Making the Works of Ukrainian Women Writers Available in English

The purpose of this series is to make accessible to English readers selected works of women writers in Ukraine and Ukrainian ethnic communities in other countries. Volumes I to VI: From Mother to Daughter cover a turbulent period in the history of Ukraine, from 1884 to the early 1920s, a period that spans the lives of the eldest author, Olena Pchilka, and the youngest, her daughter Lesya Ukrainka.

It was during these four decades that the first two waves of Ukrainian immigrants arrived in Canada. History books document the societal conditions and forces that shaped their lives, and the reasons for their emigration. It is literature, however, that gives their story a human face.

The writings of these women range from vignettes and sketches to novelettes. Thematically, they encompass a broad range of topics and concerns, and together they constitute an unsystematic but illuminating social history of a land divided between the Austrian and Russian empires; a people divided into the powerful and the oppressed, the privileged and the poor, and the educated and the ignorant; and an era during which the mortar of social mores, religious beliefs, and time-honoured gender roles and distinctions, was beginning to crumble and give way to pressures engendered by national, political, and social movements that questioned the status quo and undermined traditional roles and values.

The women who wrote these stories were not equally talented or skilled. What they had in common was an appreciation of the power of literature, be it as a means of self-actualization, or as a vehicle of social activism. Their special concern with issues of gender cut across social and ethnic divisions, and their explorations of the power and often devastating consequences of social conditioning document both the promise and cost of change. Some focused on group emancipation; others were concerned with individual freedom. Still others defined their goals in terms of a progressive synthesis of traditional female roles, immediate community responsibilities, and more general humanitarian imperatives.

They do not, of course, speak with one voice, but their voices are loud and strong, what they have to say is worth rediscovering, and their impact should not be confined to one time or place. Certainly, in their day they did not work and write in isolation; they influenced,and, in turn, were influenced by like-minded social activists and writers in other parts of Europe. The translation of their writing into English permits their message to transcend temporal, geographical, and linguistic boundaries.

Volume I, The Spirit of the Times (480 pp.), contains short fiction by two authors: Olena Pchilka (1849 - 1930), a social activist who challenged the norms governing the status of women in society, and Nataliya Kobrynska (1851 - 1920), a leading theoretician of feminist thought. Their writings present a poignantly accurate picture of the social conditions of the day and their devastating effect on women.

The first author presented in Volume II, In the Dark of the Night (473 pp.), is Dniprova Chayka (1861 - 1927), whose manuscripts were confiscated because of their subversive social and political content. The works of the second author, Lyubov Yanovska (1861 - 1933), reflect her commitment to the improvement of women's lives at all levels of society, and a compassionate understanding of both the peasantry and the intelligentsia, each caught in the debilitating social structures and mores of their separate worlds.


Insights About Our Ancestors -- Opening a Window Into the Past for Readers with Ukrainian Roots.

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