‘Oy u luzi chervona kalyna’: Origins of the Sich Riflemen Song

By Danylo Centore

“Oy u luzi chervona kalyna” (Ой у лузі червона калина) is one of the most well-known Ukrainian folk songs, and it has experienced renewed popularity due to the full-scale Russian invasion. The lyrics are over 100 years old, yet they can just as easily be applied to the events of today.

1875 – The oldest variant

The recorded history of this song dates back to 1875, where an early version appears in the book “Историческія пѣсни малорусскаго народа” (Historical songs of the little-Russian [Ukrainian] nation), collected by Volodymyr Antonovych and Mykhailo Drahomanov. The original lyrics are about the period of the Khmelnytsky Uprising. The song was collected in the village of Maryanivka, Kherson, in South-Central Ukraine.

These folk lyrics are as follows:

Розлилися круті бережечки
Гей, гей, по роздоллі,
Пожурились славні козаченьки
Гей, гей, у неволі
Гей ви хлопці, ви добрі молодці
Гей, гей не журіться,
Посідлайте коні ворониї,
Гей, гей, садовіться.
The steep banks spilled over
Hey, hey, in the open
The glorious kozaks worried
Hey, hey, in captivity
Hey, you boys, you good young boys
Hey, hey do not worry
Saddle up your black horses
Hey, hey, and mount them
Та поїдем у чистеє поле
Гей, гей, у Варшаву,
Та наберем червоной китайки,
Гей, гей, не злиняла,
Та щоб наша козацькая слава,
Гей, гей, не пропала.
Гей щоб наша червона китайка,
Гей, гей, червоніла.
And we’ll ride on the clean fields
Hey, hey, to Warsaw
And we’ll pick red apples
Hey, hey, unfaded
And so our kozak glory
Hey, hey, doesn’t disappear
Hey, so our red apples
Hey, hey, turn a red color
А щоб наша козацькая слава,
Гей, гей, не змарніла.
Гей у лузі червона калина,
Гей, гей, похилися,
Чогось наша славна Україна,
Гей, гей, засмутилася.
А ми-ж тую червони калину,
Гей, гей, та піднімемо,
А ми-ж свою славну Україну,
Гей, гей, та развеселимо.
And so our kozak glory
Hey, hey, doesn’t whither
In the meadow a red kalyna
Hey, hey, has bent low
For some reason our glorious Ukraine
Hey, hey, has become upset
And we’ll take that red kalyna
Hey, hey, and raise it up
And our glorious Ukraine
Hey, hey, will rejoice
Historical Songs – 1875, Page 50

1913 – Stepan Charnetsky – The Modern Melody & 1st Verse

In late 1913, Stepan Charnetsky, artistic director of the Lviv “Руська Бесіда” (Ruska Besida / Ruthenian speech) theater group, heavily edited the 1908 play “Сонце Руїни” (Sontse ruiny / Sun of The Ruin) by Vasyl Pachovsky, which many considered to be too lengthy. As part of this editing, he replaced one of the songs with “Ой у лузі червона калина”, his adaptation of the end of “Розлилися круті бережечки”, with both lyrics and melody reworked. This is where the modern 1st verse and melody originate. Charnetsky’s version of “Сонце Руїни” was first performed in Sambir on February 6, 1914.

1914 – Hryhory Trukh – Verses 2-4

In Stryi in August 1914, Hryhory Andriy Trukh, a battalion commander in the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, was waiting in formation “at ease” for a long time, when he heard fellow soldier Ivanytsky (first name unknown) singing Charnetsky’s “Oy u luzi”, which he had learned from artists in the Lviv “Ruska Besida” group. Trukh was so enamored with the song that he wrote 3 additional verses for it.

Trukh’s variant became massively popular with the Sich Riflemen, from whom it spread across Ukraine and abroad. There are many variants of the song today, almost all based on Trukh’s version.

Trukh’s lyrics are as follows:

Ой у лузі червона калина
Чогось наша славна Україна

А ми тую червону калину
А ми нашу славну Україну
Гей гей розвеселимо!
Oh, in the meadow a red kalyna
Has bent down low,
For some reason, our glorious Ukraine
Is in sorrow.

And we’ll take that red kalyna
And we will raise it up,
And our glorious Ukraine,
Hey, hey, will rejoice!
Машеруютиь наші добровольці
У кривавий тан
Визволяти братів Українців
З московських кайдан

А ми наших братів Українців
А ми нашу славну Україну
Гей гей розвеселимо.
Our volunteers march
Into a bloody fray,
To free our brother Ukrainians
From Moscow’s chains

And our brother Ukrainians
We will free
And our glorious Ukraine
Hey, hey, will rejoice!
Ой у полі ярої пшениченьки
Золотистий лан
Розпочали наші добровольці
З Москалями тан

А ми тую ярую пшеничку
А ми нашу славну Україну
Oh in the field of spring wheat
Тhere’s a golden field
Our volunteers began
To battle with the Muscovites

And that spring wheat,
We will gather
And our glorious Ukraine
Hey, hey, will rejoice!
Як повіє буйнесенький вітер
З широких степів
То прославить по всій Україні
Січових Стрільців

А ми тую стрілецьку славу
А ми нашу славну Україну
Гей гей розвеселимо
When the stormy winds blow
From the wide steppes
Throughout Ukraine, they will glorify
The Sich riflemen

And that riflemen’s glory
We will preserve
And our glorious Ukraine
Hey, hey, will rejoice!

In 1933 Trukh moved to North America. He would later recount his co-authorship of the song in a 1944 newspaper article:

Andriy Trukh’s account of how he co-wrote the song, published 1944 in Toronto


Earliest recording, from 1925

Bandura @ Bobriwka camp in Connecticut, 2022

Ron Cahute of the Canadian band “Burya”

Trio Konvalia, a British band from the 1970s (1:10 – 2:10)

Andriy Khlyvnyuk’s variant, released in March 2022

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