Nataliya Poshyvaylo-Towler on Shevchenko Readings in Melbourne

March 9,2024 551
Nataliya Poshyvaylo-Towler on Shevchenko Readings in Melbourne

by Nataliya Poshyvaylo-Towler

UWC Vice President, Oceania and Asia

On Saturday, March 2nd, the 10th annual Shevchenko Readings were hosted at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Australia. This event marked the commencement of the global #shevchenko210 campaign, spearheaded by the Ukrainian Women’s Association Victoria. Nataliya Poshyvaylo-Towler, the Vice President of UWC and Head of the educational initiative of the World Federation of Ukrainian Women Organizations (WFUWO), led the efforts for this significant event.

This custom began in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea and the capture of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. It was a time when Ukrainians turned to each other for solidarity and assistance, drawing comfort and encouragement from the writings of Taras Shevchenko.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the Shevchenko Readings event was held online, involving Ukrainian communities in the UWC south and their associates. Ruslan Telipskyi, a renowned expert and researcher on Shevchenko’s monuments globally, was a guest participant.

At that moment, the words of Shevchenko echoed in several languages: Ukrainian, English, and Mandarin, thanks to the involvement of the Ukrainian Club in Singapore. Additionally, Turkish was represented through Diana Birgen’s translation from the Aegean region, Hindi by Marina Akram’s performance of “Dawn” in India, German, Danish by Ukrainian friends, and an African language by Ukrainians in South Africa.

In the verdant setting of Melbourne on the second day of spring in 2024, the recitations carried on in Ukrainian, English, and French. 

This year, a captivating feature was the creation of an artificial intelligence-powered conversation between Shevchenko and Hohol, imagined as if they had encountered each other at the age of 35.

The National Honored Chapel of Bandura-Players of Ukraine, named after H.I. Mayboroda, performed the classic piece “Reve ta stohne Dnipr shyrokyi” (“The broad river Dnipr roars and moans”), along with modern renditions of songs by Shevchenko.

Allies organized an engaging quiz revealing lesser-known aspects of Shevchenko’s life. Orysia Stephen, previously leading the Lesya Ukrainka Ukrainian Saturday School and the Ukrainian School Council of Australia, enlightened us about the democratic practice of power transition among hetmans in the Cossack Sich, as depicted in Shevchenko’s poems. The children’s recitation of Shevchenko’s poems by Zlata Kovalska instilled hope for the future and underscored the timeless nature of Shevchenko’s words.

Nataliya Poshyvaylo-Towler, the host of the event, shared insights on the conversation between artificial intelligence and the reasons for Taras Shevchenko’s popularity in India, including the resonance of “Kateryna” with Indian folklore. A fascinating aspect of the Russian Empire’s colonial history captured everyone’s attention. Notably, Mykola Illich Miklouho, the father of the renowned ethnographer and Southern Hemisphere researcher Mykola Mykolayovych Miklouho-Maclay, pursued a prestigious civil engineering education in St. Petersburg. He later became the inaugural chief of the Moscow station (originally named Mykolaivskyi) in St. Petersburg. His act of sending 300 rubles to the exiled Taras Shevchenko led to his dismissal and tragically, he passed away within a year, never reaching the age of 40.

The event was organized with the support of the Malvy Literary Club Australia, and the Ukrainian Women’s Association Australia.

The delightful and enchanting atmosphere was enhanced by the presence of adorable fluffy visitors, including a dog adorned in a vyshyvanka – an embroidered shirt – and, for the first time, two kittens.

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