Three Inspiring Ukrainian Women

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Three Inspiring Ukrainian Women

Lina Kostenko, Kvitka Cisyk and Hedy Lamarr, three women with Ukrainian roots and bright minds enlightened people through their accomplishments in literature, music, and science. They provided a valuable contribution not only for Ukraine, but also for the whole world. Even though these women have never met each other, they share a similar leitmotif of their expression. Their works have the ability to enrich anyone intellectually, with aesthetic beauty and courage. Let’s look closer at and appreciate these fragile but fearless Ukrainian figures and their priceless contributions to the world.

Lina’s Kostenko recent 90th birthday proves once again that, among many masters of the word, Lina has always been an “unsolved miracle” and “a voice of the people”. She is one of the most popular and original poetesses among readers of all ages, one of the most honest and brave artists of all time.

Lina Kostenko was born in 1930 in Rzhyshchiv (Kyiv oblast) in the family of teachers. She got her first degree from the Kyiv Pedagogical Institute, and later she graduated with distinction from Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. Her career path coursed through a band of young Ukrainian poets, where she was taking a leading position. This group of young Ukrainian poets was active in the 1960s and, therefore, they were named "Sixtiers". Lina’s famous poetry collections are “Rays of the Earth”, “Sails”, “Wandering of the Heart”, and “On the Shore of the Eternal River”. Besides creating new styles in Ukrainian literature, “Sixtiers” stood up against the Soviet regime.

In addition to poetry work, Lina Kostenko was a public activist. She was trying hard to prevent imprisonments of fellow Ukrainian writers. Lina was present at the trial of Myroslava Zvarychevska and Mykhailo Osadchyi in Lviv. Ivan Drach and Lina Kostenko came to the editorial office of the newspaper Zhovten with a proposal to speak in defense of the imprisoned. She was also writing letters in defense of Viacheslav Chornovil, who was defamed in the newspaper "Literary Ukraine". While knowing that it would tarnish her own reputation, Lina Kostenko did not give in and carried on her protests and criticism against Soviet authorities. As a result, her works were not published for many years but nevertheless, she continued working.

Undoubtedly, Lina Kostenko is a talented and fearless woman. She is a notable representative of the “Sixtiers” and Honorary Doctor of Chernivtsi and Lviv Universities. Moreover, Lina Kostenko is an honored Professor of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and was awarded the Taras Shevchenko National Prize of the Ukrainian SSR in 1987.

Another bright figure of the Ukrainian Art stage is coloratura soprano Kvitka Cisyk. Nowadays, people know her as a famous and successful American singer and most are not aware of her Ukrainian ethnicity. She lived her entire life in the USA. Her voice was admired in all of American show business. Kvitka Cisyk worked with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and other world stars. But in Ukraine, she was heard and praised only after her death.

Even 22 years after her death, Ukrainians still love and sing her songs. Kvitka Cisyk, born on April 4th, 1953 to Ukrainian immigrants and was given a Ukrainian name that means “flower”. She graduated from the High School of Music & Art in New York and started her career as a session singer. In 1978, the song "You Light Up My Life", performed by Kvitka Cisyk won an Oscar and Golden Globe Award. The song was also nominated for a Grammy in the Song of the Year category.

Kvitka Cisyk recorded two Ukrainian-language albums - "Flower" and "Two Colors". She hired New York's finest musicians, who were accompanied by Kvitka’s sister and mother. “Flower” and “Two Colors” were dedicated to “the spirit of the Ukrainian soul, whose wings can never be broken”. According to Wikipedia, both albums were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

Kvitka Cisyk’s contributions to Ukrainian and American music are invaluable. Her voice was heard in the advertisements of Coca-Cola, American Airlines and McDonald's. She was the official voice of Ford Motor for 16 years. A large number of Americans still remember the musical jingle “Have you driven a Ford lately?” by Kvitka Cisyk. The Ford company estimated that Cisyk's voice was heard over 22 billion times, which is several times more than the Earth's population.

This talented woman and her unforgettable voice will always stay in our hearts. Her experiments with styles, ranging from jazz to classical, her great success in performing "pop" songs, as well as opera singing will inspire Ukrainians, Americans and people all over the world to follow their dreams and fulfill them.

Another enchanting and inspiring figure with Ukrainian roots that conquered the U.S. with her beauty and intellect is Hedwig Maria Kisler. Later she took the name Hedy Lamarr. A daughter of the director of Lviv Bank, she appeared in 30 movies but did not consider it her main accomplishment. She was an Austrian-American actress, inventor, and film producer.

Hedy Lamarr was born on November 9th, 1914, in Vienna. Hedy's father had a successful career at one of Lviv's banks. The mother was a famous pianist from Budapest. Therefore, from a young age, the girl was able to travel to Europe and take acting classes. Hedy most of all enjoyed learning foreign languages, playing the piano, and, oddly enough, math. Back then, no one knew what grand inventions awaited her in the future. Her childhood was in the years of the First World War and her schooling took place at the time of the post-war crisis. At 16, she left home forever to become an actress. Hedy’s first small roles were in “Money on the Street” and “Storm in a Water Glass”. The film “Ecstasy” brought here huge fame and brought her world recognition after winning an award in Rome.

Being a fearless and strong figure, having the title of "the most beautiful woman in the world" in 1942, Hedy did not limit her potential to playing roles in front of the camera. In her spare time she was engaged in science. This charming and fragile woman co-invented an early version of the frequency-hopping spread spectrum. The invention formed the basis of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for the United States military. Together with her friend and composer George Antheli, Hedy Lamarr developed a radio guidance system that allowed remote control of  torpedoes. The system consisted of 88 frequencies, the same as the number of keys in the piano. The signal was transmitted by variable channels, which guaranteed the security of information. Invented by Hedy Lamarr, spread-spectrum techniques were later incorporated into Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Hedy Lamarr’s and George Antheli’s work was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Courage, dedication, and hard work to refine the natural gems of their talents is what unites these beautiful women with Ukrainian roots. When faced with various challenges and ordeals, they remained steadfast and faithful to their work. Although some spent their lives in other countries, they always remained Ukrainian in spirit and heart, because, just as contemporary Ukrainians do, they were working exhaustively in pursuit of freedom and happiness. This desire is perfectly expressed in the poems of Lina Kostenko, the songs of Kvitka Cisyk and in the inventions of Hedy Lamarr. The whole world will always remember and honor their creative expression, which contributed to making this world a more advanced and beautiful place.