Stepan Tudor (1892–1941)

Stepan Tudor

Stepan Tudor is the pen-name of Stepan Yosypovych Oleksyuk. He was born on August, 25, 1892 in the village of Ponykva (presently in Brody district of Lviv region). Early death of his father brought financial difficulties in his childhood years: in order to finish his studies in a gymnasium young Tudor had to moonlight as a tutor. In 1914, he entered Lviv University and joined Austro-Hungarian army. During the front, he was taken captive by Russians. Therefore, he had stayed in Kyiv and Cherkasy region until he came back to Galicia in 1923. Upon graduating from his interrupted studies at Lviv University, Stepan Tudor worked as a teacher in the town of Chortkiv in Ternopil region. He became proactive in the literary process and co-organized a Sovietphilic magazine "Vikna" (Windows) that had become a periodical for the milieu of writers who later established literary group "Horno" (Forge). At first, Stepan Tudor and Vasyl Bobynskyi were both the editors of "Vikna", later it was just Tudor himself. After "Vikna" stopped functioning, from 1932 Tudor lived and worked in Zolochiv and returned to Lviv only in 1939. Stepan Tudor's death was an illustrative account for Soviet literary historiography: together with his fellow colleague, a pro-Communist poet, prose writer and critic Oleksandr Havryliuk, they were killed on the first day of war in Lviv, on June, 22, 1941. It was a bomb falling down on the building where they were staying with other literary men (vul. Doroshenka, 46). Stepan Tudor was buried at Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv. There was a monument in Lviv erected to commemorate the writer, at Pl. Ye. Malanyuka. During the late 1980s, the site was a place for alternative art events.



In his third book of belle-lettre style memories "Pysmennyky zblyzka" (Writers in Close Up) (Lviv, 1964), Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi recounted that in 1939 Tudor was offered an opportunity to lecture at Lviv University. The writer was designing his course in aesthetics, which was defined by Rudnytskyi as "Marxist." Rudnytskyi provided an entire episode, mythologized in a sense, on how a lecturer Tudor and three students had a conversation in Franko park (that was called University park in those days). They were talking about the essence of aesthetics and the need to teach it. After all, Tudor never taught the course but his ideas expressed in this talk had a major impact on a student of philology who later became a "drawer at the fashion house" and remembered his words on the need to "understand beauty in every detail of our everyday life." The episode is quite illustrative to understand the mentality of Stepan Tudor both in synchrony, and in diachrony. The peculiarity is in the fact that in 1939, when the writer had already gone through certain stages as a member of various pro-Soviet activities (from organizing a magazine to participating in conventions), he still remained to be an aesthete raised on philosophy. Thus, Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi included this episode into his book not by chance [[quote|79]].


1. Михайло Рудницький, "Степан Тудор", Письменники зблизька (Львів, 1964), кн. 3, с. 159–164.
2. Григорій Сивокінь, "Степан Тудор", Степан Тудор День отця Сойки: роман; Марія: повість; оповідання; Олександр Гаврилюк Береза: повість; оповідання (Київ, 1989), с. 5–17.


Author — Danylo Ilnytskyi
Translated by Svitlana Brehman

Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 28-29
I remember my application procedure to the union. My biography could not be long, or interesting either, because I was only 22 and had not much to tell. There could not be many questions, either. I did not have a book, my poems must have been unknown, while my prose pieces published in the "Dilo" in its feuilleton section I signed with a different name, so rarely anyone knew about them. However, there was one notable speech that would make things clear and help decide about my membership in the Union. There was one of our members in the audience, Andriy Vasylovych Voloshchak. It was a man in his fifties. Before the First World War, he started his studies in Lviv University but graduated already in Prague. But he had a misfortune — in the war he was wounded and lost his sight. He did not stop writing but dictated his poems to his sister or his wife. This way he continued his writing activities. In the 1930s, he was member of the "Horno" (Forge) association. He enjoyed full trust among his colleagues from the "Vikna" (Windows), and from the "Novi Shlakhy" (New Ways) of Krushelnytskyi. Now, he also managed to win the trust of the new persons in charge. When Mr. Voloshchak having heard that someone from the board started asking me about my activities during the Polish occupation, and which organizations I used to belong to, he stood up and without hesitation said, with a typical convincing serenity in his voice, that "this candidate, i.e. me, would often attend our intimate meetings (here, he would definitely imply some meetings of Sovietphilists), and recited his poems there, and was very close to us with his ideas." The statement of the old partyman took me aback. I am not sure there was anyone in the room who knew me to trust the declarations of Voloshchak. In the 1930s, when the "Horno" functioned, I was in my teenage years, so, I was far from their meetings. Such partymen as Yaroslav Halan or Stepan Tudor present in the room must have realized that. However, it was a statement from a blind person who enjoyed the general trust, and no one attempted to doubt his opinion. In any case, he could always have an excuse, as the visually impaired person could have made a mistake. After the meeting of the Union of Writers I approached Andriy Vasylovych to express my gratitude for the favorale referral and ask why he did that. But he only shook his head, turning his black glasses with no eyes behind to my side, and explained quietly: "It is necessary, it is." And he shook my hand.
Михайло Рудницький, "Письменники зблизька" (Львів, 1964), кн. 3, с. 159-164

