Lesya Ukrainka



Lesya Ukrainka, born Larysa Petrivna Kosach-Kvitka, is a famous Ukrainian poet and author. During her lifetime, she was a political, civil, and feminist activist. Lesya was born in Ukraine in 1871. She studied law at Kyiv University.



Lesya wrote her first poem, “Hope”, when she was eight years old. When she was 13, she published her first poem,”Lily of the Valley” under her pseudonym because, in the Russian Empire, publications in Ukrainian were forbidden. As a result of this censorship, her first book of poetry was published secretly in Western Ukraine and snuck into Kyiv.


During her lifetime, Lesya believed in Ukraine’s independence and fought for its freedom. She actively opposed Russian Tsarism and was a member of Ukrainian Marxist organizations. In 1902, she translated the Communist Manifesto into Ukrainian. She was arrested in 1907 by Tsarist police and remained under surveillance after her release.


Lesya died in 1913. A monument to her life and work was erected at the University of Saskatchewan and now sits in a prominent location on campus.


Contra spem spero!

Гетьте, думи, ви, хмари осінні!

То ж тепера весна золота!

Чи то так у жалю, в голосінні

Проминуть молодії літа?


Ні, я хочу крізь сльози сміятись,

Серед лиха співати пісні,

Без надії таки сподіватись,

Жити хочу! Геть думи сумні!


Я на вбогім сумнім перелозі

Буду сіять барвисті квітки,

Буду сіять квітки на морозі,

Буду лить на них сльози гіркі.


І від сліз тих гарячих розтане

Та кора льодовая, міцна,

Може, квіти зійдуть – і настане

Ще й для мене весела весна.


Я на гору круту крем’яную

Буду камінь важкий підіймать

І, несучи вагу ту страшную,

Буду пісню веселу співать.


Я співатиму пісню дзвінкую,

Розганятиму розпач тяжкий, –

Може, сам на ту гору крутую

Підійметься мій камінь важкий.


В довгу, темную нічку невидну

Не стулю ні на хвильку очей,

Все шукатиму зірку провідну,

Ясну владарку темних ночей.


Я не дам свому серденьку спати,

Хоч кругом буде тьма та нудьга,

Хоч я буду сама почувати,

Що на груди вже смерть наляга.


Смерть наляже на груди важенько,

Світ застеле суворая мла,

Але дужче заб’ється серденько,

Може, лютую смерть подола.


Я не дам свому серденьку спати,

Хоч кругом буде тьма та нудьга,

Хоч я буду сама почувати,

Що на груди вже смерть наляга.


Буде погляд мій вельми палати,

Може, згинуть всі хмари сумні,

Може, зірка, як буде сіяти,

Ясний промінь пошле і мені.


Смерть наляже на груди важенько,

Світ застеле суворая мла,

Але дужче заб’ється серденько,

Може, лютую смерть подола.


Так! я буду крізь сльози сміятись,

Серед лиха співати пісні,

Без надії таки сподіватись,

Буду жити! Геть думи сумні!


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 due.


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!

Holodomor – A Politically Engineered Famine

The term Holodomor (death by hunger, in Ukrainian) refers to the starvation of millions of Ukrainians in 1932–33 as a result of Soviet policies. The Holodomor can be seen as the culmination of an assault by the Communist Party and Soviet state on the Ukrainian peasantry, who resisted Soviet policies. This assault occurred in the context of a campaign of intimidation and arrests of Ukrainian intellectuals, writers, artists, religious leaders, and political cadres, who were seen as a threat to Soviet ideological and state-building aspirations.

Front Page - Chicago American

Front Page – Chicago American

Between 1917 and 1921, Ukraine briefly became an independent country and fought to retain its independence before succumbing to the Red Army and being incorporated into the Soviet Union. In the 1920s, Soviet central authorities, seeking the support of the populace, allowed for some cultural autonomy through the policy known as “indigenization.”

By the end of the 1920s, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin decided to curtail Ukraine’s cultural autonomy, launching the intimidation, arrest, imprisonment and execution of thousands of Ukrainian intellectuals, church leaders, as well as Communist Party functionaries who had supported Ukraine’s distinctiveness.

Map of area effected by famine. The darker colours are the areas most effected.

Map of the area affected by famine.

At the same time, Stalin ordered the collectivization of agriculture. The majority of Ukrainians, who were small-scale or subsistence farmers, resisted. The state confiscated the property of the independent farmers and forced them to work on government collective farms. Prosperous farmers (owning a few head of livestock, for example) and those who resisted collectivization were branded kulaks (rich peasants) and declared enemies of the state who deserved to be eliminated as a class. Thousands were thrown out of their homes and deported.


