Interview with Great Ukrainian Poet Dmytro Chystiak by Agnieszka Herman
How does the literary life look like in Ukraine right now?
- Of course, our life has changed. We are in a kind of Russian roulette: bombing day and night, different kinds of difficulties but comparing to the other cities Kyiv is preserved better because Russian troops were crushed in our region. The situation in suburbs controlled by Russian troops is dramatic: people were killed, violated, robbed, houses, museums, churches were destroyed by air attacks and artillery, also from the city of Irpin that was before the center of cultural and literary life where we used to host the International Kochur literary translation festival. It seems to be another life… Fortunately, we still have the opportunity to speak on foreign media, to share the truth and ask for help for our army, our volunteers, our refugees, to be in contact with all readers and writers from all over the world, especially through the contacts of National Writers’ Union of Ukraine and of the European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters where I am international responsible for Letters’ section. We still have a lot of true friends whom I hope to thank after the victory.
Is the war the main topic in poems?
- Yes, for sure. Poetry is also a great moment of bringing together Ukrainians: volunteerism, partisan struggle, democratic mutual aid in times of war, shared values, form a solid base which, despite the threats of aerial (and even nuclear) destruction from the part of Putin’s regime, will end up revealing our nation which I am certain today to define as European (despite the problems of growth like the postcolonial complexes in many fields) by its mentality finally clearly defined. A mentality which nourished the blood of Gogol and Dovjenko and which is illustrated these days by my compatriots who often at the cost of their lives fight for the future European of which they will be an organic part in the future… This is the hour that one of the founders of our literature Taras Shevchenko foresaw in his poetry: “Stand up you, brothers, release your chains (…) in a large family, free, united, new (…) And on the new earth there will be no more enemy, oppressor, there will only be the Son and the Mother, and the humans on this new earth “…
How can literature find words to describe such horrifying time?
- Ukrainian writers have often gone beyond the framework of the writer. Images of the poet Taras Shevchenko are often found alongside the Virgin in Ukrainian homes, the historian Mykhailo Hrushevskyi was the First President of Ukraine in 1918, the poet Pavlo Tychyna headed the Soviet government, the prose writer Oles Honchar initiated the reconstruction of Saint Michael’s Cathedral with Golden Domes destroyed by the Stalinist regime… The Kyiv section of the National Union of Writers where I am vice-president initiated the social movement “Roukh” which played a essential role in obtaining Ukrainian independence in 1991. I knew these writers in my youth and their example was inspiring. Thinking of these great examples, I find this same source of inspiration where the social is not inseparable from human dignity. Because every great writer even after his death remains at the service which is also his freedom: of the Ideal, of Knowledge, of the Sacred, of the Unconscious and, certainly, of the Reader whom he guides towards the Blue Bird or the Flowers of Evil, Clarity or Darkness. But this same choice, each of us makes it, obviously…
I would like to know whether the books are coming out?
- The economic crisis in Ukraine could be compared to the disasters of the Second World War so it is obvious that there are surely less books then before the Russian aggression. But several anthologies of Ukrainian war poetry were published recently. My work is also to promote Ukrainian culture abroad so I published during the war the Anthology of Ukrainian poetry from 19th century to nowadays, the 2 volumes of History of Ukraine by Myhailo Hrushevskyi and am preparing the Anthology of Ukrainian literature from Medieval times to 19th century in French and then in Albania, Italy and USA with some extracts published in different countries, broadcasted in foreign media. Sad to say that Ukrainian culture had to look for the war to be better known abroad. But I also know that for centuries Ukraine was an organic part of Europe. An example. In 11th century (the principality of Moscow did not yet exist), the founder of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv Yaroslav the Wise married his daughters to the kings of France, Norway and Hungary, his sister was a Queen of Poland. And then four centuries of Asian Russian domination made a lot of impact on us. Fortunately, the impact was less than on our enemies who commit crimes against humanity, whereas the majority of Russian intellectuals support Putin’s regime. Not so shocking for us if we read attentively the history of our countries. But Orange Revolution, Maidan and the War ensures me that we are already back to the European civilization even if the price for this return is so expensive…
Agnieszka Herman - Polish poetess, journalist, graphic designer. She published 5 poetry books: The Sun Exploded, Written by the light, The hardest thing is walking in the middle of the autumn day , The crosscut point - poems collected in Bulgarian and Backgroud. Her poems have been published in many anthologies and magazines in Poland, Serbia, Bułgaria, India, Turkey, Japan, Kingdom of Great Britain, Ukraine, India and USA. She participated in many polish and international literature festivals. Finalist of 2020 Orpheus Poetry Award K.I. Gałczyński for her Late Styles book Background, Warsaw 2019) - the readers' award. She cooperates with large publishing houses in Poland where she designs book covers. She is the author of cover designs (more than 200), some of them are international bestsellers. She is a member of Polish Haiku Association.
©All Rights reserved by Torkito Tarjoni