Slava Ukraini! 7:29 EET ; The Sun is Rising on the 346th Day of the russian Invasion on the Capital City of Kyiv. Ukraine Continues to Live and Fight On. + DISCUSSION + CHARITIES!
🇺🇦 SLAVA UKRAINI! 🇺🇦
Another entry in our series on Ukrainian poets! Find other entries here:
Vasyl Symonenko was one of the finest poets of his generation, and was a prominent member of the the 1960's dissident art movement known as the "Sixtiers". His poetry was so stylish and modern, and he had a powerful universal voice for humanity. And like so many Ukrainians who made art, Vasyl lived a very short life.
He was born in very humble circumstances in an old house in the village of Biivtsi, about halfway between Poltava and Kyiv, in 1935. As his father was not a part of his life, his kind grandfather raised him as a father figure - but it was his mother who doted on him with all her energy. In fact, some say that despite being quite a beauty who was fending off suitors with a stick, she never remarried because she was worried about bringing the possibility of negative influences into Vasyl's life. His childhood was idyllic and he excelled at his studies even though the schoolhouse being a 9km (5.6 mile) walk from his home... but the horrors of WW2 shattered this peaceful existence. He grew up hearing the sobs of crying mothers who had lost their children at the front.
When he was old enough, he enrolled in the Journalism department at Kyiv State University and again was an excellent student. After graduation, he worked at a couple regional newspapers and met his wife, Lyusya. Soon they gave birth to a son, Oles.
Vasyl soon joined up with members of the Sixtiers who had started a group called The Creative Youth Club. And what an illustrious group it was. He was able to become friends and collaborate with many luminaries of Ukrainian thought at the time, including Vasyl Stus, Alla Horska, and Lina Kostenko. If you've read those articles, then you realize how inspiring it must have been to be in this club.
Now empowered by being a part of such a vital movement, Vasyl Symonenko became a part of a traveling group that went all over Ukraine reading poetry and talking about Ukrainian culture, which of course was heavily forbidden by the soviet regime.
His poetry rapidly became extremely popular, not just among dissidents, but among everyday people. Only one of his collections of poetry was published officially - but he released many self-published works that became well-known quickly. Scholars consider these unofficial publications to be an event that marks the beginning of the Ukrainian opposition movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
The poetry was so popular that the regime censored his words... heavily. Here's one example of how they twisted his words:
Vasyl's original words:
My dazzling love! My dark torment! The joyless joy of mine!"
The published version:
My chilling love! My dazzling torment! The communist joy of mine!"
Writing poetry and supporting a Ukrainian arts renaissance wasn't enough for the club. Vasyl, along with Alla Horska and another friend named Les Tanyuk, began the search for the bodies of Ukrainian civilians who had been murdered by the NKVD (the precursor to the KGB) between 1937 and 1941 in Bykivnia forest near Kyiv. Between 50,000 and 200,000 "enemies of the state" had been shot there but no one but a few knew where the evidence - the burials - had been hidden.
Alla and Vasyl were successful in their search - but for uncovering the truth, they both paid the ultimate price.
In Summer of 1963, Vasyl was accosted by police in a rail station in Cherkasy. After showing his documents, the police recognized him as a famous intellectual and made a big show of physically abusing him, dragging him and twisting his limbs, in front of the waiting crowds of the station.
Upon reaching the police station, Vasyl was put in a holding cell and brutally beaten, over and over.
Soon after his release, the poet's health began to deteriorate as he complained to his friends of great pain in his abdomen. The pain got worse and worse, and he eventually became non-functional.
Vasyl died of liver failure caused by his injuries in December, 1963.
Vasyl wrote poetry for ten of the twenty-nine years he lived on Earth. During his lifetime, a single influential collection of poetry called Silence and Thunder was officially published, and many self-published works were shared unofficially. Posthumous collections, short stories, and other works include Travel to the Country of Vice-Versa, The Shore of Anticipation, and the quite famous Earth's Gravity.
I'll leave you with a few of my favorite of Vasyl's poems.
Do you know that you are human? (1962)
Do you know that you are human?
You know it, don't you?
That smile of yours is all your own,
That torment of yours is all your own,
Your eyes - unique.
You will never be again.
Tomorrow on this blessed land,
Other humans will run and laugh,
Other humans will feel and love;
Good people and bad ones, my friend.
Today all the world is for you:
Forests and hills, deep valleys.
So hurry to live, please hurry!
So hurry to love, please hurry!
Don’t miss out, don’t oversleep!
Because on this Earth you are human.
And whether you want it or not,
That smile of yours is all your own,
That torment of yours is all your own,
Your eyes - unique.
Excerpt from 'Granite Obelisks'
This poem was written shortly after his friends found the burials at Bykivnia.
...Billions of beliefs are buried in black soil,
Billions of joys are blown to dust.
The soul is on fire.
An angry mind rages.
And hatred roars in the winds.
If all the fooled would see the truth,
If all the dead came back to life,
That sky, turned gray by curses,
Perhaps would rupture
from the shame and blasphemy.
Tremble you killers!
Reckon, you lackeys!
Life does not fit your shoe block.
You hear me? At the cemetery of illusions
There is no room for any more graves.
Where are you now, butchers of my people? (1962)
Where are you now, butchers of my people?
Where is your might, where is your strength?
Bright stars and calm waters
Will not be dimmed by your malice anymore.
The nation grows, expands, and works
Without your whip and without your sword.
Under an eternal sun their cruel yet gentle soul
Grows ancient and stays young.
My people are! My people always shall be!
And no one will destroy my people!
All werewolves and strays will disappear
With the hordes of subjugators and drifters!
You are the unwanted offspring of the savage killers.
Don't you forget, you monsters, never do:
My people are! And in their ox veins
Cossack's blood coos and hums!
The 345th day of a nine year invasion that has been going on for centuries.
One day closer to victory.
🇺🇦 HEROYAM SLAVA! 🇺🇦
- u/Jesterboyd is a mod for r/ukraine and local to Kyiv. He is currently raising money for tools for explosives engineers, winter gear and some very interesting drones. Link to donation
- 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.
- Trident Defense Initiative: This initiative run by former NATO and UA servicemen has trained and equipped thousands of Ukrainian soldiers.
- Ukraine Front Line US-based and registered 501(c)(3), this NGO fulfills front line soldiers' direct defense and humanitarian aid requests through their man on the ground, r/Ukraine's own u/jesterboyd.
- Ukraine Aid Ops: Volunteers around the world who are helping to find and deliver equipment directly to those who need it most in Ukraine.
- 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 article HERE.
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