His texts were not published for almost twenty years, despite all the difficulties, he still became famous, first worldwide, and later in his homeland. He was a friend to Stus, although he still considers his works uninteresting, but never considered himself an author from Donbas. About creative career, the first challenges, departure from the occupied Luhansk, the return of the Donbas, fairy tales and art that doesn’t exist beyond the politics – the way Vasyl Holoborodko himself sees it in the section “Who is…” from Opinion.

About creativity, first texts, and challenges

At first, Holoborodko took his own creativity rather lightly. Everything had begun with two torn sheets that turned into a newspaper, which the poet and his peers filled with the text.

“If in the newspaper ” Zirka” (A star – translator’s note), which my relatives were subscribed to, I saw poems, I also had to have poems in mine. So I was writing poems. It was somewhere around sixth grade. I was making this newspaper for my peers. In one copy. Our newspaper lasted until its 10th edition.”

In the beginning, I wrote poems in Russian, because there was such a tradition back then: Russian was considered the main language, and Ukrainian – the secondary one. Strange thing: although I always considered myself a Ukrainian, the Russification steam roller didn’t bypass me as well.”

Хто такий Василь Голобородько?

“At the beginning of my work, there was a restriction for me – not to use abstract words. If there was a need for some kind of concepts, then I tried to express them with concrete images. To these great restrictions was also added the avoidance of the so-called poetic language.”

However, it would be the biggest mistake to assume that the creative journey of Holoborodko towards fame was simple.

“I have not been published for almost twenty years, I have covered a certain road of challenges in my literary life. Beyond publishing, glory, royalties, and respect from grateful readers. In an interview or biography for a long time, I was writing and telling how I was persecuted and expelled how I suffered… Then I realized that you shouldn’t do this: people love successful people. And my life was a little bit different.”

Хто такий Василь Голобородько?

Photo: Nata Koval

About “Donbas writer”

Quite often, when people are speaking about some writer they necessarily indicate him or her: this one – from Odesa, that one – from Lviv. The same thing happened to Vasyl Holoborodko – they were constantly trying to regionalize him, to point out, they were saying something like: you are from Donbas, from the East.

I’ve never considered myself a Donbas author. There was such a critic Leonid Kovalenko, he was always asking – why don’t you have poems about Donbas, about mines, you’re working there, right? I work in the Ukrainian language, and I don’t care whether I live in Rostov, Luhansk or in Rio de Janeiro. I live in the Ukrainian language.”

About the proposal of collaboration with KGB

In one conversation, the writer admits: this is not the most popular topic, a lot of people are ashamed to admit it, but almost everyone was offered to collaborate with the NKVD. Including Mr. Vasyl himself.

“When I was expelled, I decided to trick the KGB. I don’t register as a resident, I don’t enroll in the military register, I go to Moscow to enter the Literature Institute. I arrived at the exam, there is a commission. Immediately, they see in the passport that I’m not registered, I’m not in the military register as well. I understood everything, took my documents and went home. I know that the army is ahead – construction brigades in Vladivostok. At the same time, my book is laying in the publishing house ready to be printed. The object was ripe for the KGB for 100 percent. They call me and offer collaboration. I refused. Those who agreed had a good life.”

Хто такий Василь Голобородько?

About leaving the occupied territory and plans for the return

After the occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk regions by Russian militants, Vasyl Holoborodko was forced to leave Luhansk. However, the writer himself treats displacement rather philosophically.

“If you look more abstract and generalized at my forced displacement, then this, of course, is negative in my life, something hostile. However, it goes in the same vein as other negative events. Therefore, one cannot say that I was so happy in the past, but now I’m sitting here and crying like Ovidius on the Irpin bank “.

However, the poet admits: he doesn’t mind returning to Luhansk when it will be liberated. Leaving there, the author took only a folder with poems, he thought that everything would end up much faster.

