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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“Coronation of the Word” and… geopolitics

Yurii LOHUSH: “We must not only defend ourselves, but also go over to offensive”
11 June, 2014 - 17:08

Kyiv’s Central House of Ukrainian Armed Forces Officers has hosted the 14th award ceremony for winners of the international literary competition “Coronation of the Word.” Dozens of well-known writers, musicians, publishers, and readers came to congratulate the winners.

The first prize in the nomination “Novels” was awarded to the Kyiv-based writer Tetiana Belimova. A Skovoroda Legend by Kyivite Vira Melnyk was pronounced the best screenplay, while Oksana Sherengova, a poetess from Korsun-Shevchenkivsky, won the category “Lyrical Songs.” Other winners were found in the nominations “Stage Plays,” “Prose for Children,” “Stage Plays for Children,” and “Screenplays for Children.” Dozens of authors received special decorations.

It is “Coronation of the Word” that once catapulted many Ukrainian writers to fame. Among those who set off on a journey to the reader here are Iren Rozdobudko, Andrii Kokotiukha, Liuko Dashvar, Vasyl Shkliar, and many others. As the works submitted to the jury are anonymous, even a novice stands a chance to win. “Coronation of the Word” has more than once contributed to the revival of national cinema. For example, Ihor Pysmenny and Viktor Andriienko won the first prize in 2012 in the nomination “Screenplays for Children” for a script on the life of the Ukrainian strongman Ivan Firtsak, and the very next year a full-length film, Ivan the Strong, was released for showing. “Had it not been for ‘Coronation of the Word,’ my works would have hardly been published,” says Iren Rozdobudko who won a second prize (2000, 2001) and the first prize (2005) in this competition. “In my view, Ukrainian literature is having a new renaissance today not in the least thanks to this competition. Almost every contemporary Ukrainian writer must have taken part in it at least once. Naturally, they are not all geniuses, and a lot of ‘froth’ will settle in the course of time, but this helped fill the ‘black hole’ which Ukrainian literature has found itself in.”

At the same time, most of the evening chats were about events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and Roman Nevidomsky even presented a rap composition on this subject. “I am sure that, in spite of a difficult situation in this country today, writers should not idle,” Rozdobudko says. “As for me, no gunmen scum will ever silence me! I’ve been traveling across Ukraine in the past few months and could see with my own eyes that people need literature – in Kharkiv and Odesa our meeting drew capacity audiences. We are really having a cultural revolution.”

For Tetiana Belimova, this year’s winner in the most prestigious nomination “Novels,” literature is not only a creative process, but also an object of scientific research. A Candidate of Sciences (Linguistics), an associate professor at Ukraina University’s Institute of Linguistics and Mass Communications, she delivers the courses “Contemporary Ukrainian Literature” and “Postmodernist Literature” to her students. Last year Belimova was awarded a third prize in the nomination “Novels” for the social drama Kyiv.ua. The book immediately interested publishers. “I began to publish my works in the Internet,” the authoress says. “This triggered a dialog with readers – I could see what they do or do not like. A Free World is my second novel. I used to write novellas before that. The book embraces a time span of about 50 years – from World War Two almost to the present day. The story is about two – rural and Kyivan – families. The destinies of men in these families are closely intertwined: they both find themselves in Germany during the war and face a choice of whether or not to return to Ukraine. The entire plot is based on real events. One of the heroes is my grandmother’s brother. He was trapped in a burning tank, suffered from the post-concussion syndrome, and was deported to the Dachau concentration camp. Liberated by the Americans, he immigrated to Australia. The other character is my husband’s grandfather. He lived a very hard life – went through the Holodomor and slave labor in Germany. Granddad is 92 today. I have an 8-hour-long recording of our chats. It took me a very long time to transcribe and analyze it, and I literally reproduced some parts.”

But, as it is clear now, this year’s “Coronation of the Word” might have failed to take place. “We debated on whether it is appropriate to hold an award ceremony in these hard times,” the contest founder Yurii Lohush says. “What we can see in eastern Ukraine today resembles what was going on in 1920-22, when red flag-waving gangs, which had come from Russia, were killing people. My grandfather was shot dead at the time in Stari Sanzhary, Poltava oblast. Russia is now making a third attempt in its history to build an empire on Ukrainian bones. I don’t know if we meet again in Kyiv a year later. Maybe, it will be Zhytomyr or Lviv or, God forbid, Prague, Krakow, or Warsaw. But I would like to hold the next ‘Coronation of the Word’ in Luhansk or Donetsk. I also hope we will be able to do this later in Kuban – for we must not only defend ourselves, but also go over to offensive. In the course of our history, hundreds of our writers were destroyed for writing in Ukrainian and for Ukrainians. I would like the next year’s competing works to feature not only the Maidan and the Heavenly Sotnia, but also the Executed Renaissance figures, for this movement started 100 years ago, as World War One broke out. In spite of all the difficulties, we still decided to honor the new Ukrainian authors – let the competition be a ‘baptism of fire’ for them and an encouragement for new creative pursuits.”

By Roman HRYVINSKY, The Day