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592 UKRAINKA, Lesia (real name Larysa Petrivna Kosach) (1871–1913) Ukrainian woman-poet, writer, dramatist, literary critic and public activist. Lesia Ukrainka (a pseudonym of Larysa Petrivna Kosach) was born on 25 February 1871 in Novohrad-Volynsky, the second child of six. Not wanting her children to grow up in an environment dominated by the Russian language, her mother (Olena Pchilka) did not send her children to school. Instead, she provided them all (including Lesia) with a solid home education that consisted of piano lessons, private classes with professors from the Kiev gymnasium for boys (e.g. in Greek and Latin) and tuition in French and German. Later in life, Lesia also mastered English and some Slavic languages and proved to be an able translator . Nevertheless, she always suffered from what she perceived to be her lack of systematic education. In 1881, Lesia caught a cold that developed into a severe illness, turning her life into a continuous struggle against pain. At first, rheumatism was diagnosed; later, in 1883, bone tuberculosis was suspected and Lesia underwent surgery on the infected bones in her left hand. The operation was unsuccessful and she continued to suffer from diseased bones, joints and later, lungs. Her condition meant that for long periods of time she was removed from her family and others she loved, receiving treatment in Odesa, the Crimea (in southern Ukraine), Berlin, Zurich, Venice and Georgia (then part of the Russian Empire), where she died on 8 August 1913. Her obvious talent was noticed early on: Lesia was nine when she wrote her first poem, “Nadia” (Hope), and thirteen when her poems “Safo” (Sappho) and “Konvalia ” (Lily of the Valley) appeared in the Lviv journal Zoria (Star). In 1886, she assisted her mother in putting together the anthology Pershy Vinok (First wreath), in which her poems “Rusalka” (Water nymph), “Na Zelenomu Horbochku” (On a green hill) and others were published in 1887. From 1888 onwards, she regularly published in various Ukrainian periodicals and her first poetic collection, Na Krylakh Pisen (On Lesia Ukrianka (left) with Olha Kobylianska , 1901 593 the wings of songs), was published in 1893 (in Lviv since the Ukrainian language was then forbidden in the Russian Empire). Lesia Ukrainka took part in the activities of various public and political (mostly social democratic) organizations. For such activities she was (like her mother) subjected to secret police surveillance. Although she took a strong position on women’s issues in her literary criticism and her dramatic writing, as well as in her private life, her poetry was different and was therefore highly praised in her own, and in Soviet times because it absorbed the aesthetics of populist nationalism and reflected dominant political (populist) lines; so much so that Ivan Franko (1856– 1916), one of the key proponents of the aesthetic and cultural values of populism, called Lesia “the only man in all of modern Ukraine” (Franko 1981, 269). By contrast , her literary criticism introduced Western European intellectual traditions and new tendencies in European literature into Ukrainian cultural life, providing Ukrainian literary criticism with a new set of theoretical frameworks—see for example her “Dva napravlenia v noveishei ital’yanskoi literature: Ada Negri i d’Annuntsio ” (Two directions in contemporary Italian literature: Ada Negri and d’Annuncio, 1899). She was one of the first to address women’s representation in modern literature , presenting and later publishing a paper in Zhyzn (Life) entitled “Novye perspektivy i staryye teni: ‘Novaya zhenshchina’ zapadno-evropeiskoi belletristiki” (New perspectives and old shadows: ‘The new woman’ in Western European fiction, 1900). Similarly, her plays reflected the attempts of a female intellectual to transcend the boundaries set by Ukrainian literary tradition; to reshape dramatic and theatrical traditions and introduce new themes and genres. Through the silent and obedient shadows of Ukrainka’s female protagonists, her plays laid bare the social, cultural and religious constraints on women’s lives in the everyday. Her first play, Blakytna Troyanda (The blue rose; written in 1895/96 and first staged in Kiev in 1899), was harshly criticized by reviewers because it did not conform to populist ideology (as her much lauded poetry did). Ukrainka’s private life in some ways successfully resisted the patriarchal order, but it was a life filled with difficulties. She seems to have been a constant source of anxiety to her family because of her poor health, and she also behaved in ways unthinkable for a woman of her social standing. She engaged in two passionate friendships: one with Nestor...


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