As August 24th approaches, Ukraine celebrates its 30th year of independence, reflecting upon its profound cultural heritage that extends deep into the annals of history. This nation adorned in blue and yellow, reminiscent of its Cossack legacy, has shared historical ties with Sweden since the Viking Age, fostering a tradition of song and resilience over a millennium.
Ukraine’s fertile lands, as abundant as its culture, endured the voracious appetites of neighboring empires such as Russia, Turkey, Austria, and Poland, throughout extended epochs. Yet, the unwavering pursuit of independence persisted. Despite the diversion of several Ukrainian talents to contribute to the cultures of these empires, a remarkable Ukrainian literary tradition emerged, transcending the ages.
The pivotal year of 1991 marked the culmination of this struggle, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union finally granted Ukraine its long-sought independence. The nation’s battle for survival continues, and within this context, the works of Ukraine’s national poets from the last three centuries are presented in Swedish translation.
Among these poets is the Baroque philosopher Hryhory Skovoroda (1722 – 1794), who could be likened to Ukraine’s response to C.M. Bellman and a counterpart to Omar Khayyam. Ivan Franko (1856 – 1916), an intellectual, revolutionary, and champion of freedom, left an indelible mark on Ukraine’s quest for self-determination. Vasyl Stus (1938 – 1985), a Soviet prisoner of conscience who clung to the dream of an independent Ukraine even within the confines of a labor camp, stands as a symbol of unwavering spirit.
Today, Serhiy Zhadan (born 1974), a living presence and prolific writer residing in Sweden, continues to illuminate the essence of the nation and the human experience throughout changing epochs.
Eugene Wolynsky’s translation into Swedish, guided by the editorial expertise of Mattias Ågren, bridges these voices from Ukraine’s past to the present, capturing the enduring spirit of a nation that has journeyed through the currents of time in pursuit of its identity and freedom.
Design Ekaterina Sisfontes.