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Ukraine 200 Hryven 2007


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Larysa Petrivna Kosach-Kvitka( Лариса Петрівна Косач-Квітка) (February 25 [O.S. February 13] 1871 – August 1 [O.S. July 19] 1913) better known under her literary pseudonym Lesya Ukrainka (Леся Українка), was one of Ukraine's best-known poets and writers and the foremost woman writer in Ukrainian literature.


Ukrainka was born in 1871 in the town of Novohrad-Volynskyi of Ukraine, which at the time was mostly a part of the Russian Empire. She was the second child of Ukrainian writer and publisher Olha Drahomanova-Kosach (better known under her literary pseudonym Olena Pchilka). Mykhaylo Petrovych Drahomanov, a well-known Ukrainian scientist, historian, philosopher, folklorist and public figure, was a brother of Drahomanova-Kosach. Ukrainka's father was Petro Antonovych Kosach, head of the district assembly of conciliators. Despite his non-Ukrainian background, Kosach was devoted to the advancement of Ukrainian culture and financially supported Ukrainian publishing ventures. Ukrainka was very close to her uncle M. P. Drahomanov (her spiritual mentor and teacher), and her brother Mykhaylo (who would be known under the pseudonym Mykhaylo Obachny) whom she called "Mysholosie."


Ukrainka's mother played a significant role in her upbringing. Ukrainian language was the only language used in the household, and to enforce this practice their children were educated by Ukrainian tutors at home, in order to avoid schools that taught Russian as the primary language. Ukrainka learned how to read at the age of four, and she and her brother Mykhaylo could read foreign languages well enough to read literature in their original language. Ukrainka had a good familiarity with Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, German and English.


By the time she was eight, she wrote her first poem, "Hope," which was written in reaction to the arrest and exile of her aunt, Olena Antonivna Kosach, who took part in a political movement against the tsarist autocracy. In 1879, her entire family moved to Lutsk. That same year her father started building houses for the family in the nearby village of Kolodiazhne.


It was at this time that her uncle, Mykhaylo Drahomanov, encouraged her to study Ukrainian folk songs, folk stories, and history, as well to peruse the Bible for its inspired poetry and eternal themes. She also was influenced by well-known composer Mykola Lysenko, and famous Ukrainian dramatist and poet Michael Staritsky.


At age thirteen, her first published poem, "Lily of the Valley," appeared in the journal Zoria in Lviv. It was here that she first used her pseudonym, which was suggested by her mother. At this time, Ukrainka was well on her way of becoming a pianist, but due to tuberculosis of the bone, she did not attend any outside educational establishment. Writing was to be the main focus of her life.


When Ukrainka was seventeen, she and her brother organized a literary circle called Pleyada (The Pleiades) which they founded to promote the development of Ukrainian literature and translating foreign classics into Ukrainian. One of the works they translated was Nikolai Gogol's Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka.


Her first collection of poetry, Na krylakh pisen’ (On the Wings of Songs), was published in 1893. Since Ukrainian publications were banned by the Russian Empire, this book were published in Western Ukraine, which was part of Austria-Hungary at the time, and smuggled into Kiev.


Her illness made it necessary for her to travel to places where the climate was dry, and as a result, spent extended periods of time in Germany, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria, Crimea, the Caucasus, and Egypt. She loved experiencing other cultures, which was evident in many of her literary work, such as The Ancient History of Oriental Peoples, originally written for her younger siblings. The book was published in L'viv, and Ivan Franko was involved in its publication. It included her early poems, such as "Seven Strings," "The Starry Sky," "Tears-Pearls," "The Journey to the Sea," "Crimean Memories," and "In the Children's Circle."


Ukrainka also wrote epic poems, prose dramas, prose, several articles of literary criticism, and a number of sociopolitical essays. She was best known for her plays Boyarynya (1914; The Noblewoman), which refers directly to Ukrainian history, and Lisova pisnya (1912; The Forest Song), whose characters include mythological beings from Ukrainian folklore.



