Taras Hryhorovich Shevchenko shaped the cultural destiny of Ukraine during his time from 1814-1861. He left an impression on the world as one of the great humanists of our time, the beloved bard of the Ukrainian people. Taras Shevchenko has enriched the world internationally through his work, speaking out against human rights violations, all forms of social injustice, oppression and tyranny.
Throughout his political and social struggles which he experienced the hardship of forced labour, Taras Shevchenko became a brilliant national poet of Ukraine, one of the classics of world literature. During his life, Shevchenko inspired others the hope of freedom and sought no less for the oppressed.
People say that a poet of one language becomes a poet of all languages. At times it is very difficult to translate poetry from one language to another, but Taras Shevchenko’s language is one-half of the poetry. It is the other half of the poetry of such a poet who was known nationally and yet so international and humanistic; his poetry has become the taste to all.
The current situation in Ukraine has taken a different twist since the annexation of Crimea in March of 2014, the downing of Malaysia Airline in July of the same year and the invasion of eastern Ukraine by Russian-backed rebels in April of 2015. The conflict has generated death and displacement of innocent civilians and killing of Ukrainian solders. This has been a ruthless campaign of intimidation, imposing force, crippling and plundering Shevchenko’s beloved country.
In one of the poems that Taras Shevchenko wrote entitled “Rozryta Mohyla (The Plundered Grave)” published in 1843; a powerful vernacular poetic piece of work identifying the damning of Czarist Russia’s occupation and exploitation of Ukraine in the mid-19th century. Surprisingly what Taras Shevchenko wrote then has become relevant in today’s Ukraine. Shevchenko’s book of poems “Kobzar” focus on the social and national oppression of Ukrainian people. Majority of his poems initiate Ukrainians to learn their history, past glories of Ukraine, her struggles stressing the fact one should know from where you come from and your place in the world.
Currently with the turmoil in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, Russia is determined to rewrite Ukraine’s history so that people will forget about the past glories and past struggles and become brainwashed into believing that Ukraine is
the “little brother” of Russia. On the other hand, Taras Shevchenko’s literature calls upon Ukrainians to learn other languages but never for sake your own, not to be undermined by imposing others and to rise up against their oppressors and to withhold national interest. His poetry contributes greatly to the development of Ukrainian national consciousness, for personal freedom, which conspicuously has been absent for many centuries in Ukraine.
Many statues of Taras Shevchenko exist around the world. On the Manitoba Legislative grounds a landmark honouring Ukraine’s champion of freedom, who demonstrated a deep respect and love for mankind, recognizing his international contributions to world peace to achieve sovereign statehood.
Article appeared in the WINNIPEG SUN editorial section on Saturday, March 11, 2017