Lina Kostenko – Ukraine

Linked with Cultural Aura of a Nation.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

PAGAN CHILDHOOD: “I was born in the same year as Charlie Chaplin, Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata, the Eiffel Tower, and Eliot, I think,” Anna Akhmatova wrote in one of her autobiographical notes. Lina Kostenko was born several days after the newspaper Pravda carried Stalin’s article “Dizzy with Success.” This happened on March 19, 1930, in the village of Rzhyshchiv, situated on the banks of the eternal river.

Many years later Kostenko said that Rzhyshchiv once reminded her of Macondo from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. The Nobel Prize-winning Columbian author described Macondo as “a small settlement with two dozen huts built of clay and bamboo on the banks of a river that carried its transparent waters over a stone bed of white polished boulders the size of prehistoric eggs.” Macondo is inhabited by odd people, who time and again find themselves afflicted by strange maladies. In their world reality merges with fantasy and fable. What was Lina Kostenko’s fable of Rzhyshchiv like? (full text).

She says: “No human being or living creature deserves to be killed or eliminated. His destiny cannot be solved here, on earth”.

Lina Kostenko - Ukraine.jpg.

Lina Kostenko – Ukraine

Lina Kostenko, born in 1930 near Kiev is considered one of the greatest contemporary Ukrainian poets. She was just a young girl when the Second World War began and Ukraine was occupied. This marked her for life and she started to put her feelings into poems at the age of 14.

Later she had to fight another battle: the struggle for freedom of thought and identity in the dark years of Soviet totalitarianism. The Ukrainian language and culture were more or less banned and she was among a handful of writers who had the courage to defend those ideals.

She studied in Ukraine and the Soviet Union and on her return to Ukraine she wrote and published a series of poetry books and became one of the spokespersons of the “shestydesiatnyky,” an intellectual movement during the 1960s that expressed the aspirations of the post-war generation of Ukrainian writers to revitalize Ukrainian literature and liberate it from the influence of political oppression.

In 1966 she threw flowers to some defendants during trials. It was a very brave gesture in those days. She was not imprisoned, probably only due to her popularity.

But the Soviet authorities found another way to isolate her: she was removed from the literary scene for 16 years.

Since 1994 she has been traveling to the closed Chernobyl zone with a group of volunteers, consisting of specialists in ethnology, Ukrainian folk culture and sociology. Lina Kostenko works both as a member and inspirer of “the Chernobyl expeditions.” They move with a backpack from one old and deserted house to another, striving to do their best to preserve the barely perceptible spirit and mood that still remains encoded in icons, charms, embroidered towels and other household items. They investigate theabundant churches and other examples of Ukrainian architecture and meet with the people who refused to leave the soil they grew up on.

She is like a spiritual leader on these expeditions. Her work draws government attention to the problems of Chernobyl and encourages the preservation of the culture for the coming generations. Lina Kostenko’s personality is still a force to be reckoned with in the new Ukraine rising from the shadows of more than 80 years of Russian dominance.

Fate had her working at very dramatic times of history.

It was not easy for her to claim her space as a poet in the Soviet times. She was one of the figures who tried to break down the imperial wall with her fearlessness.

She has experienced the danger of being imprisoned for the freedom of expression. Now she continues her fight for truth by risking her life in the radioactivity of Chernobyl. (1000PeaceWomen).

While the previous four Ukrainian women worth being called “tough guys” are historical figures, the fifth, Lina Kostenko, is a contemporary. She is strong and influential as well as tough. The poetess, considered by some to be of similar stature as Lesya Ukrayinka, is known for her work as a chronicler of Chernobyl, following Ukraine’s atomic Atlantis for a decade. The winner of the prestigious Shevchenko and Francesco Petrarch prizes wears protective overalls when she visits the Chernobyl zone. There, vegetation grows in former streets and deer, unafraid of people, walk calmly. Proud old people who refused to abandon their homes live in wooden huts framed in lilac.

The residents offer Lina milk and dried fish, which she consumes. Her vital mission in the zone is to collect radioactive artifacts and ethnographic items left there after the blast 16 years ago forced most to flee their homes. Kostenko is brave, as well as being incredibly uncompromising and scrupulous. Many of her phrases and actions agitate the public opinion, creating friends as well as enemies. During the Soviet period, she deliberately did not publish anything as protest against the communist’s censorship and the state’s retaliation against dissident writers. In independent Ukraine, she has refused to accept the country’s highest civilian honor: the Order of Yaroslav the Wise. She rejected the medal because it had also been awarded to Boris Yeltsin and Pavlo Lazarenko. Any list of Ukrainian tough guys would necessarily include these tough gals as well. And our list would likely not need resort to fellows who have survived multiple intentional auto accidents! (Ukraine-Observer).

Lina Kostenko (Ukrainian: Ліна Василівна Костенко, born on March 19, 1930 in Rzhyshchiv, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine) is a leading representative of Ukrainian poets of the sixties known as Shestydesiantnyky (dissidents). This group started publishing during the 1950s and reached its apex during the early 1960s. It was during the 1950s in which Kostenko published her first poems in major Ukrainian periodicals.

