Historical aspect of Ukrainian diaspora in the USA literary life in (1917-1920)

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

Author: Telyachy Yrij, Khmelnitsky Humanitarian-Pedagogical Academy, Ukraine

The concept of “diaspora”, which has already entered Ukrainian social thinking, now is being completed with new meanings and aiding the process of accepting Ukrainians living abroad as an inseparable part of a holistic national cultural system. Ukrainian diaspora discovery became an important step to its own unity for Ukrainian culture.

Cultural lives of both Ukraine and Ukrainian diaspora have always been very closely connected, but the latter has also taken in the mentality and cultural identity of the host countries. Not only has diaspora enriched the mainland culture, extended its volume, but proved the unity and integrity of Ukrainian national culture as a result of a long-term struggle of the country for political independence.

Having proved its capability of efficient coexistence with European and even World cultures Ukrainian diaspora also prepared Ukrainian mainland culture to such coexistence.

From the very beginning of its development Ukrainian diaspora was focused on best world cultural levels and standards. This is also true concerning literary work of Ukrainian diaspora representatives during of the stormiest period of Ukrainian history – period of revolution in 1917-20.

The revolutionary events of 1917-1920 in Ukraine found an echo in every place Ukrainian people lived in, particularly in the USA where many thousands of our compatriots lived. To protect their national, professional interests and to help each other they were united in the Ukrainian National Association (Ukrayinsky narodny soyuz) (hereinafter – UNA), called as Rusky narodny soyuz to 1914, which was the oldest, largest and most influential public assistance organization extending its activity on Canada (1). The UNA history is traced in fundamental publications of Myshuga L. (2), Kuropas M. B. (3), articles of Trygub P., Murphy N. (4) etc.

The UNA activity in 1917-1920 is one of the most interesting and underexplored pages of its past, when the diaspora supported actively the struggle of Ukrainian people in the mainland homeland for creation of an independent state. Kyrchiv K. (5) was the head of the UNA Executive Committee in 1917-1920. The newspaper "Svoboda" had been the main press organ of UNA since 1893. "In the history of Ukrainian journalism the newspaper "Svoboda" is a unique phenomenon and it takes one of the leading places.

Except "Svoboda", neither of our newspapers in Ukraine or in the diaspora appeared among more disadvantaged circumstances, neither had more difficult task to be an incentive, enlightener and real guide of its readers, neither involved by a number and variety of its employees and its themes literally every corner of the earth Ukrainians lived in, and finally, neither stayed alive for hundred years", – Dr. Kravchenyuk O. (6) wrote in one of the articles about "Svoboda". In 1917-1920 Stetkevych O. and Lototsky V. (7) took the lead in the editorial staffs. The newspaper became the main information organ of the course and developments of the revolution in Ukraine.

Together with a political chronicle the materials of different genres, including poetical and prose works of both well-known authors and beginners were published here. American Ukrainians supported actively the idea of Ukrainian sovereignty, promoted comprehensively the strengthening of the nationhood. Together with the "Svoboda" team they made significant intellectual and financial efforts to make the newspaper informative and interesting one for its readers and subscribers.

Despite the popularization of the research of culture processes of Ukrainian emigration in the Revolutionary USA, there no generalizing results of writings of the American Ukrainians in the historiography and source studies of 1917-1920. It was also a failure to reveal the information about a systematization of literary works being published in "Svoboda" during the said chronological period. It is possible to restore the overall picture of cultural and literary life in 1917-1920 only recalling comprehensively the overall content of the literary process in Ukraine and abroad (including in the USA).

The analysis of the content of more than 600 revealed issues of "Svoboda" for 1917 - 1920 testifies about the important educational function of the newspaper, describes literary tastes of readers, reveals themes of writings, their genres, an activity of contributors, a public reaction to important events, moods, and, importantly, a contingent of authors, contributors from both Ukraine and USA.

Arguably, the aspiration of our emigrants for independence had been present in content of the newspaper long before March 15, 1917, when the USA was received the official information about the revolutionary events in Russia. The characteristics of the newspaper content for the period from January 1917 till December 1920 exposes fully the statist position of the editorial board, the support of development of national and cultural processes in Ukraine.

"The appeal to the Ukrainian community in America" with information about creation of the Ukrainian Council in the USA (early in 1917) as well as "The New Year's call of "Educational Commission of the Ukrainian National Association" signed early in 1917 by Stolitkevych B., the head of the latter, contributed to an activation of the literary life (8-9). However, even more significant thing became the resolution of the Congress of the United States of February 22, on adoption of the resolution on determination of "Ukrainian day" in the country on April 21, 1917. The relevant resolution of W. Wilson, the U.S. President issued on March 16, 1917 indicating that "... the United States population may make such sacrifices which it deems to be appropriate ones to aid punished Ruthenians (Ukrainians. – Y.T.) in the warring states" (11).

For the sake of objectivity, it is necessary to point out the existence of serious problems in the environment of Ukrainian emigration itself. They are related to socio-political, socio-economic, cultural and educational factors. Blashchuk A. wrote in his article "About needs of Ukrainian immigration": "It is likely to say that the fate of Ukrainian immigration to America is not worth the trouble to envy. Just think, over half a million Ukrainian immigrants hardly represented themselves as intellectuals and were not respected properly on the part of other, more educated nations here ... [How] American could be considered as an equal to our immigrant when he/the latter couldn’t even sign and explain who he was?" (12). To raise a national consciousness of the compatriots the newspaper printed materials about the significance of Ukrainian culture in European dimension, pointing to its significant achievements in art, literature, music (13).

Assessing the first year of the revolution, Nichka I. noted that "the year 1917 in the history of Ukrainian nation renewal has to take, and probably will do take the most important place... A revolutionary wave, embracing broad masses is caused to deepen a national consciousness..., and consciousness, in turn, creates a cultural movement that will eventually form a solid foundation for independent life of our people" (14). However, the revolutionary euphoria changed quickly with the problems putting at risk the very existence of the independent state.

Particularly critical situation became in 1920. On January 1, 1920 Andriyivsky V. from Kamyanets-Podilskycity said in the article "The Great Ruin (the letter from Ukraine)": "Neither who lives only in Europe... neither who is stirred in that mess here – can’t imagine the whole picture of the cultural and economic decline of Ukraine after the war and the revolution... the intelligence isn’t being produced any more. Who wants to study when intelligent workers are sentenced to starvation... A hungry Moscow or Jewish city and village are fighting now… Literature got lost without a trace disregarding already the translation of Marseillaise made by Vorony into Ukrainian for which the Bolsheviks had paid him 15,000 rubles, as well as the translation of many pornographic verses of "Mycaretу" poets made by Semenko and K0. Bookstores are destroyed. Libraries are looted. Journalism came to nothing... Architecture? Painting? Architects earn living by destructing wooden houses for fuel. It is far more profitable to sell at once such a house for demolition than to continue its maintaining. Artists paint fence posters... for the Bolsheviks. There is no paint on signs!" (15).

In one of May issues of 1920 "Svoboda" published two poems of Babiy B. "Call to the people" and "Let’s fight, my fellows!" The author – the student from Buchach city– sent to his father Babiy M., who worked at New York, these texts with the letter in which the young poet wrote: "At various times such sorrow and grief whelm my soul, that I’m nigh out of my wits. Where is our truth? Where are our people? Where are devoted sons of Ukraine? The truth got lost, people are asleep, and devoted sons of Ukraine are killed and lying in the field with bloody swords in their hardened hands. At such moments I take a pen and write what my soul dictates me" (16).

A Ukrainian village remained a mainstay of the national idea, a talisman of the culture. One Polish officer stated in the pages of Warsaw press (1920): "And I would like so that the consciousness and culture of Polish peasant ... were as high as those of many Ukrainian ones... Who still says today that Ukraine doesn’t exist, he deludes himself and handles a figment. Ukraine woke up in bloody battles of the great war and now it exists" (17).

Much attention in the newspaper was paid to the popularization of writings of T. Shevchenko, I. Franko (18-19). (Demydchuk S. defended the copyrights of the latter’s family during the edition of his works, as it is neglected by publishers both in Ukraine and abroad (20). Editors and contributors responded to significant events in the literary life of Ukraine, issuing various articles, for example, about the arrest of journalist Stepanivsky V., the content and comment of S. Yefremov’s letter to Kotsyubynsky Y., the congratulatory address to the anniversary of Lepky B., about the return of poetess Malytska K. to Lvivcity, the tribute to the memory of Shashkevych M., obituaries of poets Kovaliv S., AlchevskaH., the familiarization with writings of famous European, world writers (eg A. Chekhov) (21-28). (The above mentioned themes of the materials are selective).

It was about characteristics of the state of Ukrainian press both in Ukraine and the United States in the newspaper strips. "Svoboda" published the quite informative essay of V. Doroshenko, which was delivered at the convention of Ukrainian journalists in the summer of 1917 in Philadelphia (29). February 15, 1920 the newspaper «Times» (New York) filed the information about the state of "alien" press in the U.S. (including Ukrainian one).

Thus, according to American correspondents for half a million Ukrainians, living in industrial regions, 19 newspapers were published in the native language (particularly, 6 – religious, 2 – humorous, 5 –of socialist orientation, 6 – extremely radical) (30). Every year the newspaper acquainted its readers with contents of the UNA almanac for the following calendar year (31).

Readers could also learn about the Ukrainian literary life in European countries. For example, it was discussed in one of the materials the meeting of the Union of Ukrainian Writers and Journalists "about presentations and literary evenings" held in October 7, 1920 in Vienna. It was attended by committee chairmen: of academic presentations – prof. Kolessa O., popular presentations – Trylyovsky K., literary evenings – Starosolsky V. and others, who informed about the invitation to the reading ofCherkasenko S. and prof. Hannytsky I. lectures, the carrying of weekly literary evenings, the tribute to the memory of L. Ukrayinka, M. Drahomanov (32). Readers could learn about the publishing of the poem "Ukraine" by young Danish poet Håkon Krogh in one of the most prestigious Danish newspapers (33).

Native scientists begun to publish actively in foreign languages the articles of Ukrainian studies theme in European newspapers and magazines (34). A newspaper in one of its issues republished from Canadian weekly "Ukrainian Voice" the "14 principles for Ukrainian civil activist and every Ukrainian", - a kind of the patriotic honor code of Ukrainians (35). A particular attention should be paid to the content of the note "Literary works of American Ukrainians" which was coordinated by prof. S. Smal-Stotsky for the period from August till September of 1919 (36-45).

The said gives reasons to speak about an important educational function of the newspaper "Svoboda" in the USA during the years of Ukrainian statehood (1917-1920). Analysis of the newspaper content states that "Svoboda" is the essential source for the study of activity of intellectualism literature, a component of the national and cultural renewal of the Ukrainian people.

However, in this context, it is necessary to have more precise characteristics of poetry and prose according to their authorship, themes, number of regional representation and others.

During 1917 important events in the World, European, Ukrainian history took place and the key one was Russian revolution, Central Council and Ukrainian People’s Republic formation and functioning which became the focus for many poets and writers.

All "Svoboda" issues (1917) content analysis revealed that 137 poems by 64 authors were published within that period. Among them there are 50 Ukrainian authors and 122 poems in Ukrainian, 1 author and 1 poem in English, 8 unknown authors and 8 poems etc. Apart from poems the editorial stuff published 22 prose works by 13 authors – altogether 159 literary works by 77 authors.

It has also been found that in the next 1918 year the newspaper published 192 poems by 112 authors: 158 poems in the Ukrainian language by 84 poets, 2 works in English by 2 authors, 14 poems by 10 unknown writers etc. Apart from poems the editorial stuff published 5 prose works by 5 different authors – altogether 179 literary works by 117 authors. The topicality of the published works represented contemporary socio-political realities: the first wave of Ukraine’s occupation by Bolsheviks, Ukrainian People’s Republic defeat, Ukrainian State of Skropadsky, the end of World War I.

All "Svoboda" issues (1919) content analysis revealed that 163 poems by 95 authors were published within that period. Among them there are 70 Ukrainian authors of 126 poems in Ukrainian, 12 authors and 12 poems in English, 3 unknown authors and 3 poems etc. Apart from poems the editorial stuff published 14 prose works by 14 authors – altogether 177 literary works by 119 authors.

The literary works dealt with difficult events of political and military conflicts: bolsheviks’, Poland’s and denikins’ aggressions, West-Ukrainian People’s Republic problems, hardships of Ukrainian rural population, problems of Ukrainian immigrants, Ukrainian Sich Riflemen war life etc.

It has also been found that in the next 1920 year the newspaper published 193 poems by 89 authors: 162 poems in the Ukrainian language by 67 poets, 2 works in English by 2 authors, 4 poems by 4 unknown writers etc. Apart from poems the editorial stuff published 8 prose works by 8 different authors – altogether 179 literary works by 117 authors.

The topicality of contemporary works included the most important socio-political events of 1920: war struggle of Galicia Army, bolsheviks’ and Poland’s aggressions.

Overall within 1917 - 1920 734 literary works (poems, short stories, fables and essays) had been published in Ukrainian and other languages by nearly 400 authors in “Svoboda”. Alchevska Kh., Vikonsky M., Vilshenko Y., Ivakh O., Voloshka L., Kabarivska S., Kavatsiv P., Karmansky P., Kruhovy H., Lepky B., Neprytsky-Hranovsky O., Novosad Y., Pidhirianka M., Syrotenko V., Skryty M., Storoshenko O., Chernetsky S., Yakymchyk T. and other diaspora representatives were active authors of the period under the study.

Thus “Svoboda”, on whose pages the essential right of mainland Ukraine for independence was actively discussed, was the leading chronicle of the Ukrainian immigration community in the USA and partly in Canada. The editorial staff of the newspaper made it to be the most influential source of reliable information on the process of Ukrainian Revolution in 1917-20.

Along with social, political and economic news the readers of the newspaper were provided with the best literary works of verse and prose written both by Ukrainian diaspora and mainland and foreign authors.

Ukrainian People’s Union annual calendar-almanac also served as an active means of national Ukrainian history and culture promotion. The historical, cultural and literary content of the latter remains a valuable subject for multi-aspect scientific analysis and investigation.


1. Ukrainian National Association (data from Wikipedia) // http: uk. wikipedia. org/

2. Myshuga L. Commemorative book of UNA. - Jersey City, 1937. - 752 p.

3. Kuropas M.B. Ukrainian-American stronghold. The first hundred years of Ukrainian National Association. - Jersey City, 2004. - 673 p.

4. Trygub P.M., Murphy N. Ukrainian diaspora in the USA: to preserve the traditions of national culture (the problem historiography) // http: bibl. kma. mk. ua /

5. Ukrainian National Association (data from Wikipedia) // http: uk. wikipedia. org/

6. Kravchenyuk A. Chief editors of "Svoboda" in 1893-1993 // http: www. svoboda-news.com

7. "Svoboda" – the newspaper of the Uk-rainian community in America // http: www. svoboda-news. com

8. Appeal to the Ukrainian community in America // Svoboda (USA). - 1917. – January, 13. - N 5. - p. 2.

9. Stolitkevych V. "The New Year's call of "Educational Commission of the Ukrainian National Association"// Svoboda. - 1917. – January, 13. - N 5. - p.2.

10. The Congress concluded the Ukrainian Day // Svoboda. - 1917. – February, 24. – N23. - p.1.

11. The proclamation of President Wilson as for "Ukrainian Day" // Svoboda. - 1917. – March, 22. –N34 .- p.2.

12. Blashchuk A. About the Ukrainian im-migration needs // Svoboda. - 1917. – December, 1. –N142 .- p.2.

13. I.K. About the Ukrainian culture // Svoboda. - 1917. – March, 29. – N 37. - p. 2.

14. NichkaI. Ukrainian movement in 1917 // Svoboda. - 1917. – September, 10. - N 108. - p.2 .

15. Andriyivsky V. The Great Ruin (the letter from Ukraine) // Svoboda. - 1920. – March, 6. - N 29. - p. 4.

16. Babiy B. Call to the people. Let’s fight, my fellows!// Svoboda. - 1920. – May, 20. - N61. - p.6 .

17. The Pole about the national consciousness of Ukrainian farmer // Svoboda. - 1920. – September, 14. –N111 .- p.5.

18. Smal-Stotsky [S.] Taras Shevchenko –consciousness of people // Svoboda. - 1920. – April, 13. –N 45. - p.2 .

19. Modestenko M. The publicity of Ivan Franko in a village// Svoboda. - 1920. – April, 13. –N45 .- p.3.

20. Demydchuk S. To the publishers of works of Ivan Franko // Svoboda. - 1920. – June, 17. –N73 . - p.2 .

21. The Arres t of Ukrainian journalist Volodymyr Stepankivsky // Svoboda. - 1918. – January, 17. –N7. - p. 2 .

22. Yefremov S. The open letter of Sergiy Yefremov to Yurko Kotsyubynsky // Svoboda. - 1918. – October, 8. – N120. - p. 2 .

23. Lozynsky M. Remembrance (To the anniversary of Bogdan Lepky) // Svo-boda. - 1920. – September, 14 N111. - p. 2.

24. Konstantyna Malytska came to Lviv // Svoboda. - 1920. – November, 2. –N 132. - p. 3.

25. Blashchuk A. Remember M. Shashkevych // Svoboda. - 1917. – December, 4 –N 149 - p. 3.

26. M.S. Ukrainian writer Stepan Kovaliv died // Svoboda. - 1920. – July, 24. –N 89. - p. 3.

27. DoroshenkoV. Ukrainian poetess Khrystya Alchevskadied // Svoboda. - 1920. – November, 2. –N 132 .- p.3.

28. Ukrainian V. [alias] Antin Chekhov // Svoboda. - 1918. – December, 28. – N 155. - p. 5.

29. Doroshenko V. Our press and its problems // Svoboda. - 1917. – September, 1. - N 103. - p. 5

30. Ukrainian Press // Svoboda. - 1920. – March, 4. - N 28. - p. 8.

31. About the calendar of UNA in 1918 // Svoboda. - 1917. –November, 17. - N.136. - p. 2.

32. Ukrainian Cultural Movement in Vienna // Svoboda. - 1920. – November, 20. N. 140. - p. 4.

33. Verse of Danish poet about Ukraine. Håkon Krogh. Ukraine // Svoboda. - 1920. – June, 3. - N. 67. - p. 8 .

34. Stephan Rudnitsky. Ukrainian Culture // Svoboda. - 1918. – December, 21. - N. 152 .- p.3.

35. 14 principles for Ukrainian civil activist and every Ukrainian // Svoboda. - 1920. – June, 15. - N. 72. - p.2 .

36. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – August, 5. - N. 92. - p. 5.

37. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – August, 12. - N. 95 . - p.5.

38. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – August, 19. - N.98. - p. 5.

39. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – September, 2. - N. 104. - p. 5.

40. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – September, 9. - N.107. - p. 7.

41. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – September, 16. - N. 110. - p. 5.

42. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. – 1919. – September, 23. - N. 113. - p. 5.

43. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – September, 30. - N. 116. - p.5.

44. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – October, 7. - N.119 . - p. 5.

45. Literary Creativity of American Ukrainians // Svoboda. - 1919. – October, 14. - N. 122 . - p. 5.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

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