Saturday, December 10

Lesya Ukrainka, the Ukrainian poet that Almeida almost erased from the map


This Monday, the eve of International Women’s Day, the Madrid City Council was about to replace one of the greatest Ukrainian writers with a man on the street. José Luis Martínez Almeida announced that the roundabout in front of the Ukrainian embassy would be renamed Volodimir Zelensky, after the Ukrainian president turned into a war hero.

When cultural recognition is measured in number of streets and roundabouts

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To do this, it would be necessary to remove the plaque of his compatriot Lesya Ukrainka, a poet born in 1871 and a symbol of Ukrainian letters who baptized this same square in 2019, during the mandate of Manuela Carmena.

Minutes after the announcement, the council backed down. Zelensky will no longer be the square of the Ukrainian embassy, ​​but a roundabout closer to the Palestinian embassy and the A-2. On the other hand, municipal regulations do not allow the use of the name of living people on the street map “unless exceptionally it is considered so due to its extraordinary relevance.”

Whether the Ukrainian president fits those “extraordinary” characteristics is another debate. For now, Lesya Ukrainka maintains the blue plaque awarded to her by the Hortaleza Board four years ago. All political parties with municipal representation (PP, PSOE, Now Madrid and Citizens) supported the agreement.

Ukraine’s own ambassador went to that plenary session to defend the initiative, proposed jointly by your institution. “All Ukrainians are going to greatly appreciate the gesture,” he said in a speech that highlighted Ukrainka’s legacy. He also announced that this space would serve as a commemorative place for citizens on special days, such as the celebration of independence from the Soviet Union, reports Diego Casado, from Somos Madrid. Biographies note that Lesya “managed to show the beauty of the Ukrainian language while it was subjugated by the Russian.”

Feminist, environmentalist and pro-Ukrainian

Lesya Ukrainka (1871-1913) was born in Novograd-Volinsky, a city west of Kiev. His family environment was conducive to activism, creation and intellectuality, since his mother was a well-known writer and feminist, his father a lawyer interested in literature and art, and his uncle a popular scientist and publicist. Lesya accessed all this knowledge since she became ill with tuberculosis at the age of ten and had to study at home under the strict supervision of her mother. There she learned several European, Slavic and classical languages, such as German, French, Bulgarian, Russian or Greek.

At the age of 5 he played the piano, at 8 he wrote his first poem and at 13 he published his first lyrical composition. His texts dealt with the loneliness and social alienation of the poets, with their social and community concerns and especially with the freedom of the Ukrainian people. “She was a pioneer of a new feminist literature at the forefront of European trends. Her plays, poetry and prose address concerns from gender and race to feminism and environmentalism”, highlights the British Library.

Ukrainka also wrote short stories, journalistic essays, and masterful translations of works by Homer, William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Victor Hugo, and Ivan Turgenev. The most outstanding work of Ukrainian literature is the song of the forest (1912), a fable dedicated to the immortal aspiration of the human soul to achieve ideal values. As well In the house of work, in the country of slavery (1906); cassandra (1908); in the field of blood (1909) or The Martian Lawyer (1911).



As UNESCO points out, he explored ethnography and collected data on folk traditions, especially Ukrainian folk melodies. He recorded 220 songs, published a work on children’s games, several fairy tales, a study (Summer Solstice Celebration) and the collection Folk songs to dance (consisting of 54 texts), “which made her a pioneer in the academic field of ethnic studies in Ukraine”.

He was interested in contemporary history and traveled the world, but especially to the Caucasus and Crimea to soak up the culture and heritage of the Slavic peoples. At age 19 she wrote a textbook for her sisters entitled Ancient history of the Eastern peopleswhich was published after his death in 1918. He was also active in the Ukrainian struggle against tsarism and joined the Ukrainian national movement, for which he translated the Communist Manifesto in 1902.

In the dramatic poem cassandra (1907), Lesya drew a comparison between the fate of the Ukraine and the tragic story of the lost Troy. In it, he used Cassandra as a spokesperson to encourage his fellow citizens to shake off apathy and inertia. Also in the poem entitled in the catacombs (1905), criticized the Ukrainian community for its compromises and passivity.

Ukrainka retold the European classics with a woman’s voice. The interpretation of the Trojan myth from Cassandra’s point of view was the most famous, while his work the stone guest (1912) proposed a radical feminist version of the myth of Don Juan. Furthermore, she left unfinished a novel in which she wanted to describe the psychology of an Arab woman: Ekbal Hanim.

While he was creating, his illness became more complicated. As a child, she had her arms and legs in plaster for months and, after a first unsuccessful operation, one of her arms was paralyzed forever.

How I love my working hours / When everything around suddenly calms down / Everything is bound by the enchantment of the night / And I alone, invincible / Begin the solemn service / Before my invisible altar

Poem included in ‘The soul of Ukraine’

“Like Scheherazade in Arabian Nightswhich she had to narrate to continue living, the Ukrainian writer has the vital need to write and create in order to feel alive in the midst of the cruel disease that gripped her”, writes the philologist José Andrés Alvaro Ocáriz, an expert on the Ukrainian writer. Ocáriz published in 2020 Lesya Ukrainka, the soul of Ukraine, a biography and compilation of some of his poems, and the only text dedicated to Ukrainka in Spanish. His collection of poems was also translated in 1971 Hope. poemswhich is discontinued.

The writer died in Georgia at the age of 42 and is buried in the Baikove cemetery in Kiev. Before she passed away, while she was bedridden, she dictated one last unfinished poem to her mother. No, I will not die! / And I’ll live forever! / Well, my heart harbors that / that not even death can handle.

On February 25, 2021 its 150th anniversary was celebrated in Ukraine together with UNESCO for its “values ​​of peace, tolerance, ethnic and gender equality”. Lesya Ukrainka is also the image of the 200 hryvnia note, and both the USSR and independent Ukraine dedicated a postage stamp to her. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said he inspired the image of her in her, often sporting a braid twisted around her head.





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