Ukrainian Cassandras, witnesses, and killjoys

The title of this blog post is taken from Dr Sasha Dovzhyk’s tweet about her lecture (‘Ukrainian Cassandras’) given this week as part of the important series of talks called ‘Rethinking Slavonic Studies’ arranged by the University’s Slavonic Studies Section and CamCREES.

One of Dr Dovzhyk’s slides; to the right is a bust of the national poet Taras Shevchenko, now with a Russian bullet through his forehead

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Liberation and Ukraine : a talk and exhibition (17 and 18 November)

The Liberation Literature Lecture, which has traditionally focused on France, will this focus on Ukraine.  This post provides details about the talk and an accompanying exhibition which we warmly invite local Ukrainians to co-curate with us.

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Shevchenko and a possible exhibit

At the end of a week full of news from and about Ukraine (not least the shared awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties), today’s blog post is a very quick look at a 1964 book about international praise for another great pride of Ukraine, the writer and artist Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861).

This 55-page book, published in Chicago and printed in New York, came to us in a donation from the Shevchenko Scientific Society in New York, the contents of which we started cataloguing in lockdownSvitova slava Shevchenka (The global glory of Shevchenko) studies the reception of Shevchenko’s work outside Ukraine and was published to mark the 150th anniversary of his death.

The small book covers a lot of ground.  It outlines the reception of Shevchenko in the following languages (using the book’s own order): Russian, Belarusian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovene, Romanian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Georgian, Armenian, Hebrew, German, French, English, Danish, and Swedish.  This kind of study is a really useful addition to our collections, helping philologists and others track cultural impact.

Svitova slava Shevchenka passed through my hands today as a possible long-listee for an exhibition we plan to curate with Ukrainian refugees hosted locally – watch this space!

Mel Bach

Vpered, Ukraïno! = Forward, Ukraine!

This brief blog post looks at a publication produced in France which we hold in the Library in the Peter Yakimiuk collection.

Vpered, Ukraïno! (note the vocative form of the country name) was published in Paris by the group Ukrainian National Unity in France, in their Library of Self-Enlightenment, and describes itself in its sub-title as a narodnyĭ deklamator, a folk reciter.

The book contains Ukrainian poems by Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, Oleksander Olesʹ, and many more.  Lesi︠a︡ Ukraïnka (1873-1913) has the greatest number of poems in the compilations.  Brief biographical notes of the authors follow the body of poems, and looking at these more closely today, I see that the approximate date of publication given to the book (1945) must be wrong – the writer Leonid Mosenda’s entry refers to his death in 1948 – so I will update it it in the catalogue now.

The book has come up in connection with preparations for a small exhibition we hope to curate in the autumn with the local Cambridge refugee community – more details when we know them! – which will celebrate Ukrainian culture and history.  The cover is fairly eye-catching, but it’s the encouragement of the title that understandably attracts us in 2022 as Ukraine fights on.  Vpered, Ukraïno!

Mel Bach

Ukrainian literature in translation

Following on from my recent post about new English-language acquisitions relating to modern Ukrainian history, I wanted to highlight a small sample of our holdings of modern Ukrainian literature in translation. (Click on the titles below to be taken to the record in iDiscover.)

One author whose works have gradually made their way into English translation is Oksana Zabuzhko, who has won a number of awards, including the Shevchenko National Prize. Her output spans novels, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction; we have recently acquired both her short story collection Your Ad Could Go Here and her Selected Poems, both of which appeared in English for the first time in 2020, and both of which are the work of multiple translators.

The stories in Your Ad Could Go Here deal with the Euromaidan protests and the war with Russia since 2014. Other literary responses to the conflict include Lyuba Yakimchuk’s book of poetry, Apricots of Donbas; Volodymyr Rafeyenko’s novel Mondegreen : Songs About Death and Love; and Oleg Sentsov’s short story collection, Life Went on Anyway. Each author has been personally affected by the war: Lyuba Yakimchuk’s parents and sister were forced to flee their home in the Luhansk region when it was occupied by Russian-backed militants; Volodymyr Rafeyenko moved from his native Donetsk to near Kyiv at the outbreak of war; and Oleg Sentsov was arrested on terrorism charges in Crimea in 2014 and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment (he was released in a prisoner swap in 2019). Continue reading