Poetry Against the System: Vasyl Stus and the Untold Story of Ukrainian Dissidents. 12 March 2020

DATE & TIME: Thursday 12 March 2020, 7pm

VENUE: 79 Holland Park, London W11 3SW

book via eventbrite. Early bird (book before 16 Feb) £7, £5 cons; full price £10, cons £7

In the late Soviet period, Vasyl Stus was a leading figure among Ukrainian dissidents, whose unceasing protests helped bring down the totalitarian system. During over a decade of imprisonment in the Gulag, Stus managed to write his magnum opus poetry collection, which firmly secured his position as one of Ukraine’s most sophisticated twentieth-century poets. Yet Stus remains virtually unknown outside Ukraine.

This is despite the fact that more than thirty years on, Stus’s story is as pressing as ever – the state-appointed ‘lawyer’ who represented Stus in his trial is now Putin’s right-hand-man and leader of one of Ukraine’s current parliamentary parties. Stus’s hometown Donetsk is occupied, with more than 100 Ukrainian political prisoners currently in Russian prisons. The recent feature film Zaboronenyi / Banned (2019) placed Stus in the spotlight even more prominently and stirred poignant discussion in Ukrainian society.

Why were the Soviet authorities so afraid of Stus and other Ukrainian dissidents? How did Stus oppose the regime through his poetry? And what does Stus’s story tell us about present-day Ukraine?

Join us for a thought-provoking talk with Bohdan Tokarsky, a scholar of Ukrainian poetry and Affiliated Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies at Cambridge, and moderator Uilleam Blacker, Lecturer in Comparative Culture of Russia and Eastern Europe, UCL.

The event will also feature poetry readings of new translations of Stus into English and a short screening of documentary footage. The talk will be followed by a complimentary wine reception.

This event is held in partnership with PEN International. PEN members provided moral support for Stus and his fellow Ukrainian political prisoners in the Gulag. PEN’s commitment to supporting imprisoned writers around the world remains of vital importance for Ukraine today, as dozens of Ukrainian prisoners are now imprisoned in Russia on politically-motivated grounds.

All proceeds for the event will go towards supporting the work of the Ukrainian Institute London.

The event will be held in English.