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248 KOBYLIANSKA, Olha (Kobylians’ka, Ol’ha) (1863–1942) Activist in the Ukrainian women’s movement in Bukovyna (present day southwest Ukraine); writer; leader of the fin-de-siècle Ukrainian modernist movement. Olha Kobylianska was born on 25 November 1863 in the town of Gura-Gumora in southern Bukovyna, a beautiful, mountainous and ethnically diverse region, then part of the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) Empire. Today, Bukovyna is located in Ukraine proper: it shares international borders with Romania and Moldova to the south and east, is bounded regionally to the west and north by Carpathian Ukraine and Galicia (western Ukraine) and by central Ukraine in the east—all lands formerly under Russian, Polish, or Austrian rule. Her mother, Maria Kobylianska (1837–1906), and her father, Iulian Kobyliansky (1827–1912), had seven children: Maksymilian (1858–1922), Iulian (1859–1922), Evhenia (1861–1917), Olha, Stepan (1866–1940), Oleksandr (1875– 1933) and Volodymyr (1877–1909). Olha spent her childhood and youth in GuraGumora , but when her father, a minor Austrian civil servant, became a pensioner, the family moved to the village of Dymka in northern Bukovyna. In 1891, she moved to the city of Chernivtsi in the heart of Bukovyna, where she lived until her death. Although Olha Kobylianska now holds a prominent place in the Ukrainian literary canon as the leader of a new modernist school at the turn of the century, her path to writing was fraught with difficulties. She received a limited formal education and the four years of primary schooling that she did receive were exclusively in the German language. It is known that her family spoke German among themselves—Kobylianska’s mother was of German–Polish background—but little is known about the extent to which Ukrainian was used at home. After her schooling had ended, she continued to read hungrily and through the influence of German positivist classics, became concerned with the causes of the day, especially the peasantry. Not surprisingly, Kobylianska ’s first works were written in German; she submitted these to German-language newspapers and journals in Berlin and Vienna. In 1894, Kobylianska’s first work in Ukrainian, a story “Liudyna” (A person), appeared in the magazine Zoria (Dawn) and in 1896 a novel, Tsarivna (The princess), 249 appeared in Narod (The people), the leading Ukrainian journal of the day. The first drafts of both of these works had been written in German in 1886 and 1888–1893 respectively and the Ukrainian versions reflect the influence of German Romanticism, particularly the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche. Kobylianska was also inspired by George Sand. While many critics disparaged her use of German technique, the writer and feminist Lesia Ukrainka praised its influence on Kobylianska’s writing: “It led you to recognize world literature, it transported you out into the broader world of ideas and art—this simply leaps out at one, when one compares your writing with that of the majority of Galicians” (Pavlychko 1996, 88). Kobylianska’s temperament was indeed modernist, inclined towards the burgeoning neo-romantic and symbolist currents of the day rather than the realist and populist. Kobylianska’s decision to write in Ukrainian was greatly influenced by her acquaintance with three feminist writers: Sofiia Okunevska, Natalia Kobrynska and Ukrainka. In general, her contemporaries among the Ukrainian literati—important writers, poets, critics and editors like Ivan Franko, Osyp Makovey and Ukrainka—gave impetus to Kobylianska’s development and helped popularize her work. Most likely Kobylianska’s conscious embrace of feminism was linked to Kobrynska’s request, in 1890, that she collect signatures in Chernivtsi for a petition in favor of women’s higher education and make contact with various Romanian and German women’s organizations. In 1894, having met up with other Ukrainian women keen to form a secular women’s organization, Kobylianska helped found the Obshchestvo ruskykh zhenshchyn (Society of Ruthenian women), hoping that it would draw in Ukrainians from Bukovyna. For several years, she worked to expand the role of the society in the community and to attract younger women to its membership, but these attempts were largely unsuccessful ; young and politically-aware women were drawn to the progressive left-wing socialist intelligentsia, which rejected feminist issues in favor of radical, anti-church and revolutionary concerns, and united girls in a Hromada (Women’s Community) in support of these agendas. In 1897, Kobylianska’s story “Valse melancolique” was published in Ukrainian (the French title is its original one). “Valse” provoked debates over whether the intelligentsia was an appropriate subject for Ukrainian literature...


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