Danylo and Alexander Fedoryka grew up in an American household rooted in Ukrainian traditions. Their first language was Ukrainian, and the name of the band they founded some 20 years ago, Scythian, is a nod to the ancient nomadic empire of Scythia, a vast region that included modern-day Ukraine.
As children, the brothers soaked in their grandparents’ stories about their ancestral homeland. In one tale that particularly inspired them, villagers collectively halted their work to assemble a venue for music and dancing on the rare occasion when a fiddler roamed into town.
“That was their one chance a year to have a dance and to lay aside their worries and their cares,” Danylo said. “Alex and I listened and we’re like, ‘That’s what we want to do.’”
On Feb. 26, the Fedoryka brothers fulfilled that vision by performing traditional Ukrainian songs with their band during a livestreamed concert to raise funds for those suffering from the invasion of Ukraine. The group asked fans to donate to the Knights of Columbus Ukraine Solidarity Fund, which has raised more than $12 million for humanitarian aid such as food, water, medical supplies and clothing since it was launched on Feb. 25.
One of the songs performed during the concert — “Dearest Mother of Mine” — was especially poignant, recalling a story of a Ukrainian forced into exile from their home. But the Fedorykas believe that, even amid suffering, music can not only be cathartic or joyful, but also an avenue for listeners to experience God’s love. Their latest single, “The Motherland,” released March 4, expresses a resilient, hopeful spirit while “troubles darken skies,” as exemplified by the chorus’ emphatic toasts to Ukraine.
Danylo explained, “If you’re a jester or troubadour, if you’re a musician, there is almost a sacred obligation that you have to bring beauty and joy to help people emote.”
This sense of vocation has inspired their musical careers for the past two decades and was instilled in the brothers at an early age from their mother. A skilled musician in her own right (she attended the Juilliard School in New York as a concert pianist), she taught her children that music is a gift that can change the world.
“‘Music is the first entry point for God and can lead to God,’” Danylo recalls his mother saying to him and Alexander as young boys. “The Holy Spirit can work on a soul that is touched by beauty — and beauty is what opens the heart. And if you do something beautiful, then God can do his work.”
“She said just play 110% for the glory of God,” Alexander added. “The Holy Spirit works through joy. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. For us, music has been like a vocation as well as a passion.”
The boys’ father, too, encouraged them, often bringing the pair to local Knights of Columbus events and nursing homes to play for audiences. But more important than playing music, the brothers also practiced the faith with their family. Both Danylo and Alexander discerned a vocation to the priesthood, and it was in seminary that the band began as a ministry. The brothers later discerned out of seminary, but continued the band, releasing “Dance at the Crossroads” in 2002 — the first of more than 10 albums in their discography — and have since toured worldwide.
The life of a musician is often nomadic, but driven by a desire to commit to a cause they believed in, Danylo and Alexander joined John Carrell Jenkins Council 7771 in Front Royal, Va., in 2017. Danylo was particularly inspired by the pro-life iniatives of the Knights of Columbus, including assistance for pregnancy resource centers.
“There was one point where my brother and I were like, ‘We have to commit to something and lay down roots.’ And we chose to become Knights,” Danylo said. “Alex and I were really touched by that aspect of the Knights — that they were so focused specifically in that area of caring for women.”
It’s this intertwining of musicality with faith that makes Scythian unique, Danylo said. Their gift of music, he hopes, is helping those in need in Ukraine by providing some semblance of joy — like the fiddler from his grandparents’ stories — in one of the country’s darkest hours.
The Ukraine Solidarity Fund is providing hope and help for those affected by the war in Ukraine. 100% of your gift will directly meet essential needs of refugees and those displaced, including food, medical supplies, clothing and religious supplies. Donate to the Ukraine Solidarity Fund.
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