Ирина Говоруха
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TO THE BIRTHDAY OF LINA KOSTENKO: a woman without jewelry

TO THE BIRTHDAY OF LINA KOSTENKO: a woman without jewelry
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Tatiana An. Flora, 2016


Lina Kostenko — poetess of the Sixtiers, writer, conscience of the nation — was born in the town of Rzhyshchiv on March 19, 1930. Her poetry is honest, emotional, sometimes ironic; her language is bright, modern; her thought is deep and comprehensive. She writes simply about the complex and complicated. Sincerely — about the intimate and veiled. Values «the word, not the glory». Sincere truth, not canned lies.

She learned about injustice from birth. The girl was a few months old when her father was arrested (he had the carelessness to say something about Soviet ideology during a game of chess). Remembered that when the Enkavedists came to him and asked him where he hid his weapons, he pointed with his hand to the cradle with the baby — there is my most important weapon in life. They didn’t understand anything.

At first, Lina lived with her grandmother in Rzhyshchev. Around — an immense space: ravines, hills, Ivan Mountain, and sandy Bald Mountain. Especially solemn silence, the bow of buckthorn bushes, the ribbing of pale blue water. Further — school in a working-class settlement on Trukhanov Island. In summer she reached the city by boat, in winter — by boardwalk, which was laid along the frozen Dnipro.

Life seemed diverse and fascinating, if not the re-arrest of her father (he was gone for ten years), then — the war. The working village was practically wiped off the face of the earth, so she had to move to Kurenivka and rent two rooms in an old-world hut. The girl was almost never called to the blackboard because, after the experience, she stuttered.

During control works, the teacher sympathetically stood behind her back and made sure that she had finished writing the words. The schoolgirl used to leave them without endings. But it did not hurt the rhyming, and the poems were willingly published by the newspapers «Zirka» and «Pionerskaya Pravda».



After graduating from school, she chose the faculty of philosophy (she read works of Nietzsche, Kant, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot) but was rejected. Some man with orange skin color, as if he had jaundice at the moment, said that people like her are not accepted here.

— What kind of people?

His expression turned squeamish:

— Unreliable.

She had to go to the pedagogical faculty, where she experienced painful feelings for the poet Mykola Rudenko. The man almost did not see in one eye, survived a complex spinal wound and the siege of Leningrad, but demonstrated great strength and power. He was the first to draw the student’s attention to the Ukrainian language because she had previously composed poems in Russian. Lina tried it and immediately noticed: «There are no words yet. The poetry is already there».

Between them fit ten years and ten worlds. Other people’s vows, rings, children. The man wrote well, was surprisingly skillful in love, saw through women. Lina was very young. No experience, no ability to play verbal ping-pong. Only rhymes, rhymes, rhymes… So they communicated in codes, ciphers, and poems until the girl made a final decision. In farewell, she wrote out with a trembling hand:

Goodbye, goodbye, stranger to me!

There’s never been anyone like you.

This is the one and only case,

When the greatest courage of all is to run away.

The applicant passed the competition at the Moscow Literary Institute, and Mykola stayed in the family. Later, he casually blabbed to his wife that he and Lina had an affair. The woman immediately corrected him: «Do not minimize. Tell it like it is. You did not have an affair but a romance!»

The student liked her studies, and besides, a new feeling arose to the Pole Jerzy Jan Pahlevsky, whom she later married. The lovers had a lot of common themes, leitmotifs, and matters, but the difference in mentality and the impossibility of settling down in one region prevented them. Therefore, the former went fishing, and the poetess went to Kyiv to give birth to a daughter. Success awaited her at home. Three collections were published in a row: «Earthly Rays», «Sails», and «Journeys of the Heart».

Lina Kostenko’s poems were eagerly quoted, and the lyrics were copied into student notebooks. Men admired her. It was said that Vasyl Symonenko was in love with her (he called her Kostalina), and Dmytro Pavlychko carried a matchbox everywhere to light a cigarette for the woman.

And suddenly, the book «The Star Integral» was forbidden to print. The argument was that the author’s position was not too Soviet because it was about Ukraine, Ukrainian bread, and vodka with a hetman on the label. That was the beginning. Next, «Prince’s Mountain» was taken off the layout. The poetess was not arrested, not pestered with serious conversations, just vetoed. She was left alone.


