Stepan Tudor (1892–1941)
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
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;
— 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.
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.