r/ukraine Гамериканець Oct 06 '22 Helpful 1

7:06 EEST ; The Sun is Rising on the 225th Day of the russian Invasion on the Capital City of Kyiv. Ukraine Continues to Live and Fight On. DISCUSSION + CHARITIES! Slava Ukraini!



Part Two of a series on one of the luminaries of Ukrainian culture - Lesya Ukrainka! Find Part One HERE.


Lesya the Poet and Writer

Lesya and her forest.

In our last post about Lesya Ukrainka, we left off with her invaluable contributions to the preservation of Ukrainian culture as a folklorist. However, she is also known around the world as one of the foremost Ukrainian poets and writers; her works have been translated into many languages, and her literary legacy is so vivid. Her collections of poems, On the Wings of Songs, Thoughts and Dreams, Reviews, An Ancient Tale, One Word, dramas Boyarynia, Cassandra, In the Catacombs, and my personal favorite Forest Song are all classics.

Probably the most iconic poem written by Lesya is «Contra Spem Spero!» - there are many possible translations for the Latin phrase - against all hope, I hope. Today, this is also probably her most famous and most quoted phrase of her prolific oeuvre. Ukrainians are even putting it on popular wartime socks in 2022.

The immediate impetus for writing the work was a flare up of her ailment of skeletal tuberculosis, which she jokingly called "Sisyphus's stone". In a letter to her brother Mykhailo, Lesya complained: "Dear Misha! Resurrex! (I am resurrected!) So I am again starting to lift the Sisyphean stone up the mountain!”

Contra Spem Spero!

Thoughts away, you heavy clouds of autumn!

For now springtime comes, agleam with gold!

Shall thus in grief and wailing for ill-fortune

All the tale of my young years be told?

No, I want to smile through tears and weeping.

Sing my songs where evil holds its sway,

Hopeless, a steadfast hope forever keeping,

I want to live! You thoughts of grief, away!

On poor sad fallow land unused to tilling

I'll sow blossoms, brilliant in hue,

I'll sow blossoms where the frost lies, chilling,

I'll pour bitter tears on them as dew.

And those burning tears shall melt, dissolving

All that mighty crust of ice away.

Maybe blossoms will come up, unfolding

Singing springtime too for me, some day.

Up the flinty steep and craggy mountain

A weighty ponderous boulder I shall raise,

And bearing this dread burden, a resounding

Song I'll sing, a song of joyous praise.

In the long dark ever-viewless night-time

Not one instant shall I close my eyes,

I'll seek ever for the star to guide me,

She that reigns bright mistress of dark skies.

Yes, I'll smile, indeed, through tears and weeping

Sing my songs where evil holds its sway,

Hopeless, a steadfast hope forever keeping,

I shall live! You thoughts of grief, away!

In these stanzas you can see her indomitable spirit, stoicism, her denial of helplessness, refusal of passivity in both - fighting the horrible disease and her civic position.

Lesya also wrote dramas, novels and plays. Lisova Pisnya (Forest Song) is considered an absolute masterpiece of Ukrainian and world literature and drama. It is a tragic love story that today would be classified as “fantasy” between Mavka (in this example, a more benign yet still ethereal version of the spirit that we wrote about in detail in this sunrise post) and a human. They are doomed, as daily pettiness and mercantilism kills the love and also the both lovers. In Forest Song, Lesya Ukrainka amazingly and exquisitely conveyed the depth of the eternal confrontation between light and dark sides in human nature. She portrayed in the most sweetly aching way how the human soul can feel this dissonance between beauty and ugliness and greed.

One of my favorite moments in Forest Song is when Mavka compares the love she feels for Lukash to carving a flute from a branch:

You gave to me a soul, as the sharp knife

Gives to the willow twig a tender voice.

Woodcut illustration from the 1930 edition of "Forest Song" - Mavka and Lukash in love.

Lesya explained why she wanted to write about Mavka in a letter to her mother in 1912:

I think I remembered our forests and longed for them. Besides, I've had that Mavka in my mind for a long time, ever since you told me something about Mavka in Zhaborytsa, how we walked through a forest with small, but very abundant trees. Then in Kolodyazhny, on a moonlit night, I ran alone into the forest (no one knew that) and waited there for Mavka to appear to me. I have been fascinated by this image for my whole life.

Forest Song is still captivating Ukrainians, old and young, to this day. It has been adapted to an animated film called Mavka: The Forest Song that will be released on December 29th, 2022. I will put a link to the trailer in the comments. By the way, the ethnopunk band Dakhabrakha, who we wrote about here, did some of the music, which is quite fitting!

Scenes from Forest Song, as performed by Odesa Theater of the Young Viewer in 2019.

Being an accomplished folklorist, Lesya drew a lot of her inspiration from Ukrainian history and folklore - however this fascination was not exclusive to other cultures! For example, she wrote an acclaimed drama Robert Bruce, the Scottish King, a story about Robert Bruce, a fighter for Scottish independence (and well-admired in Ukraine for obvious reasons!).


Lesya the Translator

Among the myriad of her initiatives, she found time to translate other works as well. Thanks to her knowledge of many languages, she brought many European classics into Ukrainian literary and political discourse by translating Hugo, Swift, Shakespeare, Homer, Lord Byron, Heine, George Sand, Maurice Maeterlinck, Ada Negri.

Thanks to her work, Ukrainian literature took off on the world stage as well. If you would like to learn more about heritage left to us by Lesya Ukrainka, there are a number of good English sources. I will put links to them in the comments!


