Commemoration of Shevchenko by Ukrainians of Diaspora in the Interwar Period

Commemoration of Shevchenko by Ukrainians of Diaspora in the Interwar Period

After the First World War many Ukrainians left the country for Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries in Western Europe. Having been in exile, Ukrainian immigrants formed in the “new place” strong scientific, educational and cultural centers in the inter-war period. Ukrainian community in exile tried to preserve their national identity, and therefore, of course, every year remembered the name of the Great son of Ukrainian people, conducted music and poetry evenings dedicated to Taras Shevchenko, philosophical discourses, published poet works and translations into foreign languages.


In the collection of the Central State Archives of Foreign Ucrainica (TsDAZU Kyiv) there are books, magazines, brochures and other documents which were issued by the Ukrainian community in Western Europe during the 1920-1930s. The key place is taken by documents that tell about commemorating Taras Shevchenko by Ukrainian community abroad. Among them – programs about holding commemoration events, articles dedicated to the life and work of the poet, translations of his works in various languages, and illustrated materials contained on the pages of immigration issues.


For example, in TsDAZU funds there are programs of concerts to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of Taras Shevchenko, 1921, in Uzhgorod (CSR) and in Camp Theater of Lancut (Poland). Periodicals of the archive’s collection contain poems of unknown author “To the Prophet” (“Ukraiinsky Samostiynyk”, Prague, March 1937) and “Prayer to Taras” by O. Karmaniuk (“Veselka”, February-March 1923), which ends with the following lines:


“Our dearest friend! We worship you, we pray you and will continue praying from family to family!”


In the article “Anniversary of Taras Shevchenko” published in the literary, scientific and popular weekly “Nash Svit” (Poland, No.1-4, April 1924, No. 7-18), which is also stored in TsDAZU, it is told that Ukrainian colony in Warsaw arranged evening in memory of Taras Shevchenko. “The evening was opened by A. Salikovskyy with the introduction word about T. Shevchenko as the genius of the nation, and then M. Kowalski made a speech on the topic “State Ideology of Shevchenko and Our Present”. In the same article it is told that in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, March 9, 1924 “in the local church there was held Liturgy in Ukrainian. People, who filled the whole church, were listening church service in their native language with great delight and pleasure”.


Except poems, announcements, and short articles Ukrainian newspapers in Czechoslovakia and Poland of the interwar period published in its pages many articles on the poet, in which his figure was seen in terms of the scientific approach. For example, “Taras Shevchenko and his Historiosophy” (“Samostiina dumka”, April 1934, Vol. 4) by L. Biletsky, “Shevchenko – the Creator of the National Ideology” (“Natsionalna dumka”, No. 2, March 1925 ), “The Cult of Shevchenko” (“Ridna Shkola”, March 1, 1933) by I. Vilkha, “Injustice in Shevchenko’s Poetry” (“Nasha Zoria”, No. 7-8, 1921) by K. Lavrinovych, “Shevchenko as the Genius of the Nation” by A. Salikovsky, and “Sources of the Shevchenko World Outlook” (“Nash Svit” No. I, April 1, 1924) by V. Zayikyn.


In the archival funds there is also a letter of Y. Vyrovy to M. I. Zakharchenko concerning the publishing of the Shevchenko “Kobzar” in Prague.


It is only a small slice of information from documents of the Central State Archives of Foreign Ucrainica, revealing the diversity of forms of popularization of the Shevchenko figure, to which resorted the Ukrainian community in Czechoslovakia and Poland in the interwar period.


More TsDAZU documents can be found at the archive’s website, namely at the online exhibition “Taras Shevchenko – principle that unites Ukrainian people in the world” qq.html


Tetiana Nikolaieva,

Senior research fellow of TsDAZU