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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

An evening of poetry and memory

24 June, 2008 - 00:00

Last Thursday the launch of a new collection of poems by the well-known Ukrainian writer and poetess Natalia Dziubenko-Mace took place at the House of Writers. Her new book, The Day of the Cold Sun , is dedicated to her late husband James Mace, the prominent Holodomor scholar, who died a few years ago. The poet’s dedication reads: “My sunny friend, my dearest one! You are now in Ukraine’s heaven forever.”

Our readers are aware that James Mace devoted his life to studying the Holodomor both in the US and Ukraine, where he died. He contributed many articles on this subject to The Day , which were later compiled and published in our Library Series.

A considerable number of people, including well-known poets and scholars, came to congratulate Natalia Dziubenko- Mace on the publication of her book of poems entitled The Day of the Cold Sun . During the book launch professional actors recited some of the poems from her new collection, and her friends, admirers, and writers, and scholars gave brief speeches.

Ivan Drach said that for Mace “Ukraine was Natalka and Natalka was Ukraine.” In his opinion, the new collection of poems depicts the tragedy of contemporary Ukraine, a country without defenses.

Mykola Zhulynsky commented that Dziubenko-Mace’s fine poems reveal the author’s inner self, great truths, rich imagery, and sophisticated style. It is a pleasure to read her poems because the seemingly simple lines hide profound emotions, the Ukrainian academician said.

The historian Stanislav Kulchytsky recalled that he met Mace before Natalka, but he realized later that, if not for her, there would have been no Mace, “the great Ukrainian.” He also praised Mace’s contribution to shaping the history of Ukraine’s Holodomor. In the 1970s, when Mace was still in the US, he began studying this tragic page in Ukraine’s history at a time when some eyewitnesses of the Holodomor were still alive. They are no longer alive because 75 years, the number of years that have passed since the Holodomor, is the span of a human lifetime. It is therefore crucial, Kulchytsky said, to publish Mace’s four-volume Report to the US Congress, which contains the testimonies of people who had first-hand experience of the Holodomor, rather than those of the next generation of Ukrainians, who knew about the Holodomor only from their parents’ stories.

The poems of Dziubenko-Mace bear the mark of originality. Here is an example: “Within the dark walls of our silence it was so cold. I did not know that it would be the last time and never again — forever. Don’t touch it, it hurts. And, for the love of God, I don’t need demonstrative sympathy. I still hope it is not for too long — just for one, only one, life span.”

Many of the poems in the chapter “The Return of the Winds” have biblical motifs: Judas who “undervalued Christ,” the Wandering Jew, who gazed indifferently as “He plodded towards that infernal hill (Golgotha) and heaved His cross on bent back.” Then Judas shoved Jesus, cursed, and even justified himself: “Did I know He was God? I thought He was a human...”

There also are many other canonical (and not-so-canonical) acute notes and allusions.

By Klara GUDZYK, The Day

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