Ирина Говоруха
Writer, blogger and journalist
Liberal Arts
6 minutes for reading

BRINGING HERITAGE TO LIFE: the unforgettable voice of Kvitka Cisyk

BRINGING HERITAGE TO LIFE: the unforgettable voice of Kvitka Cisyk
Share material
Photo source: detector.media


Her full name is Kvitoslava-Orysia. She is a Ukrainian who has visited Ukraine only once. The most expensive performer of commercials for such brands as Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Mr. Pibb, Sears, JCPenney. The unchanging voice of Ford Motors. She is the author of two albums of Ukrainian songs because she wanted to «weave her vocals into the torn canvas of Ukrainianness».

She had a coloratura soprano that featured master violins and church bells, and she could also sing in a white voice typical of Carpathian villagers. She never got tired of repeating to herself: «Yes, I live in America, but I am Ukrainian».


The year 1949 was coming to an end. The Cisyk family had just arrived in a new land where everything seemed foreign. Instead of spruce trees, there were skyscrapers. Instead of well water — soda. Milk porridge was transformed into dry breakfasts. Centimeters turned into inches.

The language has also dramatically changed. There was no longer any passion or melody. Instead — auxiliary verbs, hard consonants, and articles. Even such a simple word as «three» was difficult to pronounce. So, the couple experienced a lot of stress. They felt lost in a big, noisy city. And the past was also showing itself.

Iwanna (the mother) and Wolodymyr (the father) were married in Krynytsia, Poland, survived a terrifying bombing in Gdansk, and ended up in a displaced persons camp in Bayreuth, where their eldest daughter Maria was born. From there, they traveled to the ends of the earth to get away from the war, Soviet government, and repressions. They settled in bustling New York City.

That same fall, father Wolodymyr opened a private violin school, and mother Iwanna got a job in a bank. Four years later, in April, they had a child, Kvitka.




There was an unbreakable rule at home: to speak only in Ukrainian. The girls were taught music from an early age: violin and piano. So the younger one mastered trills and falsettos, sang, practiced ballet, was a scout, and loved equestrian sports.

She graduated from the High School of Music & Art in New York, was splitting between vocals and violin, but eventually singing prevailed. The only thing that stood in the way was a sense of guilt towards her father: he had invested all his knowledge in his daughter and had inherited «his own manner and fingers».




Life went wrong when the girl turned seventeen. A minute earlier, her father was standing on the stage, and then he turned pale and fainted. He died in an ambulance from a heart attack. She had to become an adult in the blink of an eye and start making her own living. Kvitka decided to do it with her voice. She took the pseudonym Kasey, sang in bars, and sent producers and advertising agencies her own recordings.

Her voice was noticed, so before she realized it, she had become the most expensive and sought-after singer of advertising jingles. She represented the Ford company — the jingle Have Your Driven A Ford Lately has been listened to twenty-two billion times and popularized Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Toyota. She received huge royalties and was able to buy property in the most expensive neighborhood of New York, near Central Park.


Квітка Цісик час зйомок «Have You Driven a Ford Lately?»
Kvitka Cisyk during the filming of Have You Driven a Ford Lately? / wikipedia.org


Sometimes, she would not sit down from six in the morning until one in the morning. She could take part in five advertising campaigns in a day. She collaborated with Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. She recorded soundtracks for feature films. She advertised chicken, airlines, and fast food. She sang for competing companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. When she was promoting cat food, she would turn into a cat and make a mischievous «meow, meow, meow»; when advertising dog food, she would act like a dog. The only thing was that she was afraid of a large audience.




Her first love was not long-lasting. Kvitka lived with jazz musician Jack Cortner for only a year, but he helped her create a record that she dedicated to her father. After all, the Ukrainian song lived in her soul from birth. It moved through the blood vessels with the blood and entered the lungs from the air with pear smoke, rye, and wheat. Spruce and linden trees. It didn’t matter that the New York air smelled of tobacco, banknotes, and stone.

