The birthday celebrations consisted of several outstanding events, including the launch of the just-published book We Are from Berezil (Theatrical Reminiscences) by Roman Cherkashyn and Yulia Fomina. On the same day, the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine (NMAU) hosted an international conference “The Contemporary Opera House and Problems of Opera Studies,” which was attended by music scholars from Ukraine, Russia, France, Belgium, and Greece.
The story of the prominent music specialist Maryna Cherkashyna-Hubarenko should begin with a list of her achievements and scholarly titles. But I would like to start with a smile. Those who meet Maryna for the first time immediately find themselves in the gravitational pull of this extremely serene, openhearted, and benevolent individual. She captivates you with her presence, words, and radiant smile. About people like her it is said, “It is interesting to live near them.” One of her most prominent traits is her kindness, a valuable and rare commodity in all times.
Maryna Cherkashyna-Hubarenko is one of Ukraine’s most acclaimed opera specialists. After graduating from the Kharkiv Conservatory (now the Kotliarevsky State University of the Arts) in 1962, she worked in her alma mater for about 20 years in the Department of Music History. Since 1985 she has lived in Kyiv, where she is the head of the Department of World Music History at the NMAU. She is also a corresponding member of the Academy of Arts of Ukraine, winner of the Ukrainian Theatrical Society and Lysenko prizes, member of the Composers’ Union of Ukraine and the League of Theatrical Figures, and the founder and chairperson of the Kyiv Wagner Society.
Professor Cherkashyna-Hubarenko is also a superb pedagogue loved by many generations of undergraduate and graduate students. An indefatigable promoter of music from Ukraine and other countries, she regularly delivers lectures at the House of Scientists and is the author of numerous scholarly publications and newspaper articles on music and theater. One of the newspapers to which she contributes is The Day.
In collaboration with her husband, the outstanding Ukrainian composer Vitalii Hubarenko (1934-2000), she wrote librettos for his opera and ballets, which is further proof of her unique multifaceted talent.
Maryna Cherkashyna-Hubarenko is the daughter of the theater producer Roman Cherkashyn and the actress Yulia Fomina, who as pupils of Les Kurbas were among those who founded the legendary Berezil Theater.
There was barely enough room in the choral classroom of the Music Academy for all those who came to celebrate Cherkashyna-Hubarenko’s birthday. There were cordial addresses from officials representing the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Academy of Arts, the Composers’ Union, the National Philharmonic, the House of Scientists, and the Music Academy. Tetiana Vierkina, rector of the Kharkiv University of the Arts, presented Maryna with a book about her, which the university published in connection with her birthday.
The tribute to Cherkashyna- Hubarenko, combined with the launch of We Are from Berezil , a book of her parents’ reminiscences, was an extraordinary event. The scholarly, well-designed, and richly-illustrated book, issued by the Kharkiv-based Acta Publishing House, will interest theater specialists and ordinary readers.
“We all get our beginning from our parents. I had marvelous parents of whom I was always proud and whom I loved madly. They were modest people, true servants of the theater, who were really devoted to art,” Cherkashyna-Hubarenko said. “So the publication of this book is the greatest happiness and the most precious gift that I could ever have dreamed of. I wanted to have two books, one by Roman Cherkashyn and one by Yulia Fomina, with the same cover.
“My mother was a gifted writer. To inject an element of humor here, I will tell you how she worked. We had a strange apartment where we all lived together. In one room Hubarenko would compose music. He would regularly tear his strings because he played very loudly, much to our neighbors’ resentment. In another room my mother would be writing her memoirs: she didn’t have a good place in which to work, and she had to sit at a small, narrow desk. My husband, who was a very tall and burly fellow, would come into her room and, seeing her write, would assume a theatrical pose and cry: ‘Well, our mother-in-law is a writer too?’”
The guest of honor’s family, friends, and pupils gave a number of speeches at the book launch.
“Culture is a phenomenon of memory, which is a universal way of giving another person the happiness of a full life,” said art historian Natalia Yermakova, who wrote the foreword to the book. “These people gave everyone around them the happiness of a full life not only in culture but in general. They did not live in culture; they were culture — in all its manifestations. Great teachers and great pupils devoted to the teacher, great missionaries, they were in fact the sole transmitters of sacred knowledge. What they did will go beyond the limits of what a contemporary individual can do. The wonderful purity and honesty with which they lived throughout their lives were a blessing. The fact that they once lived brings happiness to those who knew them and those who can make use of this knowledge.”
