Polish Language Blog

Polish Folk Songs – Pognała wołki na bukowinę Posted by on Jan 19, 2010 in Culture

Do you like to sing in the shower? No? Me neither. So imagine my utter shock and surprise when something possessed me this morning to open my mouth (and immediately get almost choked to death by inhaling a bucketful of water) and start singing (after spitting and coughing out all the water, naturally).

And imagine my even greater shock and surprise when I started singing something that I probably haven’t heard since I was about 5 years old. Yep, we’re talking folk songs here. Polish folk songs. Polskie piosenki ludowe.

My mom and grandma were huge fans of folk songs, and not just Polish folk songs. If it involved fiddles and accordions, you can be almost 100% sure I was subjected to it as a child. Mercifully, I was spared folk dances, probably because even my adoring parents could very clearly see that I had absolutely zero rhythm. They gave me a Rubik’s cube instead, but that’s a story for another time.

So, piosenki ludowe – yes, tańce ludowe – nie.

What surprised me this morning was that after all these years I still remembered the words. Now, that’s what I call imprinting (or brainwashing)! Of course it all got a bit hazy after the first two verses, but it was quite remarkable nonetheless.

And just what magnificent folk song did I decide to butcher in the shower this morning? “Pognała wołki na bukowinę”.

I remember when I was five years old I didn’t know what “bukowina” was and nobody could quite explain it to me. Now, after all these years, I still have no clue.

Yes, I know that Bukovina is a historic region now split between Ukraine and Romania, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the bukowina referred to in the song.

After calling a bunch of friends, we more or less established that this bukowina is some sort of a mountain meadow where this girl decided to take her cows for a bit of a fresh grass munching session. She also took her fiddle with her and while her cows munched, she played and sang. And apparently during this musical interlude, her cows ran away, or she lost them. (Gee, makes you wonder just how bad her playing and singing must have been, right?)

Then a guy shows up, finds her lost cows and demands a kiss for his efforts.

Yeah, that’s more or less how the story goes.

And here is the song itself (as an mp3) if you wish to listen to it. No, don’t worry, it’s not me singing. It’s a disco polo version. (Hey, no laughing! I happen to like disco polo!)

Pognała wołki na bukowinę”.

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  1. mrtom:

    I can remember that when I studied we learnt this song in Latin. Unfortunatelly I was not good either at singing or absorbing the language of philosophy and I can’t remember the translated title. Anyway, it was then when I heard of the song for the first time. Today is the second time heh

  2. James:

    Hi Anna, Further to your comment in an earlier blog about meeting up with some of your readers when you visit Birmingham UK later this year. I attend a Polish class in Birmingham and , like some of my colleagues, always read your blogs and find them very useful. I’m sure we would all like to meet up with you if it can be arranged and maybe our teacher will come too.


    thanks for the song. Wifes Mom who is polish has a 90th birthday soon. i put this in the mix. the folks will appreciate a little taste of the old country!