Acquisition of 800 letters written to Zina Genyk-Berezovska by Ukrainian dissidents
The Zina Genyk-Berezovska Collection was brought to the T.H. Shevchenko Institute of Literature in Kyiv from Prague in stages beginning in 1993, two years after her death. In 1995, her son Marko gifted more than 800 letters sent from Ukraine to Genyk-Berezovska, most of which were written in the period 1964-1990. Among her correspondents were prominent cultural figures in Ukraine and well-known members of the sixtiers movement, chief among them Ivan Dziuba, Ivan Svitlychny, Yevhen Sverstiuk, and her dear friend Mykhailyna Khomivna Kotsiubynska, who orchestrated the transfer of Genyk-Berezovska’s papers to Kyiv and catalogued the materials after their arrival.
The 800 letters in this collection contribute to what Kotsiubynska described as an “epistolary panorama of the 1960s,” which documents how this group of friends and colleagues navigated the post-Khrushchev crackdown on cultural and national elites—not just in Ukraine, but in neighbouring Czechoslovakia. These letters capture how they processed and understood the Soviet Union’s military intervention during the Prague Spring in 1968. The Ukrainian writer Ivan Dziuba remembers discussing these events with Genyk-Berezovska in Kyiv the very same day that Soviets sent tanks into Prague. Ukrainians and Czechs in this circle viewed the end of Alexander Dubczek’s “socialism with a human face” as a crushing defeat. Yevhen Sverstiuk noted in his recollections that the Ukrainian sixtiers were taken in by Dubczek’s reforms and viewed positively the idea of moving toward a democratic socialism. This back and forth in person and via letters between Ukrainians in Ukraine and Ukrainian émigrés in Prague, who were Czechoslovak citizens, is just one of the unique elements of Genyk-Berezovska’s collection, which highlights the importance of transnational connections to supporting oppositionist movements.
Kotsiubynska included some of these letters in the appendices of her book Fixed and Imperishable, which references Alexander Herzen’s view on the importance of letters. In the book she discusses letters as an artistic phenomenon, but also as multifaceted medium with its own special characteristics and “aroma.” In an interview with the newspaper Den’, Kotsiubynska references an exchange between two modernist Ukrainian writers to explain her approach to this epistolary legacy. “Your letters are like songs, played vociferously,” Olha Kobylianska wrote to Vasyl Stefanik, “between two sheets of paper you capture an entire universe, the world of your soul, and send it to me.” Moreover, she added that these letters offer an opportunity to view the phenomenon of the sixtiers, their predecessors, and their successors from within, allowing us to “understand these figures as real people, undo the myths that surround them, and conversely, impede efforts to canonize them.”
Starting year of event
Author(s) of this page
- Kulick, Orysia Maria