Andriy Mykhailovych Danylko (Verka Serduchka): The Courage to Break the Mold

In 1991, comedian, dancer and singer Andriy Danylko began playing Verka Serduchka: a character that would capture the hearts of Eurovision fans everywhere. Verka’s character—a railroad sleeping car attendant with an over-the-top wardrobe—is a remarkable mixture of bold and lovable. Verka’s catchy tune and dance number, “Dancing Lasha Tumbai,” was an instant hit among Eurovision fans. Though it placed second in the contest, the performance was so memorable, it cemented Verka’s place in Eurovision history.

Andriy took a DNA test to learn about his family history, and at MyHeritage, we used the results and our vast archive of historical documents to research Andriy’s heritage.

Watch Verka’s hilarious reveal here:

MyHeritage DNA Results

Andriy's MyHeritage DNA Ethnicity Estimate
Andriy’s MyHeritage DNA Ethnicity Estimate

It turns out that Andriy’s DNA is focused primarily outside of his home country of Ukraine: he is 54.9% Baltic, 41.2% Balkan and only 3.9% East European.

MyHeritage found hundreds of Andriy’s relatives, including 395 in the USA, 127 in Germany, 45 in Sweden, 39 in Great Britain, 36 in Canada, 30 in Russia, 28 in Finland, 21 in France, 20 in Austria, 15 in Australia and 27 more countries.

Our genealogical research, however, showed a close and important link with the history of Ukraine.

Illiya Homentovskiy (great-grandfather)

Andriy Danylko’s maternal great-grandfather Illiya Homentovskiy was born in Kyiv. His father, Ivan Fedorovich Homentovskiy, is listed in the 1907 Kyiv address book.

Kyiv Address Book 1907
Kyiv Address Book 1907

 

Kyiv Address Book 1907
Kyiv Address Book 1907

His home address is listed there as Nesterovska Street, which is located in downtown Kyiv. Ivan’s father’s name—Illiya’s grandfather and Andriy’s 3rd great-grandfather—was Fedor Homentovski.

Kyiv, Nesterovska Street, where Illiya and Ivan lived.
Kyiv, Nesterovska Street, where Illiya and Ivan lived.

After finishing high school and military college, Illiya Homentovskiy joined the army. Later, he graduated from the military academy and became a senior officer.

Illiya Homentovski military registration card
Illiya Homentovski military registration card

In 1909 he served as a captain in the 69th Ryazanskiy infantry regiment which was stationed in the city of Lublin (Polish Kingdom in the Russian Empire), at Krakowskie Przedmieście Street by the Warsaw highway.

Lublin, where Illiya was stationed in 1909
Lublin, where Illiya was stationed in 1909

The military barracks of the regiment were located on the current Aleje Raclawickie Street. Unfortunately, they didn’t survive. However, one building is still standing: the old regiment Russian Orthodox church, built by the Russian garrison in 1904. It is currently a Roman Catholic church used by the Polish Lublin garrison.

Garrison church in Lublin
Garrison church in Lublin

Illiya Homentovskiy eventually got married and had a son and two daughters. One of them, Maria, is Andriy Danylko’s maternal grandmother. Illiya’s children were baptized in the church pictured above.

Illiya perished on September 14,1914, during the battle for Galicia during World War I.

Casualty list as of September 14, 1914 that mentions Illiya
Casualty list as of September 14, 1914 that mentions Illiya

Ivan Vasilievich Biba (maternal grandfather)

Andriy Danylko’s maternal grandfather Ivan Vasilievich Biba was born in 1911 in the village of Velykyi Kobeliachok, about 48 km SW of Poltava. He was a farmer in the collective farm, and lived with his wife and his daughter. (The name “Vasilievich” means his father’s name was Vasyl.)

The village was originally founded as a Cossacks’ settlement. In 1900, the village was the center of Velykyi Kobeliachok township.

The village of Velykyi Kobeliachok
The village of Velykyi Kobeliachok
Old schoolhouse in Velykyi Kobeliachok
Old schoolhouse in Velykyi Kobeliachok

The village specializes in grain agriculture, contributing to Ukraine’s reputation as the bread basket of Europe and the Russian Empire.
When the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941, Ivan was drafted into the army and completed a number of junior officer training courses. At that time, junior officers were trained quickly—the duration of the courses was only 3-6 months. Ivan joined the 7th brigade of Marines of the Black Sea Navy in the position of a platoon commander.

Ivan Biba's military registration card
Ivan Biba’s military registration card

Biba fought in the battle of Sevastopol. In June 1942, the city of Sevastopol was under continuous Nazi artillery shelling and heavy bombing. On June 2, 1942 he was killed in Sevastopol by a German air bomb.

Casualty list where Ivan Biba is listed
Casualty list where Ivan Biba is listed

At the same time, his wife Maria Illinichna and their daughter Svitlana (Andriy’s mother) were in Stalingrad, living at Naberezhna 23—in the very epicenter of the combat, just a few dozen meters from buildings whose ruins became world famous in photographs as symbols of the Stalingrad battle. Against all odds, Maria and Svitlana managed to survive.

Semen Danylko (paternal grandfather)

Andriy’s paternal grandfather, Semen Danylko, son of Danylo Danylko, was born in 1906 in the village of Vakulentsi on the Eastern suburbs of the larger city of Poltava. His parents later moved to the neighboring village of Krutyi Bereg, where his younger brother Sergiy was born in 1917.

Postcard from Krutyi Bereg, dated pre-1917
Postcard from Krutyi Bereg, dated pre-1917

The village Krutyi Bereg became famous in 1709 when, on June 4 of that year, the Russian tzar Peter I attended the military council held in the village, and it was there that he made the decision to proceed with a major military operation. On June 19, the Russian army crossed the river Vorskla—north of Krutyi Bereg—and 3 weeks later, on July 8, the major battle of the North War of 1700-1721 took place.
In that battle, the Tzar’s army defeated the Swedish troops under Karl XII’s leadership along with their Ukrainian allies—the troops of Hetman Ivan Mazepa. It was a turning point in European history, and it had a particular impact on Ukrainian history during the next 300 years.

The Military Council in Krutyi Bereg
The Military Council in Krutyi Bereg

In 1938, Semen Danylko had a newborn son, Mykhailo (Andriy’s father). On the same year, his brother Sergiy (Andriy’s great uncle) became a cadre officer in the Red Army. Sergiy served as a mechanic at the Aviation Fighter Regiment of the 144th Aviation Fighter division, and worked on the Hawker Hurricane British airplanes that were supplied by the allies to the USSR during the war. Sergiy Danylko was awarded several times and received medals for his excellent performance.

Sergiy Danylko's order of reward as of February 16, 1945
Sergiy Danylko’s order of reward as of February 16, 1945

Semen, Andiy’s grandfather, was drafted into the Soviet army after his native Poltava was liberated from the Nazis in October of 1943. He served in telephone communication unit of the 960th regiment of the 360th rifle division and traveled all the way to Berlin. He was awarded a Medal of Valor for his courage in laying and repairing telephone lines during combat.

Semen Danylko's order of reward as of January 20, 1945
Semen Danylko’s order of reward as of January 20, 1945

We can plainly see through MyHeritage’s research into Andriy’s family that he is just one in a long line of brave, resilient men and women who were willing to stand up and fight for their people. Now we know where Andriy gets the courage to represent Ukrainians not only through music, but also through brilliant, mold-breaking satire.