The Museum of Leontovych in Markivka was opened back in 1977 to mark the 100th birth anniversary of the composer. It is one of the first things the visitors see when they enter the village, but it had never seen any kind of special attention from authorities, locals, or tourists. For a long time it had been in disrepair: the roof leaked, the walls cracked, the alarm was out of order – because of that it got burgled at least twice: one time, silver and bronze cutlery was stolen from Leontovych’s memorial room, and another time someone stole two paintings, created by the composer’s sister. In 2015, the museum became a branch of Vinnytsia Local History Museum. And the following visit of oblast authorities marked its revival from ashes.
The reconstruction of the museum’s premises and of the “Shchedryk” memorial sign on the composer’s grave lasted three months. The oblast budget allocated 1.15 million hryvnias for that task. Meanwhile, the village council has developed a project to create a park near the grave. Trees are going to be planted this autumn. Now the entire museum complex has become newer not only in appearance, but in the concept as well.
“Leontovych’s museum has transformed completely,” Kateryna Vysotska, director of Vinnytsia Local History Museum, is delighted. “The museum’s display is presented in four rooms, each one is equipped with a special multimedia system. They play a soundtrack that complements visual artifacts and contain archived materials that did not fit in the display – both are extremely important for familiarizing with Leontovych and his personality.”
The museum consists of four rooms. The first one, “Vinnytsia region – Leontovych’s homeland,” is dedicated to the life and career of the Ukrainian composer, and his relationship with Vinnytsia and Podillia in general. In the center of the hall is the piano on which he learned to play, and then taught his children. The instrument is in good condition and, as museum workers say, may still surprise visitors with its beautiful sound.
The second room is a memorial one – the former office of his father, who was a village priest. Here the authentic family possessions of Leontovyches are kept, including the furniture from the father’s study, his books and clothes. Opposite is the family’s dining room, with furniture, dishes, family photos, and a wall carpet from the parents’ home, which has been renovated for the museum. The couch, on which the Ukrainian Chopin was allegedly shot to death, was also restored. The fourth hall is dedicated to Leontovych’s music in Ukraine and abroad.
In general, there have survived more than 500 exhibits in the museum, 70 percent of them being transferred from the old museum’s collection, which was founded in the 1970 by Volodymyr Zavalniuk, Leontovych’s biography researcher. This time, to celebrate the opening of a renovated museum, the researcher presented Leontovych’s letters to his wife Klavdia, a few family photos of his, and business card.
“I delivered the most expensive items in my collection – manuscripts and letters by Leontovych, that is the things written in his own hand and created personally by him,” says Zavalniuk. “The opening of the museum and the memorial is a significant event not only for our region but for the entire Ukraine, for Leontovych was a brilliant composer better known abroad than in Ukraine. Despite this, he remained an extremely humble man. And when his ‘Shchedryk’ was heard around the world, he was saying to his wife: ‘Klava, do not worry, we will live better when I become a composer...’ Finally the time has come for Leontovych to regain the glory he deserves. And I’m filled with pride. This museum in his honor has to become a center for choral music. Folk song framed by Leontovych has to be heard around the world and to bring the glory to Ukraine, because it contains the genetic code of our nation, the story of survival and revival.”