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She Turned Red: Ukrainian Instrumental Folk Music in Alberta, Canada ca. 1951​-​53

by Metro Radomsky

Kozak 02:31
Paraska 02:30
Baryshnia 02:30
Romunka 02:38


Metro Radomsky was born Nov. 7, 1910, in rural Alberta, Canada about 50 miles north of Edmonton into a farming family. The youngest of four children, his parents Porpi and Maysta had emigrated in 1902 from Bukovina on the northern slopes of the Carpathian mountains in southern Ukraine near the present-day Romanian border. He was gifted a second-hand violin at the age of 9 and began performing at weddings by the age of 12. As a teenager, he took lessons for three years in Edmonton from Walter Holowach (b. 1909; d. 2008), who had earned a Doctorate in violin at the Vienna Conservatory. Holowach suggested that Radomsky go to Vienna to study, but when Radomsky’s father drowned in the North Saskatchewan River, Radomsky took over the family farm at the age of 17.

Around the same time, he formed a band with tsymbaly (or cymbal, hammered-dulcimer) player Metro Lastiwka. While farming and playing music, he married Jean Tkachuk (b. Jan. 25, 1913; d. Oct. 25, 2005) in 1934 with whom he had three children (one of whom married one of Lastiwka’s children.) In 1945, he took a job with the Pioneer company which sold grain elevators. He continued with that work until he was 68 years old.

In January 1951 Radomsky and Lastiwka won a talent competition. It seems likely that this led to their first recordings, made in locally in Canada and released by the Lower East Side New York-based Stinson label which specialized in Soviet and Leftist musics. This album contains ten of the fourteen sides they made at the time. The majority of Stinson’s catalog were “pirated” dubs of discs from the Soviet Union or discs made decades earlier in the U.S. Radomsky’s records were among a small number that weren’t pirates.

A gregarious, fun guy, Radomsky worked relentlessly at weddings for the Ukrainian community in Western Canada in the early ‘50s, often playing 14 gigs every two weeks. His son Ken remembered the band playing gigs on 22 consecutive nights around that time. Drinking whiskey and moonshine was part of the job, and Radomsky regularly worked until 4 AM and then stayed to drink for another hour afterward to the dismay of his wife and the disharmony of his marriage. It was only when he drove into a tree on his way home at 5 AM in his 60s that he was embarrassed into switching to drinking only beer.

Radomsky took the music seriously and was a demanding leader with the members of the group who rotated over the course of sixty years. Ultimately 45 different people played with the band; Lastiwka continued to be his main collaborator well into the 1960s. Radomsky recorded a handful of LPs during the 1960s-80s, but he finally folded the group in 1989 when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, having previously been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

In 1992, the Alberta Council for Ukrainian Arts gave him an award for Excellence in Artistry. He died on May 12, 1995, at the age of 84. One contemporary told an Edmonton newspaper, “His music was moving, because he played from the heart.” A school friend said, “He could really play that violin. It talked for him.”


released July 17, 2023

Transfers, restorations, and notes by Ian Nagoski

Metro Radomsky: violin, tracks 1-10
Metro Lastiwka: cymbaly, tracks 1-10
George Danyluk: percussion, certainly tracks 1-4, likely tracks 5-10
likely Ken Radomsky: saxophone, tracks 5-9
unknown: trumpet, tracks 7-9

Cover photo: Radomsky Quartet ca. 1954. L-R Metro Lastiwka, Metro Radomsky, unknown (maybe George Danyluk), Ken Radomsky

Thanks Ethan Toews

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