A bust monument to the university’s outstanding alumnus, Ukrainian poet Vasyl Symonenko has been unveiled on May 20 in the courtyard of the school’s iconic Red Building. He entered the department of journalism of the Philology Faculty of then-Kyiv University and graduated from the unit in 1957, when it was already known as the Faculty of Journalism. The poet was selected for commemoration among many candidates after polling the teaching staff and students. The Minor Academy of Sciences of Ukraine co-organized the event. To recreate as closely as possible Symonenko’s image, the sculptors consulted with his contemporaries who saw the poet alive. The monument is engraved with a quote from his poem “Swans of Motherhood”: “For you can choose anything at all, my son, / But of Fatherlands for you there’s only one” (line from the verse translated by Andriy Freishyn-Chirovsky).
A few years ago, the rector of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (NUK) Leonid Hubersky initiated the Outstanding Alumni project. The corridors of its Red and Yellow Buildings are already lined with portraits of Mikhail Bulgakov, polar explorer Otto Schmidt, famous therapist Mykola Strazhesko, Archbishop Luke (Voyno-Yasenetsky), and others. In addition, a few reliefs have been installed on the buildings’ walls. According to the NUK’s vice-rector for research and education Professor Volodymyr Buhrov, this approach encourages corporate ethics and responsibility within the university community. Unveiling of Symonenko’s bust is just the first step. Over time, the courtyard is to get an entire lane lined with monuments to outstanding alumni. Next to the just erected monument, a bust of the school’s first rector Mykhailo Maksymovych will appear soon. “We appreciate the fact that Symonenko was our alumnus,” Buhrov told us. “He was a truly emblematic figure. According to his contemporaries, Symonenko was not a dissident in the conventional sense. Still, I am convinced that his poignant poetry significantly influenced the course of Ukrainian history. Given the current situation, his words, now engraved on the monument, look surprisingly relevant.”
Besides students and teachers, the event’s attendees included poet Borys Oliinyk, who was Symonenko’s classmate at the university, Ivan Drach, Dmytro Pavlychko, Dmytro Stepovyk, Vasyl Yaremenko, Maksym Strikha, Dmytro Stus, and Yevhen Nyshchuk. Colleagues from other universities were present as well. The ceremony ended with a performance of the Ukrainian anthem.