|Eulogies for Roman Bociurkiw - Delivered at his funeral, Friday July 12, St Josaphat’s Cathedral, Edmonton|
By: Marusia Bociurkiw
the past few difficult days, memories of Roman
- as brother, son, nephew, uncle, friend, and musician have been
playing in our memories like the colourful flicker of a Super 8 film.
Roman as a kid, taking off on his tricycle to go across town to Baba’s
house. Roman always
subverting the family photo, in constant motion, a blur in the lens of a
camera. Roman discovering music, his life-long love: playing in a
bandura ensemble in Ottawa; leading the family in song on Sviat
Vechir; busking on Sparks Street Mall or in Byward Market in Ottawa.
Playing in cities across Canada; settling, finally, in Vancouver over
ten years ago, and becoming a landmark – the sound of his bandura
trickling like water, like something light-filled, luminous,
otherworldly – on Granville Street, on Robson; at the Skytrain
all knew different parts of Roman; we tried our best to weather his
overcast moods, savour moments when his particular brand of innocence
and wonder broke through the clouds. Some of us thought the road he had
chosen was a harsh one; some of us found it hard to find a way to be
part of that life. I regret that I didn’t respect his life so much
lately. I know he sensed that. However
in the past week Mikhailo had the privilege to learn about the last
years of Roman’s life in Vancouver. We met people like Stan and
Rosemary, who lived at the Marble Arch Hotel, and Kevin, the manager,
all of whom cared about Roman, admired his music, and talked to him
almost every day. I ran into Jeff, a street musician, who looks a little
bit like Roman, who knew him for many years. Jeff mused on their
interconnectedness: “Roman and I shared the same karma. If I got into
trouble, Roman would get heck, and vice versa”.
I got a phonecall from Zonya, a Ukrainian woman who also plays
bandura and said Roman was her mentor. For over 10 years she visited him
and had coffee with him every few weeks. Roman was a public figure in
Vancouver – well known and well-loved. Hundreds of people had their
own special connection to Roman’s music and character. My friend
Penny, who is Jewish, recalls how, after she’d stopped and chatted
with him, he’d always play a rousing round of Ha-va-na-gi-lah, or
something from “Fiddler on the Roof”, as she left.
A few weeks ago, my friend Haida took her one-year-old grandson
Liam downtown, and they stood for a few moments to listen to Roman play
Pachelbel Canon – his favourite piece. As they quietly started to walk
away, Roman muttered, philosophically of Liam: “he’ll always
remember Bach with the sound of traffic in the background”.
had a big heart, a great sense of humour, and a flair for the
unexpected. We never knew if he’d just dismiss us with a brusque hello
when we saw him on the street, or offer to pack up and go for a coffee
or a beer. When Sonya was visiting me in Vancouver, Roman took a day off
busking –something he rarely did -and took her for a tour of his
beloved Downtown Eastside so she could see how the other half live, onto
the Seabus to North Van, for a nice Italian meal and then a tour of Lynn
Canyon. Roman valued family but like everything else, he wanted it on
his own terms. He loved his mother, and shared with her a deep
spirituality. But Roman’s spirituality was his own: eclectic,
mystical, democratic. He was as comfortable discussing theology with
Vancouver’s Bishop Yakimyshyn, whom he often visited, as he was with
his friends in the bar. His was a sharp and generous intellect – much
like his father’s perhaps. He read hungrily, widely.Some of the books
on his bedside table: Thomas Merton’s “Contemplative Prayer”,
Salman Rushdie’s “Fury” and Jean Swanson’s “Poor Bashing: The
Politics of Exclusion”
spent his life trying to do exactly what he wanted, no matter how
difficult. He saw himself as a travelling
musician in the tradition of the Ukrainian kobzar,
who, in the pre-modern era, travelled the steppes of Ukraine bringing
news, poetry and music to the common person. This is not the easiest
lifestyle to imitate. But, up until his last day, Roman was earning
money doing what he loved best – playing his bandura
He often spoke passionately of his chosen
community – the Downtown Eastside, and of the friendships he
I dearly wish I could say I had been present in Roman’s life this
past year. You get tired of being rejected; you get busy. You think
there’s more time. I suppose I did what I could, which will never seem
like enough. I respect his
life now. Maybe respect is all any of us really need. Today, I want to
celebrate Roman’s life, a play of dark and light, a life which was
lived and felt very deeply, with determination and anger and dignity. I
want to pay tribute to the community that was with him through thick and
thin. I want and hope that his death will teach us something about life:
about accepting and respecting those who live in poverty, or who suffer
from addiction, or depression. Roman watched life on the streets get
tougher as more conservative municipal and provincial governments came
into power, cutting back
social services and
healthcare. In the last five years, he had to move from hotel to hotel
as gentrification spread through his neighbourhood, eliminating
affordable housing. So I want us to consider living our lives as Roman
would have wanted us to: with a sense of social justice and of respect
and appreciation for those who are different from ourselves – whether
they are in our families, or on our streets.
