Not Taras Melnychuk’s anniversary by any means

Once upon a time, on August 20, 2009, one occasion happened to a man. He turned 70. And only in nine years, he turned 80. Today, on August 20, 2019, it’s his 81 birthday.

No, time works properly. It’s just a stunning fate of Taras Melnychuk – one of the most ingenious poets of the Sixties generation (decedents in the USSR). He was imprisoned and exiled exceptionally for his poetry. He let the flow of life rule him, and it turned Melnychuk’s fate into an exciting novel. A very tragic novel.

His new date of birth appeared due to Vasyl Kuryshchuk, a local history expert, who studied church books of the village of Utoropy, Ivano-Frankivsk region, where Melnychuk was born. The book said in the Latin Alphabet that it was 1938 when Melnychuk was born. It also indicated the names of parents and god-parents, which makes it clear the poet wasn’t born in 1939, even though, to a surprise, Melnychuk himself supported this version.

Here is the reason for this “mistake”. Knowing that the military service is tough, mothers tried to register their sons one year later their actual birth so they can be conscripted being at least a bit stronger physically and psychologically.

That’s why this text is not an anniversary one by any means. However, Taras Melnychuk is such a mysterious personality for people at large that no special occasion is needed to speak about him. The poet creates newsworthy events even though he died in 1995. Because today, we are discovering more and more his “new” manuscripts. And I, as a person who is witnessing them appearing, am happy to tell about them.

First time I heard about Melnychuk was in 2007 from Vasyl Herasymiuk. Just after that, I started to read this author, since then Melnychuk became “mine”.

Since then I started to ask friends and family: have you read Melnychuk? And I told them about him. The same what I am doing now, actually.

I was impressed with why not everybody was reading this poet. Why isn’t he still a hero of novels, films? As his biography fits all of it perfectly. As his works are truly exceptional not only for the Ukrainian literature. I got a craving to change it.

Event 1

6 years ago, I got a call from Vasyl Ivanochko, a publisher from Ivano-Frankivsk. He knew that I was keen on Melnychuk and invited me to his office as he had a fantastic treasure – two bags of manuscripts costing 600 dollars someone had brought him. A mysterious dealer claimed they had been written by Taras Melnychuk. I was to identify if it really was so.

From first sight, it was clear that it was Melnychuk’s handwriting. From the first poem, I felt his inimitable intonations:

My father

Does not eat apples anymore

And Napoleon does not

Eat them

And Walt Whitman

Does not eat apples

And I still eat

And apples are

Red to my eyes

Ivanochko bought the manuscripts and gave them to me. Since then, I’ve been living with the idea to create a website where I could publish scans of the manuscripts, deciphered variants, photos, and other materials I’ve found in other resources – videos and audios with Melnychuk, and many audio memories from people who knew him and communicated with him.

Last year, due to the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, we managed to open a Virtual Museum-Archive of Taras Melnychuk – tarasmelnychuk.com. Within the project, we not only created the website but also published a book with some poems from these manuscripts “Me Modeling a Deer” (“Моє ліплення оленя”). It was compiled by Myroslav Laiuk. Also, Myroslav and I had about a dozen presentations of the project in cities connected with Taras Melnychuk and just in big cities – Chernivtsi, Kharkiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Kyiv.

Event 2

And as soon as we managed these manuscripts so that now anybody can work with them or just read them, and have access to them, Taras Melnychuk surprised us one more time.

The presentation of the Virtual Museum-Archive was to take place in Vinnytsia. And just before the beginning of the event, we meet Vasyl Nedotiatko. Mr. Nedotiatko turned out to be a son of Melnychuk’s friend. When the poet was travelling in the late 1980s – early 1990s, he called on them and even left a suitcase with his manuscripts.

Oh my God! Mr. Nedotiatko takes out a pile of these manuscripts… and a new story for us begins. A new book.

For a wonder, these new manuscripts have pages made of the same paper and written with the same green ink as the previous manuscripts. It seemed like somebody had cruelly and violently torn apart that wholeness. Or it might have been carelessness and own will with which only the author could treat the manuscripts. He is unlikely to have time in stormy last years of his life to sort thoroughly his works.

Melnychuk must have divided his archives into random parts and put them in different places like precious stones. And it is not that important already whether everything will be found. We have at least something. But precious stones are precious because it doesn’t matter when they will be found, they will be appreciated at any time. Here, it is the same.

From Nedotiatko’s manuscripts, Myroslav Laiuk compiled a book “Youth is Enamoured with Rifle” («Юнак милується автоматом»). It is to be published soon. But I don’t even hope that these are the last manuscripts we can encounter. He is a very unpredictable man. His new manuscripts will rather appear than won’t. I hope at least his birth date will remain the same.

Vasyl Karpiuk

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