“I am grateful to fate for giving me the opportunity to know this family,” said Kira Pitoeva, curator of the Bulgakov Museum. “Not everyone can boast of knowing four generations of one family, but this is precisely my case. I met Roman Cherkashyn and Yulechka, as she always called herself, at a time when you couldn’t speak freely about Kurbas. I sought their acquaintance. I was eager to see the person who, even though he was very young, had stood up for Kurbas at the famous meeting of 1933. The person whom I saw did not disappoint me: he was a man of chivalrous looks and chivalrous manners.
“They were an absolutely extraordinary couple, role models for all of us, living together all their lives the way they did, able to overcome all of life’s difficulties, calamities, and problems the way Maryna knows how. They were also a family of museum lovers, which is so dear to me, all the more so as ours is a museum dedicated to one family. Maryna is the bearer of family traditions, and I bow to you and the people of those times, who always offered us this example, for handing down this tradition to the next generation and your pupils.”
TRAVELING IN TIME
One of the most wonderful moments of the celebration was when Roman Cherkashyn’s great- grandson Roman Bozhko and Yulia Fomina — both students at the Kyiv College of Theater and Cinema — performed a skit based on fragments from We Are from Berezil . The story was about Romeo and Juliet (as they called themselves), who went to Moscow where they met the poet Arseny Tarkovsky, lived a life full of unthinkable material difficulties, but were happy in their love and aspiration to serve art. The young people gave a talented performance, and I was not the only person who experienced the fleeting impression that the past had returned, especially considering that Roman is the spitting image of his great-grandfather, when he was young.
Olena Naumova, a professor at NMAU, read fragments from the diary of Cherkashyna-Hubarenko’s grandmother Leonila, who kept a detailed account of her little granddaughter’s life. Leonila documented everything, including her letters to her parents — “Mom, do you remember me? I am behaving well,” a description of her granddaughter’s wartime birthday party — “A neighbor boy gave her a copybook and a bunch of radishes,” as well as her childhood dream of becoming a theater actress.
Somebody recited the poem “Childhood Is My Homeland,” which Maryna wrote in 2000: “Life is going to surprise me — // I won’t be an actress. // And thank fate for this. // But my theater is not finished, // It continues within me, // It is pulsating in my blood, // It is in everything and everywhere.”
It was funny to learn that the guest of honor had never been issued a diploma when she graduated from Kharkiv’s Beethoven Music School because she used to skip her musical literature classes. Her father, who was worried about his daughter’s inadequate efforts, wrote the poem “My Daughter’s Dream” in which sheet music and Johann Sebastian Bach are the heroes.
The guests were regaled by the greetings from Cherkashyna-Hubarenko’s colleagues at NMAU’s Department of Composition — a mysterious Tea Opera accompanied by a proverb from the Chinese sages: “It is better to drink a cup of tea than waste time in empty talk. Nobody can study without having tea. Only he who drinks tea can become Buddha.”
As Volodymyr Rozhok, the rector of NMAU, commented, “Wherever Maryna Romanivna goes, there art, humor, tolerance, and success rule supreme. And all her graduate students successfully defend their theses.”
A TORCH OF HOPE
The speeches were followed by a concert of music by Vitalii and Iryna Hubarenko. The guest of honor commented about the concert: “My husband and daughter Iryna did not live to see this day. But I think they go on living with us through their music and their works. My daughter composed music in serious genres and worked in the theater. Her works were featured in 30 productions of the Kharkiv Theater for Children and Youth. She wrote songs and beautiful poems. I have published a book of her compositions. Let the two Hubarenkos — father and daughter — meet in concert. Let this be the first time that their music is played together.”
Appearing on stage were musicians and singers — young students and experienced actors. Iryna Hubarenko’s poems were inspiringly recited by Olha Dvoichenkova, an actress at the Kharkiv Theater for Children and Youth and a pupil of Roman Cherkashyn, who was a superb reciter himself.
When Roman Bozhko and Natalia Kuchyna were singing Iryna Hubarenko’s romantic song “Evening,” a thunderstorm erupted. It was thundering outside, while on stage the burning candles kept going out. “Evening, once again you are with me. Let us snuff out the candles one by one.” A line in another poem promised a torch of hope that will light up the road.
“My parents had a special attitude to people,” Cherkashyna- Hubarenko recalled. “They always defended everybody. The word ‘bad’ was not in my mother’s vocabulary. My mother worked in the theater for many years, and everyone called her ‘Mama Yulia’ for her friendliness, decency, and readiness to stand up for everybody. I think kindness and openness to people are the main things that my parents taught me.”