Gothic Tales from Stalin’s ‘Enemies’ Translated into English

In circumstances difficult for Western writers and artists to comprehend, authors, artists and intellectuals from Ukraine were, over several decades, targeted by the Stalinist regime. They were subjected to arrest, brutal captivity and eventual execution. Most of the arrests took place in 1920s and 1930s in Soviet occupied Ukraine, peaking in 1933 and then again in 1937.

Parallel to this process of persecuting writers was a campaign to extinguish their voices in society. Individuals and their achievements were discredited during show trials, and their social milieu and their readership were also demolished. Relatives, associates and supporters faced exile, execution or the permanent label ‘relative of the nation’s enemies’. The works of condemned writers were burned, banned and erased from the nation’s official cultural history – with many writers and books not rehabilitated until decades later.

But the Stalinists who hoped to obliterate so many rational, creative, questioning, nation-loving writers would have done well to heed the words of Ukrainian author Mykhailo Bulhakov, ‘Manuscripts don’t burn’…

As a tribute to those persecuted Ukrainian intellectuals, now known collectively as ‘The Executed Renaissance’, Sova Books has translated, edited and published a selection of their works in English. English editions of Living Grave (click here to see a free book preview) and Treasure of the Ages (click here to see a free book preview) are now available in ebook form.

Cover_Liudmyla-SovaLiving Grave is a gothic legend created by the Ukrainian author Liudmyla Starytska-Cherniakhivska (1868–1941). It was first published in Kyiv in 1889, early in the career of this talented young woman who wrote poetry, prose and drama and would become well known as a theatre critic. In 1919 she was cofounder and deputy president of the National Council of Ukrainian Women. Condemned for ‘nationalist activities’, she was exiled in 1930 and a decade later was again arrested. This time, aged in her seventies, the writer was tortured and died on a train headed for imprisonment in Kazakhstan.

Living Grave is a gothic folk tale that reimagines life on the steppes of Ukraine centuries ago. It describes a romantic union that defies and suffers from barbarism and implacable hatreds. To learn more about Living Grave click here.

Cover_Klym-SovaKlym Polishchuk’s Treasure of the Ages was published in 1921 by Rusalka Publishing, a Kyiv-Lviv based publishing house. Despite being born into a Ukrainian peasant family Klym Polischuk (1891–1937) established a literary career, publishing poetry, short stories and historical novels. He was an active participant in social and literary circles, an editor of Ukrainian Voice (Ykrainskyi Holos) and a member of the editorial staff of The Art (Mystetstvo) magazine. He was first arrested in 1915, but was mobilised to fight during World War One. In 1929 Polishchuk was sentenced to exile and 10 years of hard labour in concentration camps. In 1937 he was among 1111 Solovki prison camp inmates, including many young and old talented Ukrainian artists, historians, musicians, priests and writers who were executed on 3 November 1937.

Treasure of the Ages uses elements of the gothic prose genre adapted to Ukrainian culture and traditions. But although the stories portray ancient places, historical figures and events they also echo events in Klym Polishchuk’s contemporary world. To learn more about Treasure of the Ages click here.

Whether you love gothic works or modern folk tales, or simply want to know more about the cultural history of Ukraine, we hope that you enjoy our introduction to these two Ukrainian writers who perished for their country and their love of words.