Ukrainian Literary Club in London

The next meeting of the Ukrainian Literary Club will take place on Saturday, June 15th, 11.00am at the Ukrainian Institute in London. We will discuss the works of Vasyl Stefanyk. 

The club is led by Volodymyr Oleyko, a distinguished Ukrainian poet living in London.

Readings and discussions are held in Ukrainian. All Welcome. Free Admission.

Vasyl Stefanyk (1871 — 1936) was a classical Ukrainian prose writer and political activist. He was a member of the Austrian parliament 1908-1918.

He was born on May 14, 1871 in the village of Rusiv in the family of a well established peasant. He was born in the historical region of Pokuttya, in Austro-Hungary. Today it is part of the Sniatyn Raion, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. He died on December 7, 1936 in the same village, Rusiv, at that time the part of Poland.

Stefanyk’s whole literary output consisted of 59 published novellas, most of them no longer than a couple of pages. In them he showed himself a master of a species of the short story genre, the Stefanyk novella, which is characterized by a succinct and highly dramatic form used to capture single crucial moments in the life of a hero. The dramatic quality of the novellas ensured their being successfully staged as plays by Volodymyr Blavatsky and adapted for film (Kaminnyi khrest, screenplay by Ivan Drach).

The heroes of Stefanyk’s stories are for the most part peasants from his native Pokuttia. Against the general background of poverty or war (in the later stories) Stefanyk showed his heroes in a universal dilemma, confronting the pain at the heart of existence. Stefanyk concentrated on capturing the turbulence of the soul, the inner agony, which revealed the psychological complexity of the hero. His characterizations were achieved through the speech of the characters. Words spoken became important not only for their meaning, but also for the elements of a story, which throws direct light on the character’s emotional state, personality, social position, and degree of literacy.

The special blend of the literary Ukrainian and the Pokuttian dialect created a flavor not easily duplicated or translated. Nevertheless there have been several attempts to translate Stefanyk into Polish, German, and Russian. The French translation La croix de pierre et autres nouvelles appeared in 1975, and the following English translations have appeared: The Stone Cross (1971), Maple Leaves and Other Stories (1988), and some individual stories in anthologies.

Stefanyk was deeply concerned with the destiny of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada and often mentioned them in his many writings. One of his stories, The Stone Cross (Kaminnyi Khrest), (later made into a movie) is a stirring account of an immigrant’s departure from Stefanyk’s native village, Rusiv. The man upon whom it is based died in 1911, in Hilliard, Alberta.

The monument that was erected to commemorate Vasyl’ Stefanyk is located at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, east of Edmonton, Alberta.