Mykola Kulish, Myna Mazailo


All right, that’s enough! Now, Moka, Moka, Moka, will you finally tell us — are you really not a Russian person?


I’m a Ukrainian.


And Ukrainians, are they not Russian people? Tell me, are they not Russian? Are they not just the same as all Russians?


They’re about as Russian as Russians are Ukrainian.


In that case, I have no idea what Ukrainians are. Who are they: Jews, Tatars, Armenians? Tell me, please, who is it that you call Ukrainian?

(finishing his water)

Ukrainians are what they call those who teach unfortunate clerks the so-called Ukrainian language. Not Little Russian[1] and not Tarasoshevchenkian,[2] but Ukrainian — and that’s our Little Russian tragedy.


But who are they? I want to know what nation these people are from!


Some of them are our Little Russians, that is to say, Russians…




And some of them, imagine this, are Galicians, in other words, Austrians, the ones we fought in 1914 — just think![3]


I knew it, I knew there was something untoward going on here… So that’s who they are, your Ukrainians! Now I understand what the Ukrainian language is. I understand completely! An Austrian invention, right?


Oh you understand, oh praise the Lord, just a shame you’ve got it all backwards… Or perhaps it was the first Slavonic to Russian dictionary that was written three hundred and thirty-two years ago… (He opens his notebook.) Here, I made a point of writing it down, because I always write this kind of thing down… (He puts on his glasses.) Here we are… Piglets at the market — thirty rubles each, boots at the central workers’ co-op — twenty-seven karb…[4] No, wait, here it is: the first Slavonic to Ukrainian dictionary, written in 1596 by Lavrin Zyzanii Tustanovskyi. ‘I speak’ — ‘movliu’; ‘granary’ — ‘klunia’; ‘breakfast’ — ‘snidannia’; ‘I build’ — ‘buduiu’; ‘grass’ — ‘pasha’; ‘revenge’ — ‘pomsta’… Tell me, did you lot have a dictionary written back then? Did you? Give me the floor!


Give me the floor!


No, me! I haven’t finished… Galicia is our land, Ukrainian land, and the Galicians are our Ukrainian brothers who have been ripped away from us, and we from them…


I give the floor to Myna.

(to his father)

And your theory that the Ukrainian language is an Austrian invention was the theory of the Russian gendarmes and the tsarist minister Valuev… You’re an assistant of Valuev, Dad![5]

(clutching at his heart and closing his eyes as if listening to it)

I don’t trust anyone — I won’t trust anyone in the world! With just one exception…



(with concern)



My heart! It senses that nothing will come of your Ukrainianisation, that’s a fact, and anything that does come of it is stuff and nonsense —  that’s another fact, because that’s what my heart says.


I think that means you’ve got a heart problem.



[1] A term used for Ukrainians in the Russian Empire, suggesting they are a subgroup of the pan-Russian nation — here and henceforth, translator’s notes.

[2] An adjective formed from the name of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s great Romantic poet (1814–1861).

[3] Galicia is a geographical region mostly located within western Ukraine. Under Austrian rule from 1772 to 1918, it then came under the Second Polish Republic, unlike most of Ukraine, which was incorporated into the USSR after a brief period of independence.

[4] The word that is cut off here is ‘karbovantsiv’. ‘Karbovanets’ was the Ukrainian word for the Soviet ruble, but was also the name of the independent currencies introduced by the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic and Ukrainian State in 1918.

[5] Pyotr Valuev was Alexander II’s Minister of Internal Affairs, famous for penning the 1863 ‘Valuev Circular’, in which he writes that ‘there has never been, there is not and there cannot be a separate Little Russian language, and that their dialect, used by the commoners, is the very same Russian language, only spoilt by the influence on it of Poland’.


Translated by William Ronald Debnam from: Mykola Kulish, ‘Myna Mazailo’ in Літературний ярмарок (Literary market) 2, no. 6 (Kharkiv: June 1929), pp. 62-64.


The UIL Literary Translation workshop was funded by the Embassy of Ukraine to the United Kingdom and coordinated by UIL Kultura Fellow Maryna Dubyna.


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