Inspired by philosophy still back as a schoolboy, [Stepan] Tudor got interested in Hegel in his student years, especially in his "Aesthetics." […] When, in 1939, the writer had an opportunity to lecture at Lviv University, he got engaged with the idea to prepare an independent course on Marxist aesthetics. [[...]] But it was the job for the future — now he could not postpone his literary ideas.

After the lectures, he would slowly walk to the Franko Park that we then called "University park;" he would sit on a bench, and contemplated over something. The same was now ...


Three students — two boys and a girl — did not think about the fact that someone might hear them, that a university lecturer was around. But could they possibly know all the teachers?

Tudor turned his head into their direction, and kept his ears open. The first of them was obviously from the senior years of philology, a tall, modestly dressed man, with curly hair, and mustache; he was actively gesticulating:

— So what if I promised? I could not predict you were coming over with some Hottentot dress on. All colors quarreled with each other! In the theater, people are going to look not at the stage, but at us ...

The lady student looked extravagant indeed. She responded almost contemptuously:

— I can not be ordering a new dress specially for you simply because you finally figured out to invite me to a ballet. I was not the one to come up with this fashion and this fabric. We could go to the movies where no one stares at you. And I must tell you that I really like this dress.


The second student, probably a physicist or a biologist, tried to reconcile:

— Comrades, do not add any subjectivity into the arguments. We know that noone should argue about colors and tastes.

Tudor approached the students, glanced at them from behind his glasses, while his even-tempered soft voice always had a soothing effect:

— It is nice to hear that you care about such problems. While quick temper and the power of persuasion are positive features, too. However, let me tell you something, as an outsider. Aesthetic taste is not a whim, nor a fashion, it is the result of studying the patterns of beauty. Beauty is not an abstract category, it is a product of a historical period, of a certain degree of cultural development of the people and humanity. Although the aesthetic evaluation can change according to the tastes of some epoch, period, class, or environment; aesthetics ...
— They do not teach us aesthetics at the university, — the lady student replied politely, with some note of regret. And no one ever gave us any lectures about women's fashion. And if it were about science, still everyone has the right to dress according to their taste and their financial capacity.


— First, we must instill in our young people the need to be interested in the aesthetics itself — [Tudor interrupted ] — It is because our home and school education for aesthetics failed to find a suitable place, it must be made a matter of personal initiative.
— Theory is one thing, while the practice... It is not only about aesthetics, but about everything, — the philology student summarized, and everyone got silent.
— Well, — said Tudor, -—if you like, I could take care to arrange a special course in aesthetics as soon as there is enough interested persons.


Tudor fell victim to a Nazi bomb on the first day of the war. Many years have passed since. I met a former student recently and asked about her "career" after graduation, even though I could not remember when I saw her last.

— I work as a designer in the House of models.
— Do you? A philologist by education? What made you make this choice?
— Do you remember the discussione we had with Tudor in the park back then? Afterwards, we had met a couple of times more. We did not wait until the university started offering a course in aesthetics, becuase Tudor managed to replace it. I realized how important aesthetic education is when it is not limited by theory only, but can teach you see and understand the beauty in all everyday details. Can a teacher do more than ignite a spark in the the souls of students that could lit the way for them to the profession they might have neglected? I owe such spark to Stepan Tudor.


I was captivated by Tudor's courage and zeal. But he paid no attention to it.

— Besides, — he said, — being able to save a person and make a valuable public agent of him, I am still interested in other things. I would like to compose a short novel and show how protest is born within a person under the police state, how a revolutionary spirit is generated. But trust me, the story or novel are not the most important things for me. I feel some anxiety when thinking about the modern living people and automatically transform them into heroes of literary works. What if, when I manage to create an attractive positive character of Anna Verbytska, while in fact she would turn out to be a mediocre girl? No, I am not going to write a single line till I see how Anna's life proceeds...
— You could still write a story and keep in touch with your friend.
— I see, — said Tudor — you are trying to treat this problem as a bourgeois writer, for whom writing itself is the most important thing. As for me, the most exquisite work is worth nothing unless it inspires people to struggle. Do you understand what it means in our time when you make an advocate of Communist ideas out of a village girl?.. A person shall be in the first place, and books should follow.