In 1897, while being treated in Yalta, Ukrainka met Serhiy Kostiantynovych Merzhynsky, an official from Minsk who was also receiving treatment for tuberculosis. The two fell in love, and her feelings for Merzhynsky were responsible for her showing a different side of herself. Examples include "Your Letters Always Smell of Withered Roses," "To Leave Everything and Fly to You," and "I'd Like to Wind around You Like Ivy," which were unpublished in her lifetime. Merzhynsky died with Ukrainka at his bedside on March 3, 1901. She wrote the entire dramatic poem "Oderzhyma" ("The Possessed") in one night at his deathbed.


Ukrainka actively opposed Russian tsarism and was a member of Ukrainian Marxist organizations. In 1902 she translated a Communist Manifesto into Ukrainian. She was briefly arrested in 1907 by tsarist police and remained under surveillance thereafter.


Ukrainka married in 1907 to Klyment Kvitka, a court official, who was an amateur ethnographer and musicologist. They settled first in Crimea, then moved to Georgia.


Ukrainka died on August 1, 1913 at a health clinic near Tiflis in the Caucasus (now Georgia).




Portrait of Ukrainka with her home in vignette.




Reverse w/ stork and portrait of a tower in Lutsk.

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Agreed...nice bill and cool bio...Shes a real beauty...I was looking around for some of her work...found a few examples, I liked this one a lot:





Away, dark thoughts, you autumn clouds!

A golden spring is here!

Shall it be thus in sorrow and in lamentation

That my youthful years pass away?


No, through all my tears I still shall laugh,

Sing songs despite my troubles;

Have hope despite all odds,

I want to live! Away, you sorrowful thoughts!


On this poor, indigent ground

I shall sow flowers of flowing colors;

I shall sow flowers even amidst the frost,

And water them with my bitter tears.


And from those burning tears will melt

The frozen crust, so hard and strong,

Perhaps the flowers will bloom and

Bring about for me a joyous spring.


Unto a winding, flinty mountain

Shall I bear my weighty stone,

Yet, even bearing such a crushing weight,

Will I sing a joyful song.


Throughout a lasting night of darkness

Ne'er shall I rest my own eyes,

Always searching for the guiding star,

The bright empress of the dark night skies.


I shall not allow my heart to fall sleep,

Though gloom and misery envelop me,

Despite my certain feelings

That death is beating at my breast.


Death will settle heavily on that breast,

The snow covered by a cruel haze,

But fierce shall beat my little heart,

And maybe, with its ferocity, overcome death.


Yes, I will laugh despite my tears,

I'll sing out songs amidst my misfortunes;

I'll have hope despite all odds,

I will live! Away, you sorrowful thoughts!


- Lesya Ukrainka

May 2, 1890

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A great write up on this wonderful poetess and lovely note! I am still amazed at the vast number of poets on world banknotes. I have to look through my banknotes to find one that isn't a poet, just to make sure I am not being too narrow in my own write ups! Don't get me wrong, though... Being a fan of poetry, I think it's quite nice having them on these notes. Perhaps we could have a poet on a US banknote someday. Right off the bat, I'll nominate Charles Bukowski! Haha- like they'd ever allow him on a note; it would be cool though!


Anyway, thanks for the great job on the write up, and I hope to see more from you. :ninja:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey - I just noticed the super small micro-print on her collar where it meets her neck. I can't read it, but I am curious if it is her name and birth/death dates. it looks like it might follow that type of format, but I just can't tell from teh image. I even tried to blow it up on my computer, but it gets too blurry. The real reason I ma so curious is that it would be a rather unique anti-counterfeit text to use. Most places use either the banks name or initials, country, denomination, etc. Very few banknote printers/countries go to the trouble to place them in other than straight lines or use different text, though there are more venturing tat way, most are still using microtext in straight lines somewhere on the front.

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