The Language that is a Nightingale and the Words of a President

The legend that tells us why the Ukrainian Language is a Nightingale is meant to be shared, especially in these times of war, and not only with children… They say Ukrainian is a language as beautiful as a birdsong, and for its speakers as special and full of hope as the nightingale is.

Why the Ukrainian Language is a Nightingale.

Once upon a time when the earth was new and grass grew thick and lush all over without the knowledge of a sharp blade… When birds sang in the bushes, and in the trees, and across the blue sky above and none had ever heard the deafening blow of a weapon, nor had they smelled the pungent stench of gunpowder… When all animals lived in peace for there was space and food aplenty…

Once upon such a time God, having just finished His creation, divided the earth among nations and gave them all land and languages. Wholeheartedly and equally shared, the way a loving parent would…

He handed out everything He had and then sat down to rest.

The Cossacks only arrived at the sharing place late in the evening. They dismounted before their stallions halted and approached by foot, stepping softly, patting dust off their clothes, removing their tall, woolly hats in respect… Some wiping a nervous hand over their thick mustaches. For they were late… And they understood that they were late. Tall men whose warrior hearts now quivered, brave men still carrying the scent of the journey with them, still hearing the blow of the wind around them.. they now stood in silence. Only one of them, their leader, approached God. Placing a knee to the ground, resting an elbow on it he bowed low, his hat sweeping over the grass for the first time in weeks.

God looked at him. A stern look on His face. A twinkle in His eye. For He loved all His children equally.

The Cossacks leader dared not lift his head. It smelled like bread and peace around God, a scent he remembered only from childhood.

God set aside the piece of wood He was carving and softly asked.

‘Where were you when I called everyone?’

‘We protected the world from the Busurmans,” the Cossack whispered.

God sighed. How to ever keep His children from fighting?

‘I have kept some land for myself,” said the Lord next. ‘I will give this land to you, Cossacks.’

Behind them, as one, all warriors dropped to their knees, bowed their heads, and thanked God with their hearts. The carts with women and children had just arrived, and on time for all to bow in respect.

‘And the language?’ the Cossack leader asked next and God smiled. His Cossacks will not be happy dumb. Then He picked up the brown piece of wood He’d been busy carving, blew over it and it turned into a bird.

‘I will give you my language, the Nightingale’s song,’ said God. Like any parent, He gave gladly what was closest to Him. ‘Let your people speak it. I will use another birdsong,’ He smiled, for He loved all of His creatures.

Joyful, one Cossack removed his kobza from his saddlebag and began plucking its strings. The song was sweet, mournful over what they nearly missed, but as he played his head bowed in thanks, his fingers prayed faster and faster, lifting everyone’s spirits. One other Cossack began to dance, still squatting, still keeping low, only his arms folded, one leg above the ground. Hopping the hopak. Another one joined him in unison. Afar, women sang, some even explaining the children what had just happened, spinning stories, about sunflowers… Maybe even this story…

And God smiled, nodding to Himself. He’d done good.

It is said that the Ukrainian language has been called a nightingale ever since.


The nightingale was still singing when a Sky News Twitter post caught my eye. One man, dressed in his khaki attire I had become accustomed to, was seated on carpeted steps in what appeared to be a casual chat.

I’ve never seen a President offering such an informal interview before. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to Sky News‘ Alex Crawford in a 7 minute interview:

Minute 5:58 stayed with me:

“We will never be Russians. If the idea is to do us as Russians, the idea is not, not great. So it will fail…”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

If your country was ever (forcefully) included in the Eastern Block, these words will ring true… A language is a nation’s identity. It’s the thread connecting us with our past, our childhood lullaby, and the legacy that confirms our children’s safe future, through our prayers.

If you are curious about the history behind Ukraine’s linguistic power struggle, I recommend this article from The Conversation.

Stay safe.

21 Replies to “The Language that is a Nightingale and the Words of a President”

  1. So true, Patricia. A country can try to capture another but the souls always remains free. Mr. Zelensky is talking sense, all the countries must act fast to diffuse the situation, before it’s too late.
    The misery of innocent people is absolutely heart breaking, this man made disaster must be immediately stopped.

    1. Each day brings new hope. It is hard to comprehend how such atrocities can happen right next-door from us and in the 21st century! How could evil crawl from its hole and fool the entire world…

  2. That’s exactly how Romanians from Basarabia must have felt back when they were in the USSR. I feel for the Ukrainians. ❤️ I wake up every morning hoping that the light at the end of the tunnel is visible.

    1. Oh, yes, Jo! Your memory is spot on. Yet that was more than a century ago, isn’t it? It is unimaginable, the reality that the Ukrainians are forced to live. Like you said, each morning I wake up hoping that a peaceful solution was found.

  3. What a beautiful story on the Ukraine language and people. Richard, the photographer of this blog, grew up in Poland during communism. It’s helpful to have his perspective on these horrible events. Maggie

  4. As I feel it very hard to bear this actual situation in the Ukrain,Patricia, I desperately feel like going back in time to the hunters and collectors, where there was enough space and food for everybody and for the nightingale’s song! Many thank for your thought-provoking contribution:)

    1. Thank you so much, Martina, for your heartfelt comment.
      It is hard to set ourselves apart from the horrors that the innocent people of Ukraine are going through. Yet it doesn’t feel right to try to step aside and counting oneself lucky for having been born elsewhere either. I feel as if I owe it to the innocent who died or have been uprooted, to witness, to learn, to not keep silent.
      Thank you for reading. Hugs.

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