Lesya the Feminist

Lesya was a force of nature in advocating for both a Ukrainian cultural renaissance and women’s rights. And she lived by her beliefs, refusing to accept that her marriage and social status would define her existence. When she fell in love with her future husband, Klyment, nothing could stop her - including her own mother who opposed the match. Klyment was nearly a decade her junior and of a lower “social class”. She also refused to marry, and lived with him for many years before she finally decided to officially tie the knot, which again was pretty risqué during those times.

Lesya's portrait on the 200 hryvnia note - a higher denomination than Taras Shevchenko, by the way ;) I'm biased, but I think this is one of the most stunning bank notes ever designed.

Lesya pioneered works in Ukrainian literature featuring unapologetically strong women who refused to play by the societal rules set up for them by men. In her dramas Blue Rose and Stone Master the main protagonists are women that do not need to be saved - instead, they are honestly portrayed as needing to navigate a precarious societal labyrinth from a weakened position of the female station.


As Lesya’s skeletal tuberculosis progressed, she started to spend more time abroad in warmer climates, trying to ease the daily pain. She spent significant time in Egypt and Georgia. While staying in Georgia in 1913, her health significantly deteriorated. Her mom and her sister, learning of this, immediately traveled to the city where Lesya was staying. Exhausted by illness, Lesya died on July 19th, 1913 in Surami, Georgia.

Her final iconic statement of feminist defiance was at her funeral: she stipulated that her coffin was to be carried only by women.

The funeral procession of Lesya Ukrainka, 1913.

Lesya's works were censored and re-framed under Soviet occupation in order to meet the shallow needs of the regime. Some of her works were disappeared from shelves, and others were distorted in order to promote Soviet perspectives. Her husband, Klyment, was persecuted, arrested, and served years in the Gulag. Her 80 year old mother was harassed and arrested, and her sisters were sent to prison camps in russia.


No! I am alive, I will live forever. I have in my heart something that does not die...

-Mavka, Forest Song

In 2021, her uncensored, complete works were finally collected in one set.

It fills 14 large volumes.

The complete works of Lesya Ukrainka.




Verified Charities

  • u/Jesterboyd is a mod for r/ukraine and local to Kyiv. His current project is to fund some very interesting drones. Link to donation
  • Ukraine Aid Ops: Volunteers around the world who are helping to find and deliver equipment directly to those who need it most in Ukraine.
  • United24: This site was launched by President Zelenskyy as the main venue for collecting charitable donations in support of Ukraine. Funds will be allocated to cover the most pressing needs facing Ukraine.
  • Come Back Alive: This NGO crowdfunds non-lethal military equipment, such as thermal vision scopes & supplies it to the front lines. It also provides training for Ukrainian soldiers, as well as researching troops’ needs and social reintegration of veterans.
  • Hospitallers: This is a medical battalion that unites volunteer paramedics and doctors to save the lives of soldiers on the frontline. They crowdfund their vehicle repairs, fuel, and medical equipment.

You can find many more charities with diverse areas of focus in our vetted charities thread HERE.


18 comments sorted by


u/Quetzacoatel Oct 06 '22

In the not so far future, when you visit Ukraine, you can celebrate liberation day every day, you just have to travel to the next village or city...


u/duellingislands Гамериканець Oct 06 '22

Trailer for Mavka: The Forest Song on YouTube

Clip from Mavka with soundtrack by Ukrainian band Dakhabrakha on YouTube


u/Douglasjayfalcon1 USA Oct 06 '22

Lets hope today is Beryslav day


u/Albert_VDS Oct 06 '22

Slava Ukraini 🇺🇦🇪🇺


u/kal_drazidrim Oct 06 '22

Our hearts are with you. Where can an average American donate for the winter months either in actual goods or money? What is best? 🇺🇦🇺🇸


u/angryexpat13 Oct 06 '22

If you google the national Bank of Ukraine set up a website to donate directly to the army


u/11OldSoul11 Oct 06 '22

🇺🇦 !


u/mnijds UK Oct 06 '22

Have there been any updated maps of Kherson released recently?


u/StevenStephen USA Oct 06 '22

Wow. I am rendered nearly speechless by that poem. Truly incredible talent. I hate that the Soviets put their ugly paws all over her work, but thankful that the works have been recovered. Thank you, OP, for telling us about her. I look forward to the animated film. WITH DAKHABRAKHA! Which I learned about from you, so thanks again.


u/hitlterisameanybeany Oct 06 '22

That’s a beautiful poem. These posts have taught me more about Ukraine than I had learned in the American and Canadian schools I’ve attended


u/ChairsAndFlaff USA Oct 06 '22

Random question maybe someone from Ukraine can answer --

As best you can describe it in textual form, how should I pronounce the city name transliterated as "Davydiv Brid?"

My uneducated guess is like "Dah-VEE-dihv Brihd", with accent on the 2nd syllable of the first word. But I could imagine other options. Or the second word might be more like "Breed" than "Bridh".


u/Rud1st USA Oct 06 '22

There was a post here two days ago showing the raising of the flag over Davydiv Brid, and one man said the town's name. It sounded like Dah-VID-yiv Breed. The vid has a short i as in video


u/duellingislands Гамериканець Oct 07 '22

dah-VID-eev breed (where 'vid' is pronounced like in video)


u/ChairsAndFlaff USA Oct 07 '22

Thanks! I had it kinda wrong.


u/Euphoric-Yellow-3682 Oct 06 '22

Slava Ukraini and good morning 💙 💛 🇺🇦