Vasyl Symonenko

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Vasyl Symonenko
Василь Симоненко
Born (1935-01-08)January 8, 1935
Lubny Raion, Ukrainian SSR
Died December 13, 1963(1963-12-13) (aged 28)
Cherkasy, Ukrainian SSR
Occupation poet, public activist
Ethnicity Ukrainian
Citizenship Soviet Union
Alma mater Kiev State University (1957)
Literary movement 60ers

Vasyl Symonenko (Ukrainian: Василь Андрійович Симоненко; January 8, 1935 – 1963) a well-known Ukrainian poet, journalist, activist of dissident movement. He is considered one of the most important figures in Ukrainian literature of the early 1960s. By the opinion of the Museum of dissident movement in Kiev, the works and early death of Vasyl Symonenko had an enormous impact on the rise of the national democratic movement in Ukraine.[1]


The poet was born in a peasant family in the village of Biyivtsi, Kharkiv Oblast (today - Poltava Oblast).

After graduating from Kiev State University in 1957, Vasyl Symonenko worked as a journalist in several newspapers in Cherkasy Oblast.

The debut book of poems "Tysha i hrim" ("Silence and thunder") came in 1962 and made clear the talent of Symonenko among the young poets, though he had only one year to live (cancer of kidneys was diagnosed later). His literary environment included the poets Mykola Vinhranovsky, Ivan Drach and Lina Kostenko, the publicists, critics Ivan Dziuba, I. Svitlichny, Y. Sverstyuk and other "shestydesyatnyky" (the sixtiers).[2]

During his last year of living Vasyl Symonenko wrote his second book – "Zemne tyazhinnya" ("Earth’s gravity"), the verses from which were quoted, written out (adding what the censor had omitted), learned by heart and compared with the poetry of Taras Shevchenko.[1]

In 1962, Symonenko together with his friends A.Horska and Les Tanyuk found the burial places of NKVD repressions in Bykivnia, Lukianivskyi and Vasyslkivskyi cemeteries near Kiev. For the fact he appealed to the Kiev City Council. In 1963 Symonenko was brutally beaten up by operatives of the Soviet Ministry of Interior at the Shevchenko rail station in the city of Smila from which he suffered a failure of kidneys and soon died in the main oblast hospital on December 13, 1963.

Already after his death there was published his satiric tale-poem "Travel to the country of Vice-versa" (1964).

His works have been translated into English and published mostly among the Ukrainian diaspora in the Americas and Western Europe.

The fullest collection of Symonenko’s works was published abroad under the title "Bereh chekan" ("Shore of anticipation") in Munich (1963).[1]

In 1967 the publishing house "Smoloskyp" was created in Baltimore by Ukrainian emigrants and named after Vasyl Symonenko.[3]

On December, 2008, the National Bank of Ukraine issued into circulation a commemorative coin "Vasyl Symonenko" within "Outstanding Personalities of Ukraine" series.[4]

Examples of Vasyl Symonenko works

"...Gray-haired L'viv! The capital of my dreams,

Epicenter of my joy and hope!

My heart bursts - I understand you

But, L'viv, you have to understand me a little.

I came to you with admiration of a son

From the plains where Slavuta composes its legends

To have your desperate lion's heart

Shed a drop of power into my heart."

(extract from the poem "Ukrainian Lion", 1962)

"Billions of beliefs are buried in the black soil, billions of happinesses have been scattered into dust..." [5]

"Where are you now, the butchers of my people?

Where is your greatness, your power is where?

Onto bright stars and quiet waters

Now your black anger will not fall.

The people grow and multiply, and act

Without your whips and backsword.

Under the sun of eternity growing older and younger

Its cruel and gentle soul.

My people are! My people always will be!

No one will rescind my people!

There will disappear all the shapeshifters and the strays,

And hordes of conquerors-wanderers!

You, bastards of butchers who are possessed,

Do not forget, you freaks, throughout:

My people are! In its hot veins

the blood of Cossacks pulses and hums!"

24 December 1962[6][7]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Museum of dissident movement in Kiev.
  2. Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  3. Smoloskyp official website
  4. Commemorative Coin "Vasyl Symonenko", National Bank of Ukraine, December 2008
  5. Kiev Memorial Society web-site, English version
  6. Belimova, T. Vasyl Symonenko: "De zaraz vy, katy moho narodu?" ProbaPera. 25 August 2013
  7. Video includes several Ukrainian journalists who read the poem

External links

pl:Wasyl Symonenko