Volya: Bringing Belarus to Seattle, through Folk Songs and Traditions

Volya: Bringing Belarus to Seattle, through Folk Songs and Traditions

Marina Karptsova is a Tour Specialist in MIR’s Custom Group Travel department. Born in Turkmenistan and raised in Ukraine, she’s been an important part of MIR’s Seattle office for more than seven years.

I’d like to introduce you to my talented sister-in-law, Volya Dzemka – photographer, filmmaker and singer. She is a tireless champion of Belarusian musical traditions, and loves to sing the old songs herself.

Volya is a native Belarusian. She was born and raised in the capital city of Minsk, but spent her childhood summers with her grandparents in a small southwestern Belarusian village. It was in this village that she heard Belarusian folk songs for the first time and fell in love with their beauty and richness.

Volya, a native Belarusian, dressed in traditional dress. Photo credit: Volya Dzemka

Volya, a native Belarusian, dressed in a traditional costume
Photo credit: Volya Dzemka

Now, years later and a continent away, Volya is the lead singer in a Belarusian folk group that she organized, VOLYA, based in Seattle, Washington. The singers proudly wear hand-made traditional folk costumes that were donated to Volya by Belarusian villagers.

Traditional Belarusian SongsBelarusian folk songs are thought to be the oldest unadulterated songs in Europe. VOLYA’s repertoire consists of traditional songs from different regions of Belarus, some dating back to pre-medieval times.

Here the group performs the winter solstice song, “Kaza,” at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle. In archaic Belarusian, they are singing:

“Oh oh goat, oh oh Gray, where have you been and what have you heard?”

“Oh, I have been to the dark forest and the cherry orchards.”

Capturing Belarusian Traditions, Songs and StoriesIn 2011, Volya traveled to remote Belarusian villages where she learned more about the ancient unwritten traditions of the calendar cycle, captured performances and interviews with elders on film, and collected songs of weddings, love, lament, and battle.

(click on photo for larger version)


She is currently editing her footage into a documentary about Belarusian folk songs.

Travel to Belarus with MIRMIR has more than two decades of travel experience hand-crafting tour itineraries to Belarus and Central & East Europe.

Delve into the deep traditions of Belarus, including dining with a rural family in the Belarusian countryside, on our small group tour, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldovaor on a custom & private trip, tailored to your interest and pace.

(Top photo: VOLYA. Photo credit: Volya Dzemka)

PUBLISHED: April 27, 2015

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