Avramenko Vasyl Kyrylovych (March 22, 1895, Stebliv, Kaniv District, Kyiv Province, now Stebliv, Zvenyhorodka District, Cherkasy Region – May 6, 1981, New York, USA) is a world-famous choreographer and film producer.
He was born into a large peasant family of Kyrylo Avramenko and Olexandra Dovbush. There is very little information about his childhood, which ended at the age of four, when his mother died. From the age of ten, Vasyl earned his living on his own: he was hired a shepherd, and on Fridays and Saturdays he cleaned the guest house .
In his teens he went to his brother in the Donetsk region , and in 16 years he had already been to Far East, where his brothers lived, particulary Andrian. There are various data about Vasily’s staying in Vladivostok. According to some, he worked as a cleaner at the Institute of Oriental Languages, at the same time enrolled in evening teacher training courses and three years later passed the exam for a people’s teacher. According to other sources, he worked in the port as a worker, and later served on a warship and at the same time was engaged in self-education.
In the spring of 1915 the troupe of Mykola Sadowsky arrived in Vladivostok, Kyiv, which showed Ukrainian plays “Natalka Poltavka”, “Cossack beyond the Danube”, “Oh do not go, Hryts”. Avramenko was especially impressed by “Natalka-Poltavka”: “I saw which my own eyes native Stebliv, my sister and myself before my eyes, I heard my native mother’s Ukrainian. It moved me so much that I burst into crying. Just this common girl Natalka is similar to my sister Lyuba, and in Petro I saw myself – a burlak far from my native land … It was the images of Natalka and Petro “that made me a sincere Ukrainian. And already then I was aroused by love for everything my native, and the main thing – to art “.
In 1916 (1915) he was drafted into the army. After pidstarshyn military school he found himself in the Infantry Army. His service took place in Omsk, Irkutsk, Bryansk and St. Petersburg.
After the First World War Vasyl Avramenko continued his military service in the army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. His memories “on the warke of the revolutionary years “, published in 1978 in the anthology “Freedom» (№1) evident about his participation in the liberation struggle of 1917 – 1921. Jast there Vasyl Avramenko described his acquaintance with Simon Petlyura in Minsk, where he arrived during his vacation after the injury and where the congress of Ukrainian-Western Front (April 1917) soldiers place. This acquaintance changed his life. Under Symon Petlyura’s pressure he went to study at Musical-drama School named by M. Lysenko (Kyiv), among its teachers there was Vasyl Kostiv-Verkhovynets. However, he did not study for long, because, as he noted in his memoirs, “great military events began, including Kruty”. For participation in the liberation struggle of 1917-1921 Vasyl Avramenko was awarded the Cross of Simon Petlyura, the Order “Carpathian Sich”.
After defeat of Liberation competitions and establishment of the Soviet power Vasyl Avramenko together with actors of the theanre left Ukraine for ever. In February 1921 he arrived at the Kalisz internment camp of the former UPR. It is here, in the camp and, in extremely difficult conditions, he established his first Ukrainian national dance school, from here began his journey as a choreographer. On the basis of the school Avramenko created the “Society for the Revival of Ukrainian Dance”. The leading idea that the members of this society aspired sought to realize was to revive in Ukrainians the feeling of “reviving state life.” In May, Avramenko showed the program of trained dances for the first time and received positive reference from the public. In August 1921, Simon Petliura and Polish Marshal Józef Pilsudski were present at the school perfomance. They were delighted by V. Avramenko’s dance. Vasyl Avramenko performed with his school in other camps, having constant success with the audience.
In furthering three months, Living in Galicia, Avramenko with his touring group gave 72 concerts. Before each concert , he or someone of his troupe obligatory made a report on the Ukrainian folk dance. Later on Avramenko recalled: “… Have traveled all over Galychyna, meeting extremely high admiring a with my work of the Ukrainian citizenship, which took each speech as prophetic words about the revival of Ukrainian spirit and demonstrations against Polish oppression “.
In November 1922 Avramenko moved to Volyn, were also created dance school in Kovel, Lutsk, Rivne, Olexandriv, Kremenets, Mezhyrich and other towns. From Volhyn he moved to Kholmshchyna, where he opened a school in Kholm, then – schools in Berestaishchyna and Polissya, and later returned to Galychyna, where he opened schools in Lviv, Stanislav, Kolomyia, Ternopil, Stryi, Peremyshl.