“When everything is normal, I’ll be back. <…> I thought it wouldn’t last for a long time, I grabbed one folder with unfinished verses and left. I thought it would end up quickly- and it would have ended up quickly with the separatists if not the Russians who sent the troops. “

About the return of Donbas

Now the writer is convinced: it will be extremely easy to return the occupied territories because the longer it is in the limbo, the more people suffer on both sides.

“If all this was fast… If the SBU in Lugansk was dispersed, the one where guns were distributed, then everything would end. Back then there was such news on TV: the Lugansk people turn to the speaker of the Luhansk police, they ask to destroy them, while they are few. She replied: “How can you, these are the people!” Well, we felt pity for those people, and now – how much destruction they brought, how many people have died?”

However, Holoborodko emphasizes: there’s no sense in dividing the country into the east and west,moreover, talking about their fundamental differences – it’s been one country for a long time.

“I am against such a division and all the time I say that Ukraine has long been united. KGB, collective farms, police, communist party – everything was common. Lifestyle, a way of thinking? And what different styles dictates, for example, the collective farm? The same one! To work less and to steal something: so it happened all over Ukraine.”

About postmodernist Putin

Russian policy, which doesn’t care about any agreements and decisions complicates the return of our territories.

“Even the fact that Russia itself was the guarantor of the inviolability of our borders when Ukraine abandoned nuclear weapons. The world is absurd, people are trying to normalize it and stabilize it with some kind of internal and international laws. However, Kremlin and Putin destroyed all this and dived back into the absurd. Then it turns out that Putin is a true postmodernist who does not have any values?”

Photo: Den / Artem Slypachuk

About meeting Stus and the slow “bear” Vasyl Holoborodko

The writer got acquainted with Stus when he was studying at the postgraduate program at the Institute of Literature and was looking for fellow countrymen. Subsequently, Mr. Vasyl will write about him that “among the youngest contemporaries I appreciated Holoborodko the most.”

He was not interesting for me for a long time. As a poet, he isn’t interesting even today. We have quite different texts. However, our views on Soviet reality were common. Both of us had unpublished books. I respected him for honesty and straightforwardness. Many did not like it in him.

He called me the “bear” in his memories because I’m slow. At his place, I spent nights in Kyiv. When he was in Luhansk, he stopped at my place. When I was expelled, several friends came to support me. Vasyl was among them.”

Two Vasyls had a lot of correspondence, but communication was broken when Stus was sentenced. Holoborodko admits: it was scary to write. Only later, the author found out that it was easier to send letters to Stus than to get them from him.

“To write him – meant to be in trouble. Basically, I was in the hands of the KGB. They could do with me whatever they wanted. That’s why I could not write to Stus then. Although there were some that were writing to him.”

About art beyond politics

For someone, this topic may seem controversial, for others – the answer is one and quite obvious: no art can exist beyond politics. Holoborodko has the same view: the writer, like everyone else, lives in a society, and therefore he or she can’t live separately from its problems.

If the world was perfect, then an artist would not pay attention to these problems and deal only with artistic problems. Actually, from the very beginning, while I was studying, to some extent, I was still involved in the process of criticizing contemporary society.

It is the same now – I have to take a position, but not active, more passive one – that is, for example, I manifest it during voting. I always say that all problems can be tackled by normal elections.”

Хто такий Василь Голобородько?

Photo: Ivan Lyubysh-Kurdei

About fairy tales

In addition to writing, Vasyl Holoborodko has been studying Ukrainian fairy tales for many years. The poet admits: he can talk about fairy tales for a long time and a lot, and in the future, he wants to present really deep scientific work.

“I found their texts, described them, I started a fairy tale indicator. I’m also looking for fairy tales from all ethnic territories of Ukraine: now, for example, I read in the Bachvan dialect, and sometimes in Polish. So the fairy tales that I found I divide by my own principle into complete and incomplete (abbreviated). All the fairy tales are divided into three parts according to the main conflict – the competition between the main character and his opponent: this is a force competition. This will definitely be a deep scientific work.”

By Dmytro Zhuravel

The publication was collected from numerous interviews, speeches, and appeals of the material’s protagonist.

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