Let’s honour Roman with our deep respect, with irreverence and humour –
and, always, with music. Roman, you now live in your music. You’ve
moved into the light. Vichnaya
In Memory of my brother, Roman Bociurkiw
By Michael Bociurkiw
LACK OF COMPROMISE – THOUGH MADDENING INCOMPREHENSIBLE TO SOME – WAS
RARE, DARING AND PURE.
WORLD IS SKEWED, STACKED AGAINST INNOCENTS LIKE ROMAN.
EVEN AS SOME MAY LOOK ASKANCE AT A STREET MUSICIAN, A PIECE OF ALL OF US
- - OVERBURDENED AND STRESSED-OUT TOILERS, SWIRLING IN THE CURRENTS OF
THE MAINSTREAM - IS JEALOUS OF THE FREEDOM AND PRICE PEOPLE LIKE ROMAN
– WHO ARE WILLING TO PAY FOR THE FREEDOM.
QUIETLY ENVY AND RESPECT THE INTEGRITY. THEN WE “GET A GRIP” –
MOVE ALONG TO SOMEBODY ELSE’S TUNE AS THE MINSTREL’S MUSIC FOLOWS US
AROUND THE CORNER AND FADES AWAY.
HIS MUSIC BROUGHT JOY AND WONDER AND POSSIBILITIES TO THE COUNTLESS WHO
WRITING BY CHARLES DE FAUCALD IN HIS BOOK….
WITH ME WHAT YOU WILL.
YOU MAY DO, I THANK YOU
AM READY FOR ALL, I ACCEPT ALL
ONLY YOUR WILL BE DONE IN ME,
IN ALL YOUR CREATURES.
YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT.
OFFER IT TO YOU WITH ALL THE LOVE THAT IS IN MY HEART.
I LOVE YOU LORD, AND SO WANT TO GIVE MYSELF,
SURRENDER MYSELF INTO YOUR HANDS,
RESERVE AND WITH BOUNDLESS CONFIDENCE
YOU ARE MT FATHER. AMEN
IS WITH HIS FATHER NOW. THE BANDURA STRINGS, WHICH HE SO PASSIONATELY
PLUCKED, HAVE FALLEN SILENT. THE STREETS OF VANCOUVER ARE CRYING OUT IN
PAINFUL AGONY FOR HIS MUSIC. HIS FANS MISS HIM AND HIS FAMILY HERE TODAY
IS DEALING WITH THE LOSS OF A SON AND SIBLING AND SUCH AN EARLY AGE.
AS IT IS, LET US TRY TO CELEBRATE HIS LIFE AND CARRY WITH US FOREVER THE
LESSONS AND EXAMPLES THAT HE PROVIDED TO US.
WORDS FROM THIS OLD GAELIC BLESSING, ALSO FOUND IN ROMAN’S BOOK, MAY
BRING US SOME COMFORT….
THE ROAD RISE TO MEET YOU
THE WIND BE ALWAYS AT YOUR BACK
THE SUN SHINE WARM UPON YOUR FACE
THE RAINS FALL SOFTLY UPON YOUR FIELDS UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
GOD HOLD YOU IN THE HOLLOW OF HIS HAND