In 1924, avoiding persecution of Polish police, he left Ukraine and emigrated to Czechoslovakia. First came to Prague, then – to Padyebrad where opened Ukrainian dance school for students of Ukrainian Economic Academy. In 1925, among the students of his dance school there were 19-year-old student Olena Shovgenova (Teliga) and the master-sergiant of the UPR, 26-year-old Mikhailo Teliha. In the Ukrainian internment camp of Sich Riflemen Brigade in the town of Joseph 150 shooters joined Avramenko’s school. The first performance took place on December 19, 1924.
At this time he met Yuri Hassan, who lived in Canada , and Vasil Avramenko decided to emigrate from Europe. At his departure Olena Teliha turned to him with these words: “Glory to you, Son of our people! As you are one of those who, loving the native land with brotherly love, merge into a single great Ukrainian sea Transdnipro and Transnistria, Hutsuls and Bukovinians and those who love our people! …Work further and with a high-spirited dance resurrect Zaporozhian hearts in children of Ukraine, as with their rise free cathedral Ukraine will revive!”. In 1925 in Dalmenhorst (Germany) he founded a school of Ukrainian folk dance and on November 28 gave the last concert in Europe.
On December 12, 1925, Vasyl Avramenko arrived in Toronto (Canada). And already in August 1926 there was a triumphal performance of 80 Avramenko’s dancers performances at the Canadian National perfomance in Toronto. The audience was amazed by the original Ukrainian choreographic art.
In autumn 1926, Vasyl Avramenko moved to Lakehead, and then – to Winipeg and Saskatoon. In all cities he opened schools of Ukrainian folk dance and trained instructors. In the fall of 1927, Vasyl Avramenko and his instructors went on a 70-days tour of Canada.
In 1928 Avramenko moved to the United States. The first of school of Ukrainian dance he opened to in Detroit, in the whole 71 schools where opened.
On June 16 1928 Vasyl Avramenko married 19-year-old Ukrainian Paulina Harbolinska, one of his dancers in Winnipeg. The wedding took place in Chicago. On January 1, 1929 the family moved to New York, and on March 7, 1929 their daughter Oksana was born.
On April 25, 1931, the greatest concert took place at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which was attended by 500 dancers from Vasyl Avramenko School and a mixed choir of 100 people. Vasyl Avramenko was at the sometime the stage manager of the action. This performance can be considered the peak of his choreographic career. After all, it was from this event that the unrestrained march of the Ukrainian dance through the land of J. Washington began.
In 1932 Avramenko began collaborating with Oleksandr Koshyts, who founded the Ukrainian choir. Public performances of their teams were organized in north-eastern US cities. They were quite successful, but financially unprofitable. Avramenko more and more often began to enter the list of debtors. He was left by many instructors with whom he worked in the 1920s. However, Avramenko continued to organize concerts and seminars, promoting Ukrainian dance as an integral part of Ukrainian history. Due to financial difficulties in 1936, the Avramenko’s family broke up.
On May 20 1935 a group of dancers from Baltimore under leadership of Vasyl Avramenko perfomans in the White House in Washington. After the concert as a tribute of respect the prominent choreographer was received by president’s wife Eleanor Roosevelt. He presented her an Easter egg.
Vasyl Avramenko constantly traveled through countries of the world. And in every city, wherever he came, he created dance schools, promoting Ukrainian folk dance and ballet. In 1947, he published a book in Winnipeg at his own expense, entitled “Ukrainian National Dancing, Music, and Order,” in which he wrote that “Ukrainian dance should be nurtured at school for our youth, beginning to teach them their dances from early childhood”.
In parallel with dancing, Vasyl Avramenko was engaged in film production. Still in 1934 he created the corporation “Avramenko Film”. In 1936 he released a feature film “Natalka Poltavka”. Avramenko raised more than 70,000 dollars of the USA for shooting the film. In 1939 Avramenko released the film “Zaporozhets over the Danube”, in which performers 500 took part. He was the first Ukrainian in the United States to direct full-length feature films on the history of Ukraine. Having created film Corporation “Kobzar” in New – York in June 1939 Avramenko produced the “Tragedy of the Carpathian Ukraine”, a unique chronicle of events proclamation Carpathian Ukraine.
