Cover Image for To a Friend

To a Friend

trans. by Bohdan Pechenyak
Issue Two

This 1897 poem is dedicated to Mykhailo Kryvyniuk, a Social Democrat, Lesia Ukrainka’s friend and would-be brother-in-law, who was imprisoned in 1896 for his political activism. As the translator Bohdan Pechenyak points out, the poem got a second life when it was put to music by the Lviv band Korolivski Zaytsi.

Dedicated to M. Kryvyniuk

Do you ever think of me while you’re imprisoned,
As I often think of you when sick?
Just as plants don’t thrive in muggy darkness,
So we both can’t thrive without space.

Oh, how often do I hear in my hardship
Such attempts at consolation from good friends:
‘It’s not nice to be complaining of such trifles,
Others suffer worse from their fates!’

But these words are useless and so boring,
Even given earnestly and free.
If these people only knew how dreary
Sunless days and moonless nights can be!

And much worse than pain or tight confinement
Is a single, murderously heavy thought,
An offhand remark, shameful and frightful:
‘Others suffer worse from their fates!’

That’s the pity, though – if we kept filling
Our cups without measure full of grief,
And drank the bitter swill without spilling —
Still we could not drain that depth of sea.

That’s the rub — if crowns we kept weaving
For the workers both of deeds and words,
Cutting all the thorny bushes freely —
Still we could not thin those murky woods.

19 January 1897


Read in Ukrainian.


Image: Lesia Ukrainka in Ievpatoriia with her brother Mykhailo, c. 1891. Source:

Cover Image for Ukrainian Cassandras

Ukrainian Cassandras

Issue Two

Thirty-one years since Ukraine regained its independence, and six months to the day since Russia escalated its eight-year long war to engulf the entire country, it is high time to hear and believe ‘Ukrainian Cassandras’.

Olesya Khromeychuk and Sasha Dovzhyk
Cover Image for Cassandra


Issue Two

The winner of the Ukrainian Literature in Translation Prize run by the Ukrainian Institute London in 2021 is Nina Murray’s excerpt from Lesia Ukrainka’s poetic drama Cassandra (written in 1907). In this play, the author chooses to tell one of the keystone myths of western culture, the story of the siege of Troy, from the point of view of a woman, the Trojan princess and prophet Cassandra. For the translator, Lesia Ukrainka’s exploration of the credibility of a woman as a producer of knowledge remains ‘highly relevant and compelling’.

trans. by Nina Murray