(1938, Rakhnivka, Ukrainian SSR – 1985, Perm-36, Kuchino, Russian SFSR)
Stus was born in the Vinnytsia region, but grew up and studied in Donetsk. He taught Ukrainian language and literature in Horlivka. His poems were first published in Literaturna Hazeta in 1959. In four years he moved to Kyiv and studied for PhD in the Institute for Literature. Stus was working a lot, wrote the book of poems Circulation and became a dissident.
On September 4, 1965, during the premiere of Sergei Parajanov’s film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (aka Wild Horses of Fire) in Kyiv’s Ukraina cinema Vasyl Stus, Viacheslav Chornovil, Ivan Dziuba and Yurii Badzio took part in a protest against the arrests of Ukrainian intelligentsia. Stus was expelled from the Institute and was watched by the KGB agents since. Despite this, he kept working on a new book of poems, Trees in Winter, and a book about Pavlo Tychyna Phenomenon of the Age, which is still of significance. Ivan Drach gave Trees in Winter an enthusiastic review, and the periodical Molodist agreed to publish it, but it never happened. Stus made several self-published copies, and in 1970 the book was printed in Great Britain. No book by Stus was published in Ukraine until the 1990s.
In 1972, Stus was arrested and given a five-year sentence in a labor camp. In 1976, still kept in prison, he renounced his Soviet citizenship. He started his magnum opus, The Palimpsests, in the same period. As Dmytro Stus, his son and researcher wrote, The Palimpsests ‘is a hermetic book, a metaphysical book of existence of a human spirit forced to grow only to the inside’.
In 1979, Stus returned to Kyiv and joined the Ukrainian Helsinki group. In less than a year he was arrested again and sentenced for ten years in a labor camp. Viktor Medvedchuk, a defender appointed against the will of the defendant, named him guilty before the court. While imprisoned in the forced labor camp for political prisoners Perm-36, Stus kept protesting, went on hunger strikes, and was moved to an individual cell. He didn’t see his family since the spring of 1981, and his last book of poems, A Bird of the Soul, was taken from him by the overseers. He died in the disciplinary cell while on dry hunger strike on 4 of September 1985, reportedly due to a cardiac failure.
Other locations in Kyiv related to Vasyl Stus: from August 1979 till May 1980 Vasyl Stus lived in Chornobylska Street 13a. Now there’s a memorial square and a street named in his honor in the vicinity.