(1924, Soloshyne – 2009, Kyiv)
Pavlo Zahrebelnyi entered his adult life as a soldier. When the WWII broke, he enlisted at the age of seventeen. Zahrebelnyi survived two injuries and the Nazi concentration camps. His writing career started in 1949, when he became a student of the Russian language in the Dnipropetrovsk State University and started writing novellas and short stories. One of his early works, Duma about the Deathless (1957), is based on the author’s war experience; it’s mostly autobiographic, though with a tragic ending. Zahrebelnyi’s first two novels, Europe-45 (1958) and Europe West (1961), are also centered on the WWII.
As the editor-in-chief of Literaturna Hazeta, Zahrebelnyi helped young writers to publish their works. According to Ivan Drach, Zahrebelnyi gave him work after he was kicked out of the university, and published Drach’s poem A Knife in the Sun. Zahrebelnyi also published works of Mykola Vinhranovskyi, Yurii Shcherbak, Ivan Dziuba, Yenhen Hutsalo, and Volodymyr Drozd. His interest for new authors never ceased: he nominated Sweet Darusia by Maria Matios for the Taras Shevchenko National Award in 2005 and wrote a comprehensive afterpiece for Serhiy Zhadan’s Depeche Mode (2004).
Zahrebelnyi is mostly famous for his historical prose. The Wonder (1968) was the first novel of his Kyiv Rus series, followed by The First Bridge (1972), The Death in Kyiv (1973) and Eupraksia (1975). The novels Roksolana (1980) and I, Bohdan (1983) are set in the Ukrainian Cossack Age.
Despite being pressured to write about the Soviet life, Zahrebelnyi always managed to stick with the themes he truly loved: history and people of other eras. As he would say, he was making use of the method of Mikheil Chiaureli (who made films about Stalin’s greatness): ‘Shoot a scene you want, then add some hammers and sickles, then shoot another scene you want…’ During the 1970s Zahrebelnyi was forced to produce several pieces in the spirit of ‘Soviet industrial prose’.
It is in the historical novels that one gets to see Zahrebelnyi’s best features: a thrilling plot (often with a detective arc and erotic elements), some good philosophy, brilliant style and rich language. The unstoppable popularity of Zahrebelnyi’s novels in Ukraine is due to how craftily he combined exciting adventures, believable characters, and historical truth.
Other locations in Kyiv related to Pavlo Zahrebelnyi: in 1977-1999, Zahrebelnyi lived at Tereshchenkisvka 5. The house now bears a memorial plate.