Oleksa Desnyak

Oleksa Desnyak
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 28
The first organizer of the Lviv Organization of Writers was Petro Panch. He was claimed to be a officer in Petlura army, thus trustworthy. We knew the "Blue Echelons," this book had shaped a positive attitude to the personality of Panch among us. Besides, his appearance was likable as well as his demeanor. With a gray head of hair in his late forties, with the clear open eyes, light step, reserved moderate manner and attention to and awareness of our problems, he was quite favorably perceived by local writers. He would step along the noble corridors covered with carpets in the Bielski palace as a real owner who must have lived there for a long time and felt as if at home. Even the outfit added to his lordish appearance — an elegant grey suit, a light blue tie, and white low ankle boots that he must have bought in Lviv — all of those contributed to his outward appearance. It is no wonder that one of our Polish colleagues, a satirist Józio Nacht, would always say about Panch: "Panch is a pan (a gentleman)," and compared him to his successor Oleksa Desnyak who had substituted Panch on his position of the head, — "while Desnyak (with an emphasis on the first syllable) is a wieśniak (a rural man). Panch was the head of the Organizing Committee of Writers, whose job was to establish the Lviv Organization of the Union of Writers of Ukraine. Therefore a special procedure was adopted. Each candidate had to submit an application to the Union of Writers and go through an interview at the meeting. Usually, it was like a public testimony because the candidate presented his biography with exact details about his writing activities, as well as about political engagements. He had to declare his political convictions that were supposed to run within the party line. The interview was carefully examined by the union representatives who would sit on the board, and by the other writers attending the meeting. Both the board, and the attendants of this vanity show had a right to ask all the different questions, to clarify or refute some facts they knew the candidate had not mentioned or explained thoroughly.
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 53
A meeting with Arkadiy Liubchenko was completely different. He was a lively and temperamental person with a vibrant face. He would win the overall liking at once. It started with his recital in the club's hall. [[...]] Not every writer coming to Lviv organized his author's night, or performances. Neither Korniychuk, nor Malyshko, nor Panch, nor Desnyak had any recitals, even though they came to Lviv for a longer period or were recurrently visiting on different assignments. Liubchenko turned out to be a brilliant actor and a great reciter. We had no idea about that but as soon as he started reciting his novella "Ziama" (that must have been selected to please the multinational mileu of writers in Lviv) he would immediately captivate the listeners. Not every recital in the club enjoyed great popularity. There were cases when a writer read his works before a small audience, even though there were many writers in the building. But they were not willing to attend and listen to the recitals. It has become customary that our colleagues came close to the door and tried to discern the author's voice and some sentences. On the basis of the tone of the voice and the excerpts heard they would decide whether they to enter the room or not. It was more typical of Polish writers who came from the literary centers from Warsaw or Cracow and were unwilling to listen to the hackneyed recitals of supporters of social realism most frequently taking the stage. However, on that night when Liubchenko was taking the floor, the tables were turned. The Polish colleagues would approach the door to the room in the corridor, listen to some sentences and hurried to get inside. Soon, all the seats in the room were occupied. They saw Liubchenko both as a talented reciter and performer, and a skillful novella author who was apt at choosing the plot and presenting it in an interesting manner. It was one of the best recitals during his two incomplete years in Lviv.
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 41
The creative activities of this rather randomly composed team of writers in Lviv are discussed on the pages of the "Literatura i Mystetstvo" (Literature and Art) magazine, even though Lviv writers were also published in other magazines in Kyiv or Kharkiv. [[...]] There were ten issues of this Lviv magazine.The first issue dates back to September 1940, to commemorate the first anniversary of the "liberation." The editorial board included Wanda Wasilewska, Oleksa Desnyak, Petro Karmanskyi, Stepan Tudor, and Elżbieta Szemplińska. The real editor was Oleksa Desnyak. He was also the head of the Lviv Organization of Writers, he was in charge of the entire literary life. Two Polish female writers in the board had no influence on the contents of the magazine. Szemplińska did not speak Ukrainian. Karmanskyi was there for embellishment, as they needed someone in the board to represent the older generation of Ukrainian writers. Tudor was in charge of the ideological sector. The circulation of the magazine was eight thousand copies. Each issue had poems, small prose, articles about literature, art and theater, as well as reviews. All of the materials were short as the magazine only had 50 pages and included works of twenty something authors in each issue. For the most part, those were Ukrainian authors, mostly local, but sometimes also some guest authors. The magazine was the basis for earnings for writers. To have your works published in the magazine implied you could get a fee that every writer was chasing for. The fees were of different amounts, depending on the work experience of the writer. For instance, one line of a poem was charged with three karbovanets, while the experienced poet would get five.
