One of Ukraine’s major writers also makes her living as a freelance writer, which is no small feat. Oksana Zabuzhko’s first novel, Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex (1996), might make her the Erica Jong of Ukraine. When the book came out, it propelled her to fame. Last year, the poet, writer and essayist gave a talk at Robinson College titled “Being a Writer in Contemporary Ukraine: Drawing the Landscape While Standing on a Powerboat,” in which she criticized the lack of coherent character in the modern Ukrainian culture since the country achieved independence 20 years ago. Her most important book might be The Museum of Abandoned Secrets, a family saga that received an English translation in 2012. Regarding her country’s literature, she says the highlights come from poetry, “as it is the only genre that can survive and flourish under any political circumstances, regardless. Of all the arts, poetry is the least dependent on social conditions.”
As is the case for most of these writers, with Andrukhovych’s work the issue of the language of a country’s people takes high importance. Andrukhovych fights to preserve the Ukrainian language from being swallowed up by Russia. He’s a culture warrior of the highest order. His recent editorial in The New York Times, “Love and Hatred in Kiev,” details the street scenes of the protests during the recent crisis, depicting police officers this way: “Some have even posed for the cameras, their boots on the heads of victims lying on the ground. They proudly upload these photos and videos to their personal pages at social networking sites.” Most American writers don’t need this kind of courage. We’re rarely choked out by the state and our mother tongue isn’t in jeopardy. But Andrukhovych is a real fighter.
Zhadan made news over the weekend and in The New Yorker — “The Abuse of Ukraine’s Best-Known Poet” — as a a photo of his bloodied face sped around the internet. Zhadan is the rock-star poet of the post-independence generation. In one poem, he writes, “[T]his is how it turned — awkward, heavy like a munitions truck / leaving behind dead planets and burnt-out transmitters.” He also wrote a novel about Communism, youth, and Western music called Depeche Mode .
Other notable Ukrainian-born writers include Taras Shevchenko and Mikhail Zhvanetsky.
While finding credible information on Ukrainian writers in English is difficult, it’s even more difficult to find information on the filmmakers. I reached out to friends in and near Ukraine for advice. Here are a couple of the more internationally well-known who are currently working.
Kira Muratova is a clear frontrunner for most prominent Ukrainian director. Residing in Odessa, her filmmaking career has been long and fruitful, with her films showing all over the world, including Cannes. After suffering from Soviet censorship, she began to make many films in the ’90s, including The Tuner and Chekhov’s Motifs. Although she has spent most of her life in Ukraine, her films are in Russian.
Known for his dark, passionate film OrAngeLove, Badoev comes recommended by an acquaintance in Kyiv. Badoev is one of the country’s hottest directors who has helped showcase the young singer Max Barskih, among others. He also has a YouTube channel.
Other notable directors include Ihor Podolchak and Yakov Levi.