Lina graduated with distinction from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow in 1956. Following her graduation she published 3 collections of poetry in 1957, 1958, and 1961. These books became immensely popular among her Ukrainian readers, however they also forced her into publication silence as she was unwilling to submit to Soviet authorities.

It wasn’t until 1977 (16 years later) that her next major collection was published. She followed this with several more collections and a children’s book called The Lilac King. In 1979 she followed with one of her greatest works the historical novel in verse, Marusia Churai, about at 17th century Ukrainian folksinger. Her most recent collection is Berestechko, a book length historical poem. (full text wikipedia/en).

Lina Kostenko (ukrainisch Ліна Костенко, wiss. Transliteration Lina Kostenko; * 19. März 1930 in Rschyschtschiw, Oblast Kiew) ist eine ukrainische Dichterin. Sie gehört zu den wichtigsten Vertreterinnen der ukrainischen Lyrik des 20. Jahrhunderts und ist eine Vorläuferin der Dichtergeneration der politischen und künstlerischen „Tauwetter-Periode“ nach 1956 in der Sowjetunion. (full text wikipedia/de).

Lina Kostenko (ukr. Ліна Василівна Костенко) (ur. 19 marca 1930 w Rżyszczewie (ukr. Ржищів) na Kijowszczyźnie, około 60 km na płd.-wsch. od Kijowa, na prawym brzegu Dniepru) – ukraińska poetka i tłumaczka, autorka liryków miłosnych i o tematyce patriotycznej. (full text wikipedia/pl).

Read: Poems in Ukrainian.

Verses of Kostenko (in ukranian).

… Poet Lina Kostenko recalled one of James Mace’s first televised appearances in Ukraine, when, asked what key should be used for Ukraine’s history, he said, “The key to Ukraine’s history is a key to Pandora’s box.” She feels that James Mace was looking for this key to Pandora’s box not to open it, for, to quote Lina Kostenko, “all the misfortunes have been already released onto Ukraine,” but to drive all those misfortunes back into the box and lock them tight … (full text).

The All-Ukrainian conference of «Our Ukraine» women. Victor Yuschenko has got a portrait of Lina Kostenko as a present from Ukrainian Women Union, 9 June 2004.

Lina Kostenko (ukraine Ліна Костенко; naskiĝis en 1930 apud Kievo) – unu el ĉefaj reprezentantoj de ukrainaj poetoj-disidentoj, ankaŭ konataj kiel “ŝestidesjatniki” (ukraine – “homoj de 60-aj jaroj”). En 1936 Lina kun familio translokiĝis al Kievo, kie ŝi finis mezlernejon kaj ekstudis en Pedagogia instituto. Finis Literaturan instituton de Gorkij en Moskvo (1956). La unuaj poemkolektoj aperis en 1957, 1958, 1961. Poste ŝi “eksilentis” por 16 jaroj – komunisma reĝimo simple ignoris la verkadon de la poetino. 1979 – romano en versoj “Marusja Ĉuraj” pri la ukraina popolkantistino de la 18-a jarcento, pro kiu ŝi fariĝis laŭreato de la Ŝevĉenka ŝtata premio (1987). Tradukis el la ĉeĥa kaj la pola.

Honora profesoro de Kijiva Mohila Akademio, Lviva Universitato, Ĉernivca Universitato.

Verkoj estis tradukitaj en multajn lingvojn; esperantigis ŝian verkaron Kris Long kaj Volodimir Pacjurko. (eo.wikipedia).

Selected poetry by Lina Kostenko in bilingual Ukrainian-English edition.

And she says: “When we were part of the empire, the empire wanted to have its own image in the world and adjusted the ideological mirrors in such a way so that an illusion was created, and we were part of that illusion presented to the world. But actually, we remained behind the iron curtain. We were submerged in the mad ideological rhetoric, we lauded ourselves, we kept telling ourselves that we were a great nation, that we were champions of the most progressive ideals. At the same time, genocide of unheard proportions and cynicism were going on through cruel repression, famine and forced assimilation. The nation was purposefully discredited, such ideological cliches as “nationalists,” “separatists,” “traitors” were used to stamp out dissent.

But when the iron curtain collapsed with a deafening noise, it turned out that, as far as the world was concerned, we were no longer there. Ukraine is little known in the world, it is easily mistaken for Russia. Ukraine’s problems are of no concern for the world. Many historical misconceptions that got attached to Ukraine have not been corrected by us.

For many people in Ukraine it was a terrible discovery, for some it was a bitter surprise and for some it was a bad shock. And it was so bad on young ambitious people, I think, who were burdened with neither reminiscences nor with any of our national complexes, and who were ready to work and live a new life. And suddenly they found themselves facing a humiliating and depressing reality”. (full long text).

His Stories Becoming Histories, Lina Kostenko’s Poetic Martyr-Drama. See also on


ukrainian studies;

The blog ‘blanc de ta nuque‘;

Read: Lina Kostenko, Poet & Stalker, by Stanislav Bondarenko.

A history of artistic repression in Ukrain;

Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures;

The Scythian Odyssey:” A Polemic with Aleksandr Blok;

sherp relline;

Manuscripts Catalogue, Documents of Uni Glasgow.

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