically impeccable bringing together of Livesay's translations from her original book and beyond edited by scholar Louisa Loeb, and gorgeously accented with colour plates provided by German-Canadian artist Stefan Czernecki. The book is a pleasure to read, to look at and to touch.
Portrait of F.R.L