Tudor reminded me about the conversation at our first meeting in Lviv, during the golden days of September 1939.
Західня Україна під большевиками (Нью Йорк, 1958), с. 217-219
We can only know that it was only for the unexpectedly early started war by Bolsheviks that saved thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families from deportation and death. It rescued thousands from death. In particular, however, the war was to decide the Ukrainian writers' fates. We only learned about the real threat after the German troops had entered the city. Then it became known that on the first day of the war, 22 June 1941, they convened to the Club all members who could be notified, but primarily the Board of the Union. It was initiated by Wanda Wasilewska and Stepan Tudor. Fortunately, many writers failed to come, for the first German bombs in the morning of June 22 disrupted the life in Lviv, and Ukrainians stayed in the nooks. The present members of the Union Board decided to publish in the magazine "Vilna Ukrayina" (Free Ukraine) an appeal to all writers to immediately sign up to the Red Army. Wanda Wasilewska herself was the first to take the gun on her shoulder and was walking around the city this way. The appeal was signed by all members of the Union, obviously without their notice. Furthermore, the Board produced a list of those writers believed to be "unreliable," and the list was supposed to be passed to the Regional Party Committee so that they could order to arrest them, and deport or kill. The list included all Ukrainian writers who had been of anti-Bolshevik views before 1939. With those lists and the appeal, some participants of the meeting, among them [Stepan] Tudor with his wife, a Polish novelist [Zofia] Charzewska and a writer [Oleksandr] Havrylyuk, set out from the Club to the editorial office of the "Vilna Ukrayina" and to the Regional Committee. But by the game of chance the situation resolved differently. When they moved from vul. Kopernika and took down vul. Sykstuska, German bombers arrived and one bomb hit the building they were passing by. It was a Sunday afternoon. All of them perished under the ruins of the building. After their death, there was no one to organize the writers to fight for the Soviet power, and noone was there to manage their arrests. Wasilewska disappeared from Lviv (she was said to have gone to the front, but in fact, she soon was found in Kyiv, and then in Moscow to call on the Polish proletariat to fight for Stalin). Head of the Lviv Union had fallen ill and left for Ukraine a week before. Apparently, except for Tudor and Wasilewska, there was no one authorized to manage the organization. Many Ukrainian writers of Lviv can be grateful for this chance for their saved lives.
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 30-32.

There was an incredible procedure when the membership of Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi was being considered. Rudnytskyi could not have been unknown. He was a widely famous literary figure. His opinions were well respected both by his few friends, and by his foes which he had plenty. The meeting was attended by many, even though it took place not in the report room but in a spacious office of the secretary of the Lviv Organizing Committee of Writers Yaroslav Tsurkovskyi. [...] Tsurkovskyi absolutely hated Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi for some review, or even more so, for no reviews on his poems. That is why he tried to take the opportunity of Rudnytskyi application procedure to the Union to take his revenge.

He — meaning Tsurkovskyi had a powerful protector, the head of the Literary Club, academician Kyrylo Studynskyi, the most influential person among locals in the entire Galicia in those times. [...] Tsurkovskyi knew very well who to choose to protect him. Moreover, it was not without the patronage of Kyrylo Studynskyi that he was appointed secretary of the Lviv Organization of Writers. [...]

