Immigrant Patriotism: "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in Ukrainian

Although many migrants from what is now Ukraine to the United States around the turn of the 20th century came simply to earn money and return home, a good number ended up settling and making a new home in a new country. Learning English was a major challenge for some of them, particularly the older ones, but that did not stop them from expressing a patriotic appreciation of their adopted country.

This intriguing piece of sheet music has both the original English and translated Ukrainian lyrics for "My Country "Tis of Thee", a tune better known to our British, Canadian, and other Commonwealth country friends as "God Save the Queen". We don't know who created the translation or exactly when it was published, however, the distinctive spellings (e.g. the liberal use if "ї' in places that current Ukrainian orthography would use "і") suggest it was probably written in the late 1910s or early 1920s, and almost certainly before 1930.

The Ukrainian translation is remarkably faithful to the original, even down to the line about the "Land where my fathers died" ("Батьків могили тут" - "[My/Our] father's graves are here"), which would have been a bit incongruous for anybody likely to be singing this in Ukrainian: their father's graves were actually thousands of miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The very next line has the largest difference in literal meaning between the original and translation, and the change is intriguing. "Land of the Pilgrims' pride" is translated as "Тут всїм бездомним путь" - "To here is a path for all of the homeless". If our estimate of the publication date is correct, then the author of this translation would have been very aware of the many political and military refugees created by the recently-lost Ukrainian War of Independence who were living as exiles in Europe and North America. It is also an eerie premonition of the untold thousands of Ukrainians who would be rendered homeless in World War II a couple of decades later, many of whom would end up in the United States as DPs (Displaced Persons, or "Delayed Pilgrims", as they were sometimes referred to) and who would also learn to sing this song.