Pearl in the pearl of Russia – Soviet Sakhalin

In the collection of our project there are several songs about the Kuril Islands. Among their songwriters are Yuri Vizbor, Igor Slutsky, Yuri and Igor Nikolaev, Sergey Starzhinsky and others. Today we present you another composition, as they say, “in the theme”, by Vasily Levkovsky from South Sakhalin. It is called “Iturup”.

Vasily Levkovski.

In 1985, Levkovsky, a graduate of the Ukrainian Agricultural Academy, arrived in Sakhalin with a diploma as an engineer-teacher in agricultural disciplines. He served in the army in the south of the island. For a month, he temporarily served as the conductor of a military orchestra, after which he became an infantryman and commander of a transport boat on Iturup. In 1995 he retired as commander of a group of auxiliary ships.

After visiting Ukraine after his service, Vasily made a choice in favor of Sakhalin. The island became his permanent residence.

“Music has always been with me,” Levkowski says. At the age of six, my father taught me to play the harmonica. In three years at the children’s music school, I learned to play the accordion. But one day a teacher hit me with a ruler on my fingers because I broke the order of alternating fingers. I was insulted and no longer attended classes, no matter how my parents persuaded me. He himself began to master various instruments – brass, keyboard, strings (except for the violin).

Vasily started writing poems at school. He shared that he willingly gave the girls greeting cards with poems for a birthday or a holiday. The lines, however, rhymed well even in his youth, especially on naval watch night.

“You are fasting, and there is water around you and stars above you,” says Basil. – Yes, and now the soul responds with rhymes of beauty and vivid impressions.

One day, a resident of South Sakhalin was walking past a pavilion on the square of the regional scientific library. Music played there, those who wished were invited to read poetry or a play. Levkovsky didn’t have an accordion, but he read poetry. And then he began to look for a musical instrument shop in the city, but to no avail.

And yet he had an accordion. Optionally. Vasily was visiting a friend and noticed an old accordion from the Leningrad Musical Instrument Plant near the container. He was overjoyed. I cleaned, dried, re-glued and gave it a second life.

– I am 64, and the accordion is under 60 – laughs Levkovski. – Somehow they gave me the address of a Holmchan, his daughter once studied the accordion. The instrument has been sitting in the closet for 20 years, damp. Now I want to assemble one of the two accordions. There are no parts anywhere…

Vasily works in the security of a military hospital.

– You are on duty at night, you will go out into the street and memories from the past will come flooding back. I was more comfortable then. Especially to Iturup, to whom he dedicated the song. In my opinion, this island is a pearl in the pearl of Russia.

Once an acquaintance who heard this composition said to Vasily: “Petrovich, come up with something for Sakhalin.” At the end of September, over Victory Square, the accordionist saw a wedge of 17 flying swans.

“I got hit,” he shared his impressions. – A poem appeared, perhaps for a future song. In it there is such a line: “And a person who has visited Sakhalin at least once, like a flock of swans, will return here again one day.”

Lyudmila Stepanets.

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