«Jewish Observer»
April 2002
5762 Nisan

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Unfortunately, it is like this: while a person is still living nobody mentions how kind, talented and sincere the person is. In the old days philosophers used to say "We engrave people's sins on the metal, we write about their values on the sand".

This sad formula can be well applied to Lyubov Piyevskaya. She passed away very quickly, right after she celebrated her 75th anniversary.

We met in 1988 in Kiev at Podol at Natan Shapiro's who was one of those who started the Jewish revival in Ukraine. It was the beginning of the period so-called "Gorbachov's perestroyka" when democracy and pluralism suddenly became reality.

Lyubov Abramovna Piyevskaya was a motor of all the undertakings in Shapiro's house. At that time his regular visitors were the Jewish revival enthusiasts: Ilya Ryzhavskiy, Semen Averbuch, Davis Goldovskiy, Lev Kisilevskiy, Baba Lopata, Yefim Vinnitskiy, Faina Neiman, Sima Bronstein and many others.

It was Lyubov Piyevskaya who organized and was the soul of the first "Jewish Congress" in Kiev (and one of the first in Ukraine) which took place on the 28th of December and legalized Kiev Jewish Culture Society (KJCS).

The Society activists were trying to convince Piyevskaya to be the chairman but she refused saying: "It's not a woman's business". The only thing she agreed to was to be the deputy chairman of KJCS.

She embodied enthusiasm and energy and she put that into the city's Jewish life, which was very timid and cautious in the beginning. It was she who initiated the first in Kiev and in Ukraine Jewish folk choir "Fargening". Thanks to her the choir was developing and finally became a real success. Its members were people in their late 50-ies but they still remembered mama-loshn very well. Among them there were former professional singers, recites, dancers, as well as Jewish singing enthusiasts.

At that time Piyevskaya was a leader of the Sholom-Aleichem Jewish Cultural and Educational Society of Kiev (JCESK). It was in the JCESK that Lyubov Abramovna revealed her talent to the full. The "Fargening" choir didn't miss a single Jewish holiday. Their repertoire included mostly songs in Yiddish and when people were listening to them they were not ashamed to cry. Were there happy tears or bitter ones? While we remember, we are still alive.

After the independence of Ukraine was proclaimed on August, 24, 1991, Jewish traditions began to revive and the number of Jewish social organizations was growing. But at the same time the independence contributed to the fact that potential anti-Semitic forces came up and began openly acting against Jews. Leaders of Jewish organizations tried not to notice that. They said "It's not Jews' business to fight against anti-Semitism; let Ukrainians do this". Lyubov Abramovna was suffering through her feebleness very much. She often said in despair: "What am I to do? I wish I were a politician. But my weapon is a Jewish song".

So she sang, made up concert programs, sought after Jewish talents, invited professional accompanists and conductors. It was all based on enthusiasm without any financial support. The JCESK, where "Fargening" appeared and achieved success, did not get any financial support from elsewhere either.

Later thanks to Mikhail Shikulskiy's efforts "Fargening" became a professional ensemble; only then the choir got independence, was able to finance itself and cover the expenditure. But by that time the circumstances had forced Lyubov Piyevskaya into emigrating to America. And again her Jewish soul found distraction in organizing another Jewish choir in a distant town of Synn near Boston. I don't think it was only the Jewish choir. The main thing that inspired Piyevskaya was her desire to restore in Jews the feeling of national dignity, national consciousness, pride in their people.

When I remember Lyubov Abramovna Piyevskaya, I can't but establish a bitter fact: how faint and short people's memory is! How unfairly we forget those who were the first to tread the path that many of us followed without even thinking about the pathfinder. Nothing can be done about it, alas!

Still I believe that there will be time when in Lyubov Piyevskaya's homeland, in her native Kiev they will remember people like her. The least thing that can be done is to name the "Fargening" choir - which still exists and is very famous now - in honor of its first leader, organizer and performer - Lyubov Abramovna Piyevskaya.


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© 2002 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org