A XIX-century poet is now Ukraine’s driving force of change

A XIX century poet is now Ukraine’s driving force of change

Shevchenko - Superman. By Andriy Yermolenko 

Culture, More

The traditional image of Taras Shevchenko

The traditional “party icon” image of Taras Shevchenko

Ukraine’s #1 national symbol, Taras Shevchenko, is getting a major makeover. He is becoming much younger and more modern. The Ukrainian poet was born in 1814 into a serf’s family at the time when the Russian Empire had effectively eliminated Ukrainian statehood. His life was one of protest against Russian supremacy and social oppression. His poems, written in the style of romanticism, were dreams of national statehood and a decent life for Ukrainians.

Read more: Taras Shevchenko. The case of a personal fight against the Russian Empire

200 years later, the same topics are still relevant in Ukraine. But artist Andriy Yermolenko is doing everything to change that. “Shevchenko was never convenient for the ruling authorities, so they did everything for people to stop reading him,” Andriy told Euromaidan Press. According to Andriy, the exaltation of the poet to the state of a “party icon” prevents people from actually reading his writings. And that is why little changed in Ukraine over the last 200 years.

To spark up the “party icon” image, Andriy shows a contemporary Shevchenko in his project Shevchenkiana: he becomes Superman bearing the “T.Sh.” monogram, a traditional Ukrainian Kozak, a policeman, biker, rock star.

“I want him to stop being relevant, so that there would finally be no masters in Ukraine, and for the bloodsuckers to perish, and so that Shevchenko would finally lose his relevance and stop being a prophet. He demanded: ‘arise, tear asunder your chains,’ and in response we start talking about how awesome he is.”

It seems that Andriy’s efforts have not been in vain. After Ukrainians rose up in Euromaidan revolution to depose the “bloodsucking” corrupt President Yanukovych and his cohort, they are not only forced to continue their battle against a hybrid Russian invasion, but are struggling to change the corrupt system which is incompatible with a dignified life. Often, Shevchenko leads the way.

Here are some ways that Shevchenko contributes to Ukraine’s ongoing struggle against military aggression and for democracy, in pictures of various artists and translations of his poems to English.

By telling Ukrainians to rise up

“Bury me and arise
Tear asunder your chains,
And water your liberty
With blood of your foes.
Then in the great family,
A renewed people, and free
Do not forget to speak softly
And not unkindly of me.”

From Testament; hear it read aloud by Serhiy Nihoyan, the Armenian-Ukrainian protester that was the first to be shot at Euromaidan; read the whole poem translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj [expand title=”by clicking here:”]

When I die, then bury me
In a grave amidst
The width of the Steppe
In my beloved Ukraine,
So that in the broad pastures
By the Dnipro and its banks
I can see and hear
The river’s roaring waters.
When it bears from Ukraine,
Into the blue sea,
The blood of our foes… Only then
Will I abandon
The pasture and the mountain,
To ascend to God and pray…
Till then I shall not know the deity.
Bury me and arise
Tear asunder your chains,
And water your liberty
With blood of your foes.
Then in the great family,
A renewed people, and free
Do not forget to speak softly
And not unkindly of me.

Translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj [/expand]

By telling them to keep fighting