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In one hand — the truth, in the other — a daughter. It was at such a time that she met Arkady Dobrovolsky: a writer, translator, screenwriter. An athlete and polymath with the right facial features, except that he is married and much older. In the suitcase — a difficult past: for the poem «Wise Rabbit» — an eloquent allusion to Stalin himself — served a long sentence in Kolyma.

So together they worked, argued, drowned in embrace. Lina, under his guidance, wrote the script «Check your clocks», in which time from an abstract unit turned into a living substance. Here are the clocks counting the minutes until the beginning of the war. The hand trembles, shudders. There are two Germans, laughing, changing the clock to local time, and a weary woman winds an axe over the «village clock» — a rooster…

A special commission from the Central Committee of the Party rolled up their sleeves and found a bunch of details contrary to the socialist system. The film was destroyed, and the work was forced to start over.

After some time at the film studio, there was a new director, Vasyl Tsvirkunov. It was worthwhile for young people to lock eyes as a powerful whirlwind spun. Vasyl was also married and had children, but feelings were stronger because «such love happens once in a lifetime». She left no time for thinking. She gave no choice: only to follow the call of her heart. So they went.

Soon, the couple had a boy named Vasyl. The man sincerely loved both children and never once divided into native and non-native. The baby had a cool temper. Faced with injustice, he ran to defend the truth. Once, in response to another offense, he broke off a leg from the table and got ready to fight.

Lina took away the «weapon» and hit herself on the leg with all her might. It hurt until dizziness and an eloquent burning line were left on the leg. The son suddenly regained his senses and turned from a fearless warrior into a vulnerable child. He shrank back, he cried, he wailed.




Soon, something rang in the air. The political ice that had long chained hands and souls began to melt. There appeared patriotic people who fervently defended the Ukrainian language and culture: the Sixtiers. Lina bravely joined their ranks because she was afraid of nothing and no one.

She started to write protest letters, called not to introduce Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia, stood up for Vyacheslav Chornovil. As a sign of disagreement she went on hunger strike. As a result, her name was no longer mentioned in the press, and her works were not printed for almost sixteen years.

This is how she lived. Vasyl revived «Ukrainian poetic cinema», Lina was engaged in household chores, molded varenyky with strawberries, baked pies. Besides, she loved to mess around with mushrooms. She collected, cleaned, washed, and added a lot of pepper so that the dish was in no way bland. The only thing is that I never took lard in my mouth. She never tasted a single piece of it in her life.

They loved traveling around Ukraine in an old «Zaporozhets». The poetess believed that not Ukraine should know its creators, but the creators should know Ukraine. She used to complain to her husband that her line was not going. It stalls, gets lost in the intervals, so it is impossible neither paired nor cross-rhyming. Vasyl was in a hurry to «take the horse out of the stable». He took him to the place where the steppe was sleeping, the Dnipro bank was swaying, the grove was darkening. In the forest, a woman embraced the pine trees … and suddenly a strophe appeared. After it — the second, the third, the thirteenth. She returned home inspired. Infused with the forest and new ingenious lines.

Disasters and joys walked side by side. Vasyl Tsvirkunov was fired from the movie studio, Lina wrote «Marusya Churai», «Elderberry tsar», «Instructions».

She went to Chornobyl, where she saved her soul. She confessed that she ate pies with berries in the radiation zone and drank water from the well. Never betrayed herself. She refused awards because she didn’t wear political jewelry. She believed that every nation has its own diseases, only Russia has an incurable one.

In 2000, Vasyl passed into the next world. The woman severely experienced the loss and was silent as a poet for ten years. At the cemetery, all the time, she turned her granddaughter’s face away from the coffin in the direction of the portrait. All she wanted to say was that her grandfather was not dead. «Look: there’s the same wavy bangs, thoughtful eyes, with fire. You shouldn’t memorize him in his coffin. Remember him alive».

In the evening, when they gathered at the family table, Lina quietly asked her son: «Now you understand why I named you Vasyl?» Vasily answered with a question to a question, «Do you now understand why you named your daughter Lina?»


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