In 1955 Avramenko released a full-length feature film “Triumph of Ukrainian dance” materials for which he was collecting over 25 years. Among the famous films of Vasyl Avramenko there are also “The First World Congress of Ukrainians”, “Museum of the Liberation Struggle of Sadovsky” , “The second Vatican Council” . “Ukrainian Film Festival Production V. Avramenko” took place in many countries of the world, in particular, such festival was held on June 26, 1970 in Geneva.
Vasyl Avramenko had always distinguished himself by his active civil position. On December 23, 1954, he was awarded the “The cross of the Ukrainian Cossacks” for his participation in the struggle for the freedom of Ukraine. Diploma awarding Cross is signed by the head of the Cross soviet M. Symashkevych Dnipro. In 1974 for outstanding services to the “Ukrainian Community in Canada”, he was awarded a commemorative Shevchenko medallion and diploma by the Presidium of the Committee of Ukrainians of Canada. On August 29, 1976 Ukrainian Catholic parish of St. Joseph, in Chikago elected Vasyl Avramenko “Ukrainian of year”.
All his life Vasyl Avramenko lived for Ukraine. The performances of his dance groups had always been held under the yellow and blue flag. He often repeated: “We must work for Ukraine not only when we are greeted… but also when they do not want to know us, and even throw stones”.
In 1977 with the assistance of Canadian Senator public figure Pavlo Yuzyk the immence ar chives of a Vasyl Avramenko had been transferred to the Library-Archives of Canada in Ottawa (Librare and Archives Canada ; code R6747-0-8-E), which is stored 10.91 m document on paper, 1921 photography, 9 offset lithographs, 40 bobi n films, 8 optical phonograms, 3 tape phonograms relating to the life and work of V. Avramenko.
For the last seven years of his life, Vasyl Avramenko lived with Marian and Ivanka Kots in New York, who granted him asylum. Dr. Klimentiy G. Rohozynsky and Dr. Ostap Baran provided medical care to Avramenko. He died on Wednesday, May 6, 1981, at 11.25. Funeral service was held on Friday, May 8, at 7 pm in the funeral home of P. Yarema. The funeral service was conducted by Archbishop Cyrus Isidore Boretsky.
Shortly before his death Vasyl Avramenko made a will in which, in particular, he stated: ” I decided to be cremated and my ashes should be buried in a free Ukraine, in my native Stebliv… My archives and ashes must be returned to free Ukraine ” ( March 24, 1981). His will was carried out in May 1993. Today, the ashes of Vasyl Avramenko rest in the Zarosyansky cemetery in the village of Stebliv, where sculptor Ivan Sonsyadlo, a member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine, erected a monument. As part of the cultural and educational project “Ukrainian Revolution 1917-1921 years – 100 years” by the initiative of preserve and personal support of a participant in fighting in the east of Ukraine Oleh Sobchenko on Golovinskiy estate in Stebliv on December 17, 2018 a memorial sign to Captain of the Army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic Vasyl Avramenko was established. The deputy corps of the Stebliv United Territorial Community (village head Oleksiy Danilchenko); “Heroica” Charitable Foundation, Director of Vybukhprom Oleksandr Mazur; private claim idpryyemtsi Olexiy Albin, Vasyl Tymoshchuk, Vladislav Kuziv, Pavlo Marchenko, Vasyl Kirichek, Volodymyr Voropay; Zoya Boychenko, an employee of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance; Marika Dubyk Franko and Anton Broshnyak-Kontroneo, volunteers from Canada joined its establishment.
The name of Vasyl Avramenko for decades was unknown for Ukrainian public and only owing to the efforts of the National Commission for the return to Ukraine cultural values, its chairman Doctor of Arts, corresponding member of the Academy of Arts of Ukraine Oleksandr Fedoruk and patron Marian Kots Vasyl Avramenko’s heritage, and therefore his name in 1993 returned to native land. A large number of items from the transmitted heritage in Ukraine now stored in the funds of Presrrve. Vasyl Avramenko’s correspondence with his family and Ukrainian public and political figure Ivan Bobersky, copied in the Library-Archives of Canada in Ottawa by Doctor of Historical Sciences Father Yuriy Mytsyk and Candidate of Historical Sciences Inna Tarasenko , was published at the pages of the “Korsun Periodical” ([35-36, 37]). Iryna Balan still takes care of Vasyl Avramenko’s legacy in Canada.
Praskovija Stepenkina, Candidate of Historical Sciences, Director of Korsun-Shevchenkivskiy State Historical and Cultural Preserve.