New publishing house in Ukraine specializes in literature

by Roman Woronowycz
Kyiv Press Bureau

KYIV - Ukraine may finally have a second publishing house dedicated to Ukrainian literature and one that might be ready to compete in quality and dedication with the children's book publisher A-Ba-Ba-Ha-La-Ma-Ha, today perhaps the lone bookmaker producing quality Ukrainian publications, albeit in a very specialized sphere.

What's more, the new kid on the block, the Kharkiv-based Ranok Publishing House, has set itself the assignment of producing not just children's books, which has been its specialty thus far. It is ready to broaden its product line to include a variety of Ukrainian literature, geared not only to the school and university set, but packaged to have appeal to a wider Ukrainian readership as well.

In one of its first undertakings along those lines, Ranok recently introduced a remarkable series on the works of prominent Ukrainian writers and poets silenced and banned in Ukraine during the 70-year rule of the Soviet Union. The set, titled "Program in Literature," includes the works of Panteleimon Kulish, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, Mykola Khvyliovyi, Vasyl Stefanyk and Ivan Nechui-Levytsky, among others, as well as a tome dedicated to the "Poets of the New York Group," émigré Ukrainian writers of the post-war generation.

The current series consists of 12 books, each one dedicated to a single author with a separate tome compiled for the New York movement. Each book includes a short biography of the writer, an analysis of his works and comments by Ukrainian literary scholars such as Ivan Andrusiak, Ihor Mykhailyna, Lesia Demska-Bursuli, Anatolii Dnistrovyi and Oleksander Astafiiev, who also helped compile the series. The series' editor-in-chief is Prof. Rostyslav Melnykiv of Kharkiv State University.

The books are hard-bound and made of quality paper. What's more they are inexpensive to purchase - 8 hrv for each in Ukraine - which will make them accessible to all.

"The prices we have set are almost symbolic," explained Valentyna Uschenko, the marketing representative for Ranok Publishing in Kyiv. "We want to get these tremendous books out into the general population."

In fact, Ms. Uschenko acknowledged that Ranok geared the project originally to high school and college students until they realized what gems their editors had produced.

Indeed the books are a needed link between the 19th century romantic period and the post-modernism of contemporary Ukrainian writing. They present the thoughts and perspectives of some of Ukraine's leading thinkers during what was one of the most turbulent periods in Ukrainian history.

The anthology on the New York School is an especially interesting work, inasmuch as it is one of the few analyses given from the perspective of scholars based in Ukraine of this movement within the Ukrainian American émigré community of the 1950s-1960s.

The anthology on the New York poets was produced under the supervision of Prof. Astafiiev of Shevchenko State University in Kyiv, who discovered the writings of one of its members, Patrykia Kylyna, during a trip to Poland. The anthology includes writings by Yurij Tarnawsky, Emma Andievska, Bohdan Rubchak, Vera Wowk, Yuriy Kolomayets, and others.

Ms. Uschenko said a total of 55 to 60 books are envisioned before the Program in Literature series is completed. Soon to come are anthologies on "Poets of the Prague School," "Poets of the Displaced Generation," "Ancient Ukrainian Litera-ture," "Early Ukrainian Modernism," "The Ukrainian Avante Garde" and "An-thology of the 1990s," as well as individual tomes on writers Vasyl Barka, Ivan Bahrianyi and Yurii Vynnychuk.

Ms. Uschenko said demand for the books in the series is strong and continues to grow. She noted that one of Kyiv's main book stores, Naukova Dumka, has repeatedly sold out of the books, and the main distributor of books in Ukraine, the state-run UkrKnyha, recently ordered a new shipment.

Ms. Uschenko, who only recently began working with Ranok as its Kyiv representative, said she is delighted with the series.

"I was taken by the fact that this is a Kharkiv project, a city from the eastern region of Ukraine," explained Ms. Uschenko, who is formerly a high school teacher and teaching methodology expert. "I was also impressed by the quality of the choices and the fact that we finally have these authors available to the public-at-large."

Until now Ranok concentrated on children's books and school textbooks, which it will continue to do. Included among them is a series of Ukrainian comic books for kids, "Island of Treasures," a book of children's bedtime stories titled, "The Magic World of Ukrainian Fairy Tales," as well as several series for older kids such as the four-tome, "History of Mankind." It also publishes German and English language textbooks.

In addition, the Kharkiv-based publishing house has teamed up with the British publisher An Aladdin to prepare a series on "Discoverers." The first tome is dedicated to the great travelers of history and is titled, "To Unknown Lands and Seas." Another series in development is "Ancient Civilizations," with an initial tome, "America Before Columbus," already published. There is also a series on "Facts or Myths," which includes tomes on "Criminals and Bandits," "Cowboys," "Knights" and "Witches."

For more information on the Ranok Publishing House or to place an order to obtain a catalogue readers may e-mail Ms. Uschenko at

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 3, 2003, No. 31, Vol. LXXI

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