Acquisition of Oleksandr Oles’ Collection
In the early 1990s, the T.H. Shevchenko Institute of Literature began actively acquiring materials from and about writers who left Ukraine prior to 1941, and to an even greater degree, collections from individuals who ended up living abroad and outside the Soviet Union after the war. Among the most valuable and largest collections are the Oleksandr Oles’ and Oleh Olzhych archives, with more than 4,000 and 900 items, respectively.
As Galyna Burlaka and Alla Ripenko indicate in a 2015 article about the acquisition, these two archives arrived together, but have a unique history. After the death of Olekandr Oles’ (also known as Oleksandr Kandyba) and his son Oleh Olzhych in 1944, Vira Ivanivna Oles’, wife and mother to Oleksandr and Oleh, took over as steward of these archives. Later, documents and manuscripts were taken into the care of Oksana Kosmach-Shymanovska, Lyudmila Kraskovska, and Stepana Siropolka. Lastly, all these materials were reunited and given to the well-known Czech Ukrainianist Zina Genyk-Berezovska, who held onto these materials until her death in 1991. Two years later, Marko Berezovsky carried out his mother’s wishes and returned Oleksandr Oles’ emigre archives to Ukraine. With the aid of the Ukrainian ambassador to the Czech Republic Roman Liubkivsky, Berezovsky transferred the Oleksandr Oles’ archive to the T.H. Shevchenko Institute of Literature in Kyiv, where it is a separate collection. Mykhailyna Kotsiubynska was also involved in this process, as a close friend of Genyk-Berezovska and fellow literary scholar.
The content of the Oleksandr Oles’ archive is impressive with the depth, breadth and variety of materials. Burlaka and Ripenko note that there are nearly 300 unpublished poems, as well as two collections of satirical writing, 5 dramas, children’s poems and stories, and well as reflections on the creative process. His correspondence is just as rich, providing an epistolary panorama of cultural life in emigration during his lifetime. Included are letters from statesmen Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Pavlo Khrystiuk, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Dmytro Doroshenko, Mykyta Shapoval and others. Letters from Oles’ to others are sparse, however, those to his wife and son are quite remarkable. The poet left Ukraine in February 1919 as part of a diplomatic mission, while his wife and son were unable to extricated themselves from that “communist paradise” until January 1923. Oles’ letters to them were filled with detailed stories, satirical commentaries, as well as more personal revelations shaped by a climate of mutual respect and understanding. Thankfully, the responses to these letters were also saved, which offers a rare collection of letters exchanged within the family. Scholars have worked with these materials, publishing two volumes of Oles’ writing during emigration, while the institute waits for the funding necessary to publish the family’s letters.
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Author(s) of this page
- Kulick, Orysia Maria