by Nataliya Poshyvaylo-Towler
UWC Vice President, Oceania and Asia, and Head Educator of WFUWO
Literature witnesses the emergence of individuals who transcend their era, embodying symbols of liberated thinking and imaginative prowess. Among these figures stands the illustrious Ukrainian writer Olha Kobylianska. Despite her brief yet dynamic career, she not only infused her own being but also her beliefs, emotions, and ideas into the realm of literature.
Olha Kobylianska, an exceptional personality, delved into philosophy, finding particular resonance with the renowned Friedrich Nietzsche among her favored thinkers. Nietzsche’s concepts concerning the power of inner strength and the defiance of conventional moral principles found expression in Kobylianska’s literary creations. With adeptness, she infused her short stories and novels with philosophical principles, thereby enriching her works with profound intellectual depth.
In her “Black Apostle,” Kobylianska engages in a dialog with Ukrainian identity and contemporary challenges by asking questions: “What about Ukraine? And if we do not lose it ourselves, then the words of old Herder, who prophesied that we will become a new Greece, thanks to good sleep, cheerful disposition, music, and fertile land, will be fulfilled. “
This question, which is still relevant today, demonstrates the author’s deep understanding of the nation’s need for self-knowledge and self-esteem.
The challenges of emigration marked Olha Kobylianska’s life journey. Departing her homeland amidst political upheaval, she sought sanctuary in a foreign land. This experience of being an emigrant profoundly shaped her literary creations, infusing them with fresh dimensions and viewpoints. Through her works, Kobylianska vividly portrays the ache of losing her native land and the struggles of acclimating to a new milieu. This experience resonates with contemporary Ukrainian women compelled to flee their homes amid the Russian war in Ukraine.
Symbol of a Free Woman
The story “Earth” has become a symbol of liberation and alienation in Ukrainian literature. The protagonist, Maria Pyadytska, embarks on a journey to find her identity and define her place in the world. This work reflects the themes of female freedom and courage that have become enduring features of Kobylianska’s work; the author is convinced that “The world is for everyone. For the rich and the poor.”
In the “Black Apostle,” she writes, “Let women study, let them work, but do not destroy the so-called ‘hearth’ and do not replace it with restaurants and places of entertainment.”
The Self: Philosophy and Autonomy
Olha Kobylianska was more than just a creative writer; she was a staunch advocate for self-recognition within society. She introduced the notion that women possess the autonomy and freedom to make their own choices in the literary sphere. Her literary heroines fearlessly vocalized their thoughts, challenging conventional stereotypes with unwavering determination.
Kobylianska’s contributions to Ukrainian literature extended beyond her talent as a writer; she emerged as a genuine liberator, impacting the societal evolution and women’s movement of her era. Her legacy endures, prompting contemplation on vital facets of life, resilience, and freedom that continue to resonate with contemporary audiences.