In 1932, the Communist Party set impossibly high quotas for the amount of grain Ukrainian villages were required to contribute to the Soviet state. When the villages were not able to meet the quotas, authorities intensified the requisition campaign, confiscating even the seed set aside for planting and levying fines in meat and potatoes for failure to fulfill the quotas. Special teams were sent to search homes and even seized other foodstuffs. Starving farmers attempted to leave their villages in search of food, but Soviet authorities issued a decree forbidding Ukraine’s peasants from leaving the country. As a result, many thousands of farmers who had managed to leave their villages were apprehended and sent back, virtually a death sentence. A law was introduced that made the theft of even a few stalks of grain an act of sabotage punishable by execution. In some cases, soldiers were posted in watchtowers to prevent people from taking any food from the harvest. Although informed of the dire conditions in Ukraine, central authorities ordered local officials to extract even more from the villages. Millions starved as the USSR sold crops from Ukraine abroad.

Mother of the Year 33 by Nina Marchenko

Mother of the Year 33 by Nina Marchenko

The USSR vigorously denied that the Holodomor had occurred. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party, secret police, and government archives that have become accessible to researchers support the conclusion that the famine was caused by Soviet state policies and was indeed intentionally intensified by Soviet authorities. (Text modified from http://holodomor.ca/holodomor-basic-facts/)


As millions died, and others moved in search  of food, armed guards sealed off the border  with Russia, where there was food. As millions  died, the USSR exported grain. According to Dr. Taras Hunczak of Rutgers University, 28  million tons were exported during 1932 and  1933 – four tons of grain per each man, woman, and child who starved. There was no physical reason that they should have died. It was a deliberate policy.

Read full story http://newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=2923


Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine

For further reading:

  • Davies, R.W. and Wheatcroft, Stephen G., The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931–1933. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
  • Graziosi, Andrea, “The Soviet 1931–1933 Famines and the Ukrainian Holodomor: Is a New Interpretation Possible, and What Would Its Consequences Be?”, Harvard Ukrainian Studies 27 (2004–2005), pp. 97–115.
  • Klid, Bohdan and Motyl, Alexander J., co-compilers and co-editors. The Holodomor Reader: A Sourcebook on the Famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine. Edmonton and Toronto: CIUS Press, 2012.
  • Conquest, Robert. The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Kulchytskyi, Stanislav V., “Holodomor in Ukraine 1932–1933: An Interpretation of Facts,” in Holodomor and Gorta Mór: Histories, Memories and Representations of Famine in Ukraine and Ireland. Ed. Christian Noack et al. London, New York and Delhi: Anthem Press, 2012, pp. 19–33.
  • “Lemkin on Genocide of Nations,” Journal of International Criminal Justice 9 (2009), pp. 123–30.
  • Martin, Terry. The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2001.
  • Naimark, Norman M. Stalin’s Genocides. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010.
  • Snyder, Timothy. Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. New York: Basic Books, 2010.
  • Werth, Nicholas, “The Great Ukrainian Famine of 1932–33,” Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, published 18 April 2008. Online at http://www.massviolence.org/The-1932-1933-Great-Famine-in-Ukraine.


Filip Konowal VC

During the First World War, while the Canadian Government was interning approximately 5,000 Canadians of Ukrainian descent for being enemy aliens, 4,000 brave men of Ukrainian heritage volunteered with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF). Of these courageous men who fought for a country that had declared them unwelcome enemies, one man, Filip Konowal, was recognized for bravery in the face of extreme danger.


Filip Konowal, born in Kutkivtsi, Ukraine in 1888, enlisted with the 77th Canadian Infantry Battalion on 19 June 1915. He left Halifax for Liverpool on 19 June 1916 and was promoted to Corporal in the 47th British Columbia Battalion. In August 1916, the 4th Division arrived in France. In April 1917, the soldiers participated in the assault on Vimy Ridge. From 22-24 August 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70 in Lens, France, Filip Konowal was recognized for conspicuous bravery in the face of the enemy and he was awarded the Victoria Cross.


Description of Filip Konowal’s bravery as it appeared in the London Gazette 27 November 1917.

Konowal’s Victoria Cross medal was personally presented to him by King George V. Konowal was also awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal, George VI Coronation Medal, and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal.


Filip Konowal’s medals. The Victoria Cross is on the far left.


After his military service, Konowal worked as a caretaker at the House of Commons before being reassigned to a lifetime job in Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s personal office.


Portrait of Filip Konowal