Sunday, December 05, 2010

Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine's National Poet

This statue of Taras Shevchenko stands in a park in Yalta. Shevchenko was born a serf, but on account of his great abilities as an artist and poet acquired a patron who liberated him and paid for his education in St. Petersburg. Born just at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the poet died in 1861 just a few days before the universal declaration of the end of serfdom throughout Russia. He had agitated all his life for an end to serfdom and for his Ukrainian homeland.
The start of one of his poems runs thus:
The mighty Dnieper roars and bellows
The wind in anger howls and raves
Down to the ground it bends the willows
And mountain high lifts up the waves
It is good to know that much of the Dnieper still looks, after 150 years, as it must have to Shevchenko.
I was surprised to discover that there is a Shevchenko Museum in Toronto, the only one to the poet in North America. Many Ukrainians immigrated to Canada at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries. Most of them went to the Praries, which resemble the steppes of their native land. But even Montreal has a Shevchenko Boulevard, and a Ukrainian caisse populaire.



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