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 39-40
The new regime took measures to keep the Polish group of writers. Lviv still had one third of Polish population, even though their numbers were reducing due to continuous displacements during the entire period of the first occupation. They started issuing a newspaper in the Polish language, the "Czerwony Sztandar" (The Red Banner), where Polish authors could publish their pieces. [[...]] The editorial board of the "Czerwony Sztandar" was placed in the building of the former concern "Wiek Nowy" at No 4, Sokoła street. [...] In January, 1941, a new Polish magazine in Polish language came out in Moscow, the "Nowe Widnokręgi" (The New Horizons). The editorial board of the magazine had Wanda Wasilewska as an editor-in-chief, Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, and Julian Przyboś. In fact, the real editors were Helena Usijewicz, Zofia Dzierżyńska and Broniewska as political instructors. Later, there was also a resolution to publish a quarterly of Polish literature in Kyiv, at the Union of Writers. They invited to the editorial board of this publication Jan Brzoza, Oleksa Desnyak, Stanisław Lec, and Jerzy Putrament, while Elżbieta Szemplińska was appointed as a chief editor. However, the war with Germany did the ill service to this publication. Some works by Polish authors were coming out in Ukrainian translations in Ukrainian issues. It was a chance for some Polish authors to get their desired fees. To be true, the Polish writers who were doing the best in being published were those with access to Russian magazines and other publications. The lead belonged to Wanda Wasilewska and Władysław Broniewski.
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 46

Taras Myhal was born in the village of Stefanykiv, in Rusiv, where his father was a teacher. He came to Lviv intending to study medicine, probably following the suite of his prominent fellow villager. However, the medicine failed to captivate him enough and he was trying to squeeze into literature somehow. So, he would mingle around the writers' club, even though he failed to become a member of the Union. He enjoyed benevolent attitude from Oleksa Desnyak who published one short story of his in the "Literature and Art," adjusted to meet the needs of the new reality, not without interference of this protector dedicated to the party and the homeland (from the first days of the war with the Germans, Desnyak volunteered off to the front and heroically perished in 1942).

Myhal, still under 20, realized he started acting against his conscience. His elder brother was involved into some activities of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, thus being sentenced by the Polish court to a long imprisonment, when war released him from prison, though not for long. On his way home, he found death in unclear circumstances. He was either intercepted by the Polish police, or fell victim to another pitfall, as there was some divide within the nationalist organization. Besides, Taras Myhal himself could suggest the version of his brother's death to be least burdened by it. In a conversation with us, he would confide that Desnyak warned him not to get close to the two colleagues from Lviv — Nyzhankivskyi and me. "Why do you, Taras, keep friendship with Nyzhankivskyi and Tarnavskyi? They are hopeless, you can not expect anything from them. Here's a good person." And then he suggested to him the company of Ivan Kernytskyi. Oleksa Hnatovych [Desnyak] was right. Kernytskyi was a noble person indeed. But Myhal really liked the lively company he could have fun in. Ivan Kernytskyi was a quiet person, deep in himself, tranquil and humble. Due to his poor health, he would not dare to plunge into any stunts a young medical student was interested in while cruising in literature. It is a pity that Myhal failed to follow Kernytskyi's good nature. Otherwise, he would not have got into whirl of party propaganda that ousted him in the long run, after the war.