With such a support behind him, Tsurkovskyi would present various claims against Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi, such as he was undeserving of membership in the Union of Proletarian Writers. The meeting was chaired by Oleksandr Yevdokymovych Korniychuk himself who had arrived from Kyiv specifically for that matter. Another interesting and important moment was that the meeting was attended by all former Sovietphil writers who used to work with "Vikna" (Windows) and the "Novi Shlakhy" (New Ways) before, such as Halan, Tudor, Havryliuk, Kondra, and Kozlaniuk. Truly speaking, the old partymen were extremely reserved. The new authorities kept them within a careful sight because they had not had a chance yet to prove their loyalty to the political course. It was true that the new authorities favored politicaly unaffiliated people who could work for them without any reservations. [...] In the prewar times, the same as the Krushelnytski family, Yaroslav Halan's wife also went to Ukraine, presumably to continue her studies. She also faced persecutions and was liquidated. Therefore, the reserved position of the old partymen was quite justified — they were much better in understanding all of the ways of the regimes' policy than us, the spring chicken. However, during that meeting they could not stand any longer. They have had enough of Tsurkovskyi because, truth be told, the secretarial position had to belong to one of them. Thus, the most courageous of them rose, Yaroslav Halan, and cautiously said some words to defend Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi. He emphasized that despite the fact that Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi was known to openly criticize the bourgeois daily "Dilo" he had always been liberal in his attitudes and had relations with the moderate circles and had never supported a more powerful nationalist group of writers. What is more, he had an insightful approach to the writers around the "Vikna" or the "Novi Shliakhy," even though he spared no words in his critical remarks. However, it was Oleksandr Korniychuk who decided on the fate of Rudnytskyi. He stood up and took out a small book, a sort of a leaflet, out of his pocket. It turned out to be a collection of poems by Tsurkovskyi. Then, he recited one of them laying a special emphasis on the words "Ukraine is above all." Afterwards, he explained that it all reminded to him the famous slogan of the "Deutschland über alles" (from German — "Germany above all"). Dealing away with the main oponent, Korniychuk addressed Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi who would repeatedly turn white, red, blue or nervous, and said in a powerful tone: "We know you, Mykhaylo Ivanovych. And we accept you to the Union. But the Soviet authorities will never forgive you your book "Vid Myrnoho do Khvylyovoho" (From Myrnyi to Khvylovyi). In reality, it happened differently, the Soviet authorities did not merely forget but rather crossed out the book from the bibliography of Mykhaylo Rudnytskyi, and it was never mentioned again.
Остап Тарнавський, Літературний Львів, 1939-1944: спомини (Львів, 1995), с. 33-34
The writers who used to belong to leftist groups earlier stayed aside. They understand the new system better and were careful enough because the new employers were thoroughly examining them. Yaroslav Halan started working in the editorial board of the "Vilna Ukrayina," (Free Ukraine) Stepan Tudor embarked on some teaching job. Oleksandr Havryliuk, Petro Kozlaniuk, and Andriy Voloshchak tried to stay active. Volodymyr Shayan found himself at the crossroads and was not a frequent visitor to the club. Yaroslav Kondra who could not find himself in literature held some administrative position in the club.
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. 49
During that almost two-year period (22 incomplete months, to be more specific), two more prominent anniversaries took place. One of them was the 70th anniversary of Lesya Ukrainka. The evening was held at the State Theater named after Lesya Ukrainka which at the time had not yet been repaired. Stepan Tudor opened the evening, obviously with the Marxist phraseology. A speech was given by Volodymyr Radzykevych. An interesting speech was delivered by Vasyl Simovych who shared his memories of Lesya Ukrainka. Poems dedicated to Lesya Ukrainka were recited by Petro Karmanskyi and by Kurpita; an actress Lesya Kryvytska recited some poetry by our poetess. The evening was interesting because of some translations of Lesya Ukrainka's poems. Translations into Polish were presented by Zuzanna Ginczanka who started working with the "Skamander" still before the war, and also published her satirical poems in "Szpilki" (Pins). Ginczanka was killed by the Nazis in the Warsaw prison in 1944. Polish translations were recited by another two small scale poets Imber and Payentskyi (who was later killed by a bomb in Lviv). Yakiv Schudrich recited his Yiddish translation.
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.
Петро Панч, "Львів, Коперника, 42", Вітчизна, 1960, № 2, 172
A group of writers such as Yaroslav Halan, Petro Kozlaniuk, Stepan Tudor, and Oleksa Havryliuk who had been striving in the horrible Bereza Kartuska until the arrival of the Red Army, and had not yet come to the city, treated the liberation of Western Ukraine as a logical conclusion of the policy of the Communist Party, which fought for the reunification of the Ukrainian people. In this, they actively helped the party in word and deed. In return, they have already had experience with Polish prisons and oppression from their fellow countrymen. Now they could breathe a sigh of relief. That is why their smiles were so sincere and celebratory.
Aleksander Wat. Mój wiek: Pamiętnik mówiony (Warszawa 1990), s. 263
The elections to the board. Dan and Korneichuk drew up the list of course. Dan was elected to the organizational committee, Broniewski, a few Ukrainians [according to the newspaper "Vilna Ukraina" from October 22, 1939  Stepan Tudor, Petro Karmanskyi, Vasyl Pachovskyi, Mykola Matiyiv-Melnyk], including two or three Ukrainian nationalists, two Jewish writers. The other Poles were Boy Żeleński and myself. And later on when Wanda Wasilewska arrived, she was co-opted as well. The general secretary was Korneichuk’s factotum, a Ukrainian, Churkovsky,