This post has been updated. Please see the note below.
The spotlight hasn't always been kind to Ukraine as it hosts the Euro 2012 soccer championships, with international headlines drawing new attention to everything from Eastern European racism to the plight of jailed former leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
But on Monday, the start of the first Ukrainian game in the tournament highlighted the country's seemingly pessimistic anthem: “Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished.” The phrase started trending on Twitter shortly after the game began, as amused soccer fans joked that the Ukrainian anthem was somewhat short of uplifting.
"Saturday Night Live" comedian Seth Meyers quipped in one tweet, “The only way to make 'Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished' a more pessimistic anthem title would be 'Ukraine Has Not Perished (Yet).' "
The anthem, which comes from a 19th century patriotic poem written by Pavlo Chubynsky, begins, “Ukraine’s glory hasn’t perished, nor her freedom / Upon us, fellow compatriots, fate shall smile once more.” Though the impassioned lyrics have endured as a reminder of the nation's turbulent history and eventual independence, some Ukrainians lament that the words are dour and outdated.
Four years ago, the Kiev Post reported that musician Oleh Skrypka came up with an alternative version that replaced the opening lines with the cheerier, “Our dear Ukraine is flourishing like a spring field / We are glorious Ukrainians / We’ve got a happy fate.” Earlier this year, Ukrainian lawmakers reportedly weighed replacing the anthem with "Thank God Ukraine Has Justice and Freedom."
“Ukraine fought hard for its independence and Ukrainians have been killed in endless wars. But today, thank God, it is a peaceful country. It is time to put it in good order. And we must do it with God in our hearts,” lawmaker Dmytro Vetvitsky was quoted in Russian media as saying.
Despite repeated attempts to replace it, "Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished" has not perished. Neither, for that matter, has the anthem of its championship co-host Poland -- "Poland Is Not Yet Lost."
[Updated 2:17 p.m. June 11: As if to snub the anthem naysayers, Ukraine didn't perish in its first game in the tournament. It won 2-1 over Sweden.]
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Andriy Shevchenko of Ukraine and his teammates celebrate scoring their second goal during the ongoing match between Ukraine and Sweden in Kiev, Ukraine, on Monday. Credit: Martin Rose / Getty Images