'Amadoka' Concert Draws Inspiration From Ukraine's Perseverance

Veronika Yadukha, Guarini '23, curated a musical interpretation of the award-winning Ukrainian novel, which will be performed at Dartmouth on April 5.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third year, a group of Ukrainian musicians now living in Germany is coming to Hanover to perform compositions based on an award-winning novel chronicling Ukraine's historic perseverance through traumatic upheaval. 

The North American premiere of Amadoka, a concert of contemporary music, will take place at 4 p.m. on  Friday, April 5, in Rollins Chapel. The concert is free and open to the public.

The three composers, Albert Saprykin, Boris Loginov, and Maxim Kolomiiets—who will also be performing, along with local musicians—draw inspiration from Amadoka, a novel by Sofia Andrukhovych which was originally published in Ukrainian in 2020 and is expected to be available in English from Simon and Schuster next year.

The 2023 winner of the Encounter Ukrainian-Jewish Literary Prize, the book takes its title from an ancient lake in today's Podillia region of Ukraine, weaving together gripping personal stories from three blood-stained eras: the Stalinist repressions of Ukrainian intelligentsia in what was then the Soviet Union, the Holocaust, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Veronika Yadukha, Guarini '23, a graduate of the MA Program Comparative Literature, conceived and curated the event, which will include a discussion with her and the composers after the performance. 

Yadukha is a founding member of Translatorium, a literature and translation festival in Ukraine with a focus on artistic translation and translation between different art forms. The concert inspired by Amadoka premiered at Ukraine's Khmelnytskyi Regional Philharmonic Hall in 2022.

"I came up with the idea of translating Sofia Andrukhovych's Amadoka into contemporary classical music back in 2021 and immediately went to work with the composers to bring it to life," she says.  "Three years later, we have staged performances in Ukraine and Germany, and now we are taking it to North America." 

​Listen to a fragment of "Sofia" performed by Orest Smovzh (violin) and composed by Albert Saprykin:

Yaduhka came to Dartmouth with her four-year-old son in 2022 to escape Russia's full-scale invasion of her country. She specializes in intersemiotic translation, which involves transposing one type of artwork into another. 

"I think we all suffer from the feeling of not being able to say the right things about Ukraine," she says. "There are always not enough words, and something important remains unsaid. A musical piece is a very broad and abstract message based on a novel, but which, above all, offers an individual experience of the themes and characters, as well as of one's own feelings, which makes the concert a very personal experience. Music is a testament to what we, as humans, can feel, and for us now, it is a channel for conversation."

Yadukha says the concert has its North American premiere at Dartmouth at a pivotal moment in the war. 

"In the last week of March alone, the Russians used almost 190 missiles of various types. Recently, I learned that the former cameraman of Translatorium was killed defending our country. He was a person like me who was engaged in culture and who had never been involved in military service before. The best and the bravest people of my generation are dying defending Ukraine against Russia. So this project, the concert, is very personal, just like Amadoka the novel, which describes the tragedies of our nation."

A unique element of the concert in the U.S. is a set of ceramic musical instruments Yadukha created with the help of Oaxaca-based artist Hernan Vargas. "Water being a central metaphor in the novel, the three distinct instruments embody the themes of lost memory, injustice, and history erased from national memory," she says.

At Dartmouth, the Amadoka project is sponsored by the Harris German Visiting Professor Program, which is bringing the composers to campus not only for the concert, but to teach a seminar with Professor of Music William Cheng. Other sponsors include the Department of Music, the Digital Ethnic Futures Lab, and Dartmouth's Comparative Literature Program.

Harris Program Director Viktor Witkowski, a painter and filmmaker and lecturer in studio art, says he hopes the concert will raise awareness of a struggle for existence that continues to rage in Ukraine.

"This music is an expression of the will and need for survival," says Witkowski, whose grandfather was from Ukraine, and whose parents fled Poland in the 1980s, when 100,000 Soviet troops were stationed in Poland. "The concert stands for the desire to demonstrate that amidst the carnage of Russia's war, Ukrainian artistic creation continues. It should not have to continue under these conditions. But if art prevails, humanity will too."

"Art shouldn't shun the darkness that surrounds it," he says. "It should transform that darkness."