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Burning piano – a mournful ceremony in Starokostyantyniv


A piano was set on fire on Friday evening in Starokostyantyniv. Pilots participating in Clear Sky-2018 multinational exercise have paid their last respects to fallen Col. Ivan Petrenko and Lt. Col. Seth “Jethro” Nehring.

On October 19, 2018 after the final day of the exercise US pilots together with their Ukrainian and Polish counterparts conducted a very sad but ceremonial event – burning a piano.

Burning a piano has a century long history and its numerous origin versions are heavily argued. This tradition is followed by generations of American airmen. This story starts in the timed of the Battle of Britain during the WWII. Many American young men wanted to help the United Kingdom to fight the aggressor and joined the volunteer aviators. In the RAF they were assigned to different British squadrons, in one of which our protagonist served. After heavy fighting by day pilots came together in one of the hangars in the evenings for some rest. The life and soul of the party was a British pilot whose skill in playing piano always attracted audience. He has never returned from one of the missions. Grieving aviators realized that no one will ever play their piano as good as the fallen guy and decided to set it on fire in his remembrance. Later American volunteers joined the United States Army Air Forces bringing the tradition to burn a piano in memory of their fallen friends with them.

Eagle pilots followed their tradition on Ukrainian soil as well honoring Col. Ivan Petrenko and Lt. Col. Seth “Jethro” Nehring killed in flying accident in Su-27UB fighter on October 16, 2018… Eternal flight to you, Ivan! Rest in Peace and Godspeed Jethro! P.S. We are grateful to 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard for permission to publish this material.

 

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