Representative of “revolutionary romanticism” and “critical realism”, the poet Lessia Ucrainca has become, 110 years after her death, an unlikely symbol of compassion, in the streets of Moscow, towards the Ukrainian people.
The poet (1871-1913) worked on the translation of the Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in addition to having interpreted dozens of popular Ukrainian songs, leaving about two hundred recorded. And her voice can still be heard in the streets of the Russian capital, in the midst of a “special operation” by Vladimir Putin’s troops in Ukraine.
The day after the destruction by a Russian missile of a residential building in the Ukrainian city of Dnieper, on the 16th, in which about five dozen people died, dozens of bouquets of flowers appeared at the foot of the statue of Lessia Ucrainca, which stands on a busy street in Moscow, Ukraine Avenue.
On Wednesday morning, few people wandered around the statue. But, on the eve, the Russian police will have questioned people who were going there with bunches of flowers, according to videos circulating on social networks.
A policeman who made his rounds there confirmed to Lusa that “half a dozen people” had stopped by the statue and deposited bunches of flowers, the day after the missile exploded.
“Everything went on as normal”, added the police officer, next to the statue of Lésia Ucrainca.
Asked if arrests had been made, the agent categorically denied it, contradicting information that circulated on social networks.
At the feet of the poetess, some branches were still visible on Wednesday, surrounded by a white blanket of snow that covers the Russian capital these days.
While responsibility for the Dnieper attack, on a day when several Ukrainian cities were swept away by Russian missiles, is rejected by Moscow, Lessia Ucrainca appears to be standing guard over Ukrainian culture and its past ties with Russia.
The 150th anniversary of the poet’s birth, on February 25, 2021, was celebrated by the Ukrainian authorities in association with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which on its website extols the “values of peace, tolerance, gender and ethnic equality, as well as the powers of inclusion” that the author “professed throughout her life, leaving behind a vast literary heritage, which profoundly affects Ukrainian and international cultural discourse to this day”.
Ukrainian (pseudonym of Larysa Petrivna Kosach-Kvitka) spoke nine languages and translated several Western classics, participated in the Ukrainian national and feminist movements, and wrote over one hundred poems during her travels outside her homeland. She created more than a dozen dramatic works and is linked to the emergence of a new genre in Ukrainian literature – dramatic poems or verse drama, according to UNESCO.
Alongside her literary accomplishments, she explored ethnography and collected data from Ukrainian folk tunes. In the catalog of the Portuguese National Library, there is no record of translations of the work of the Ukrainian poet.
One of her most famous poems, “Possessed”, was written at the deathbed of her friend Serhiy Merzhynskyi, according to the London Ukrainian Review, of the Ukrainian Institute of London.
“For the world all justice and charity / and for the Messiah what? Only glory?/ ‘War and discord, death, disease will pass away,/ peace on earth and good cheer among mankind…’/ And the Messiah? —more ‘glory in the highest’?/ And just glory? Oh what a punishment to be the Messiah who redeems the world!”, writes the poetess in Possuída.
In her statue in the streets of Moscow, now a symbol against war, Ucrainca holds a book in one hand and gestures with the other, eyes fixed on the horizon, as if looking in amazement.
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