Vasyl Barka, writer, literary critic and translator, 95

LIBERTY, N.Y. - Vasyl Barka, noted poet, writer, literary critic and translator, died here at a nursing home on April 11 at the age of 95.

"A prolific and orphic author, requiring intuitive rather than logical comprehension," as noted by Prof. Danylo Husar Struk, Mr. Barka "derived his originality from extreme abstraction, intensified metaphor, and a unique revitalization of accepted folk imagery through sudden and unexpected juxtapositions."

His collections of poems comprise the early lyrical collections "Shliakhy" (Pathways, 1930), "Tsekhy" (Guilds, 1923), "Apostoly" (Apostles, 1946) and "Bilyi Svit" (The White World, 1947), followed by the biblically inspired "Troiandnyi Roman" (The Rose Novel, 1957) and "Psalom Holubyhono Polia" (The Psalm of the Dove-like Field, 1958), the syncretic "Okean" (Ocean, 1959) and the monumental 4,000-strophe epic novel in verse "Svidok dlia Sontsia Shestykrylykh (The Witness for the Sun of Seraphims, 1981), which deals with the theme of reconciliation between man and the Creator. A collection of selected poems, titled "Lirnyk" (Lyrist), came out in 1968.

Among Mr. Barka's prose works, which, according to Prof. Struk, are "marked by a lyrical and folkish idiom with a rather static narrative flow," is his first novel, "Rai" (Paradise, 1953), which deals with the Soviet "paradise," and his novel "Zhovtyi Kniaz" (The Yellow Prince, 1962, 1968) which was devoted to the Great Famine in Ukraine of the 1930s. "Zhovtyi Kniaz," which has been translated into French ("Le Prince Jaune," Paris, 1981), served as a basis for the documentary film "Famine -'33" directed by Oles Yanchuk of Kyiv's Dovzhenko Studio and as such proved to be seminal in reviving Ukrainian awareness, which was reflected in the results of the referendum for Ukrainian independence held in 1991.

Mr. Barka's Ukrainian translation of "King Lear" appeared in 1969. His literary criticism consisted of the weighty essays "Khliborobskyi Orfei abo Kliarnetyzm" (The Agrarian Oepheus or Clarinetism, 1961) and "Pravda Kobzaria" (The Kobzar's Truth, 1961), as well as two collections, "Zhaivoronkovi Dzherela" (The Sources of the Lark, 1956) and "Tvorchist" (Creativity).

Mr. Barka used the pseudonyms Ivan Vershyna and Ocheret. His archive is found at the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in New York. A book on Mr. Barka, titled "A Portrait," by writer Mykola Virnyi-Frantsuzhenko, which includes biographical data, a critical assessment of his works and a bibliography, as well as such materials as interviews conducted for Radio Liberty and Voice of America, came out in Rivne in 1998 as a publication of the Diva publishing house.

Vasyl Kostyantynovych Barka was born July 16, 1908, in the village of Solonytsia in the Poltava region. An émigré since 1943, he lived in Germany until 1949 and subsequently settled in the United States. He spent a good portion of his life, some 32 years, living and writing at the Verkhovyna estate of the Ukrainian Fraternal Association in Glen Spey, N.Y.

Apart from his creative writing, Mr. Barka was language editor in the Ukrainian section of the New York office of Radio Liberty and of the Washington-based Voice of America.

A parastas was held on April 13 in Port Jervis, N.Y., followed by funeral services at St. Volodymyr the Great Ukrainian Catholic Church in Glen Spey. Interment was on April 15 at St. Andrew the First-Called Apostle Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery in South Bound Brook, N.J.

The poet is survived by his son, Yuriy, of Maikop in the Stavropol region of the Caucausus, and granddaughters, Yelena and Oksana, in England; and his brothers Ivan in Ukraine and Oleksander in Siberia, and their respective families.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 27, 2003, No. 17, Vol. LXXI

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