That’s when the idea came up to record «The Dream Passes by the Windows» not to the usual bandura and flute but to a high professional level. About forty well-known musicians and arrangers were invited to work on the record: the best harp, cello, drums, flute, and celeste. The tracks were completed by three o’clock in the morning, as the famous artists had other things to do during the day. The singer paid the fee out of her own pocket.

Her sister Maria accompanied her, and her mother Iwanna made sure that her daughter did not bring the «o» closer to the «a», did not muffle the voiced ones, and sang the voiced palatal approximant clearly. The singer, who had never been to Ukraine and had no idea of the correct phonetics, was able to feel Ukrainians better than they felt themselves.


Вступая в клуб друзей Huxleў, Вы поддерживаете философию, науку и искусство


That’s how the albums «Kvitka» and «Two Colors» (released nine years later) were born and cost the singer two hundred thousand dollars. They were not planned as a commercial project but rather as a family affair. As a reminder of the homeland and its bounty. As a gift for all Ukrainians, wherever they live. The albums were nominated for the Grammy Awards, America’s major music prize, but «A Song to the Hill» and «The Rushnyk» did not interest Americans.

Later, a new love broke out. Edward Rakowicz, a famous recording engineer, became her chosen one. During the first meeting, the woman accidentally touched his cheek, and the man’s hair stood up on his arms. He fell madly in love, asked her out that evening, and kissed her after dinner. It was the most exquisite kiss of his life because the woman did everything in the world exquisitely. Later, he commented: «As a sound engineer, I was separated by glass and a console, but I always bowed my head to her.»

Soon, they got married and tasted true happiness. Kvitka gave birth to a son, whom she named Edward Wolodymyr in honor of her husband and late father but affectionately called Pumpkin. For every birthday, they bought a pumpkin and took pictures in front of it. Edward (the younger) became her universe in an instant.



Mother constantly sang Ukrainian songs to her son and took him to the studio with her. The couple lived in the center, traveled a lot, walked with their bear-like dog Medyo, and taught the boy the sensitive words «I love you», «sunshine», and «roots». For the sake of his wife, Edward (the elder) also learned a few sentences in Ukrainian to express the depth of his feelings, but every time he wanted to say goodnight to the child in English, he was told off.

The woman was small, only 147 centimeters tall. She was energetic to the point of madness. She loved long horseback rides and simple wildflowers: poppies, cornflowers, daisies. Her music was brought to Ukraine illegally, smuggled. One man who lived on a high mountain assured me that by the song «I Will Go to the Distant Hills», you could heal and purify. Every Sunday after the church service, Kvitka’s voice was played over the loudspeaker. The singing was like the sun rolling across the sky.




Unfortunately, a severe illness prevented her from living a happy life. Even before Pumpkin was born, doctors discovered that Kvitka had breast cancer, and she began exhausting treatment.

Breast cancer became a curse for the family. First, her mother died of this disease, then four years later, Kvitka, and the last to die was her older sister Maria. Doctors gave the singer a few months to live, but she lived for seven years. During this time, she underwent eleven surgeries, numerous chemotherapies, and radiotherapies, and never lost faith in her recovery.

One day, while walking down the street, she felt a sharp pain in her lower back. An X-ray showed a fracture of the pelvic bone, but this did not stop Kvitka. She continued performing, putting Pumpkin to sleep with Ukrainian lullabies and planning her third album.

The singer passed away at the age of forty-four. Her last recorded song was «The Cranes Are Flying»:


Crying: kroo-kroo-koo,

In a foreign land I’ll die,

By the time I fly across the sea,

I’ll wear away, my wings


…Kvitka Cisyk’s grandfather kept a suitcase by his door for forty years. He was planning to return to Ukraine and was waiting for it to become independent. Edward (the younger) became an academic pianist and often recalled: «Every note my mom sang was from an angel». Edward (the elder) is still single and continues to love his wife. He listens to her recordings every day.

In Kvitka’s voice, as before, you can hear waterfalls, meadows, ethereal fog, and horses kissing the green grass with tenderness. An exciting Easter morning. The lace of winter. Starry summer nights and the sweetness of the harvest. Unconditional love…


When copying materials, please place an active link to www.huxley.media
By joining the Huxleў friends club, you support philosophy, science and art
Share material

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: