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Taras Shevchenko


Taras Shevchenko, born 9 March 1814 in Moryntsi, Kyiv gubernia, died 10 March 1861 in St.Petersburg, Russia. Artist, poet, and national bard of Ukraine was born a serf. Shevchenko was orphaned in his early teens and grew up in poverty. At the age of 14 he was taken by his owner, Engelhardt, to serve as houseboy, and travelled with him, first to Vilnus and to StPetersburg. Engelhardt noticed Shevchenko’s artistic talent and apprenticed him to the painter Shiriaev for four years.

During that period Taras met his compatriots Soshenko, Hrebinka, Hryhorovych, and Venitsianov. Through them he met the Russian painter K.Bryullov, whose portrait of the Russian poet Zhukovsky was disposed of in a lottery, the proceeds of which were used to buy Shevchenko’s freedom from Engelhardt in 1838. Shevchenko entered the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg where he became a student of K.Bryullov, an outstanding painter. In 1840 he published his first collection of poems “Kobzar”. It was followed by the epic poem ”Haidamaky” (1841) and the ballad “Hamalia” (1844). In 1840s Shevchenko visited Ukraine three times.

After graduating from the academy (1845) he became a member of the Kyiv Archeographic Commission. In 1846 Shevchenko came to Kyiv and joined the secret Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood. It was a secret political organization. In 1847 the Society was smashed and Shevchenko was arrested and sent to the Orenburg special corps without the right to draw or write. After 10 years of exile he was seriously ill. Shevchenko was released in 1857 but he was not allowed to live in Ukraine. He lived in St. Petersburg and on MarcrTlU, 1861 the greaFpoet died of heart disease. Taras Shevchenko was buried there, but two months afterward his remains were transferred to the Chernecha Hill near Kanev, in Ukraine.

Shevchenko has a uniquely important place in Ukrainian history. Shevchenko’s literary output consists of the collection of poetry “Kobzar”; the drama “Nazar Stodolia”; two dramatic fragments; nine novelettes, a diary, and an autobiography in Russian; and over 250 letters.

Although Shevchenko is seen mainly as a poet, he was also a highly accomplished artist. There are 835 works extant from his creativity. Another 270 are known but have been lost. Shevchenko painted over 150 portraits, 43 of them self-portraits.

  • Dig my grave and raise my barrow
  • By the Dnieper side
  • In Ukraine, my own land,
  • A fair land and wide.
  • I will lie and watch the corn fields,
  • Listen through the years
  • To the river voices roaring,
  • Roaring in my ears.
  • When I hear the call    
  • Of the racing flood
  • Loud with hated blood,
  • I will leave them all,
  • Fields and hills; and force my way

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