(born in 1930 in Rzhyshchiv, Kyiv Oblast)
If you ask a Ukrainian person in the street about Ukrainian writers, they will definitely mention Lina Kostenko.
She was born in the town of Rzhyshchiv to a family of teachers. In the 1930s her father was sent to the Gulag as ‘an enemy of the people’. After WWII Lina Kostenko graduated from the Kyiv Pedagogical Institute and in 1956 from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. Her first book of poems, Rays of the Earth, was published in 1957. Sails came out in 1958 and Wanderings of the Heart in 1961. In the early 1960s, she faced an onslaught from the Soviet critics accusing her poetry of ‘disconnection from the real life’ and ‘formalistic experimentation’. In 1966, Lina Kostenko was blacklisted as not suitable for print and was not published for sixteen years. She was a dissident and signed numerous letters of protest. In 1966, she was present at the infamous political process of the Horyn brothers in Lviv and threw flowers to the defendants.
During the years of being silenced Kostenko wrote her best works, including historical novels in verse Marusia Churai and Berestechko, and a number of poems. She only came back to her readers in 1977, when a book of poems On the Shore of the Eternal River was published. In 1979, after six years of waiting, she finally published Marusia Churai. An actress Nila Kriukova remade the novel into a one-woman performance, which was to be staged in the National Philarmonic of Ukraine, but then some last-minute changes to the text were demanded, and it was decided that the performance will take place on a different stage. Kostenko felt so insulted that she publicly slapped the Philarmonic’s director in the face. In 1987, she was awarded Shevchenko National Prize for the same novel.
Beside poetry, Kostenko wrote prose. Her novel Notes of a Ukrainian Madman (2010) was the only prominent work trying to explain the events of the Orange Revolution of 2004. The novel was an immediate bestseller and gained popular and critical acclaim.
Other locations in Kyiv related to Lina Kostenko: in 1937-1941 the Kostenkos lived in an industrial community located on the Trukhaniv Island. The settlement was burned in 1943 during the WWII, and Kostenko wrote about the events in a poem ‘I Grew Up in the Venice of Kyiv’.