Taras Shevchenko, self-portrait
TARAS SHEVCHENKO (1814-1861) is the most important Ukrainian poet of the 19th century. Born a serf, he was orphaned early in life and grew up in great poverty. Shevchenko’s freed was bought in 1838 and he studied painting at the St. Petersburg Academy of Art. His first collection of poetry, Kobzar ("The Bard" 1840), is generally acknowledged to be the most important event in Ukrainian literature. He was arrested in 1847 and punished with twenty five years of compulsory service in a military outpost in Central Asia for writing poems that satirized the Tsar. Forbidden to write or paint, he continued to do so clandestinely. Six of the poems included here are from this period. He was released in the spring of 1858. That fall he met Ira Aldridge in St. Petersburg and drew his portrait. Shevchenko tried to visit his homeland the following summer, but was arrested and sent back to St. Petersburg. He died March 10, 1861, a day after his 47th birthday and seven days before the emancipation of serfs in Russia was announced.
Translations of Taras Shevchenko by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps
Yara Arts Group