Західня Україна під большевиками (Нью Йорк, 1958), с. 215-216
An example of real attitude to them from the party and the government, and the NKVD, could be a speech by the head of Lviv organization in May 1941. Between the soirees in the Club, a lecture on former political parties in Western Ukraine was scheduled. It failed to take place for the first time, as almost none of Ukrainian writers showed up, while in fact they mattered most to the Communists. The goal of the lecture was to throw mud at Ukrainian national parties that operated in Western Ukraine before the Bolsheviks' arrival. The next day, the director of the Club sent to all of them warning notices and threatened by phone on behalf of the Organization's head claiming it was simply sabotage. For the second time, several days later, the writers gathered by a narrow margin. They came to listen to the presentation but heard terrible curses about Ukrainian political groups and their leaders, about Metropolitan Sheptytskyi and everything smelling of "nationalism." Yet, for the "sabotage" we had to suffer a penalty. A few days later, the head of the Organization scolded some Ukrainian writers for being absent at the soiree as severelly as no Austrian or Imperial corporal could scold his recruits. What could the cursing entail, one could clearly guess ...
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 50
Maksym Rylskyi was even more straightforward. He was met at the station by the delegation from our Union. Our colleague Vasyl Tkachuk presented him a bunch of red roses. But Rylskyi was somewhat intoxicated already and gave the flowers back to Tkachuk. Then, he ran along through the bunch of writers who treated Maksym Tadeyovych [Rylskyi] with much liking and disappeared behind the door of Desnyak's office. Maksym Rylskyi had no time to spare to have a discussion in the club. What a shame...
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 35
There were also newly arrived writers, mostly those commissioned by the Union of Writers of Ukraine, obviously as approved by the party to head the Lviv Organization of Writers, such as Petro Panch, the first head of the Lviv Organizing Committee, later replaced by a younger and more confidant Oleksa Desnyak. Yuriy Shovkoplias who was holding an important but ideologically not so much significant position of the head of the Aid fund, was a very polite and amiable person who helped allocate financial aid to many writers, mostly those who fled the advancing German army with no means for existence.
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 49
Another remarkable festivity was the 50th anniversary of Pavlo Tychyna who was also awarded with the State Prize. The entire delegation of writers from Lviv were commissioned to the Tychyna anniversary celebration. The Ukrainian members in this team were the head Oleksa Desnyak and two older poets Petro Karmanskyi, who boasted that Tychyna himself allegedly confided he learned rhyming on Karmanskyi's poems, Iryna Vilde, Mykola Melnyk, a servile Teodor Kurpita, Yaroslav Tsurkovskyi and former Sovietphilists Stepan Tudor, Yaroslav Halan, Petro Kozlaniuk, and Oleksandr Havryliuk. Being selected for such celebration was considered a recognition of a writer and a reward for his work. The Polish group was better represented because it included [Julian] Przyboś, the best poet in Lviv at that time, and then A. [Adam] Ważyk, A. [Leon] Pasternak, Yu. [Jerzy] Putrament, and Ya. [Jan] Brzoza. Jewish poets were represented by S. [Israel] Aschendorf, N. [Nahum] Bomze, and Sh. [Jehoszua/Jozue] Perle.
Західня Україна під большевиками (Нью Йорк, 1958), с. 215
Early in 1941, Bolsheviks were preparing the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the "Socialist revolution." Thus, they started forcing the writers to declare their works on contemporary topics. The poets had to publicly declare what they were planning to compose by the 25th anniversary of the "Great October," that is until October 1942, and which work of theirs they would use to glorify the victory of Socialism. Western Ukrainian writers had to write something about the "happy and joyful life" in the "liberated" Western regions of Ukraine. During the public meeting, the Union leader encouraged the writers to declare about the prospective topics of choice. The lists were immediately published by Lviv and Kyiv newspapers. The chairman and the NKVD agent present at the meeting looked with their wry eyes at the members of the Union who were not able to announce the topics on the spot, not to mention those who failed to do so on the next day, or after two days.