Olena Teliha

Olena Ivanivna Teliha (Ukrainian: Олена Іванівна Теліга, July 21, 1906 – February 21, 1942) was a Ukrainian poet and activist of Ukrainian and Belarusian ethnicity.

Olena Teliha
Олена Теліга
Теліга О.jpg
BornJuly 21, 1906
Ilyinskoe (near Moscow), Russia
DiedFebruary 21, 1942(1942-02-21) (aged 35)
Babi Yar, Reichskommissariat Ukraine
OccupationPoet and writer


Olena Teliha was born in the village of Ilyinskoe, near Moscow in Russia where her parents spent summer vacations. There are several villages by this name in that area, and it is unknown exactly which one of them is Olena Teliha's birthplace.[1] Her father was a civil engineer while her mother came from a family of Russian Orthodox priests. In 1918, she moved to Kyiv with her family, when her father became a minister in the new UNR government.[2] There they lived through the years of Ukrainian War of Independence. When the Bolsheviks took over, her father moved to Czechoslovakia, and the rest of the family followed him in 1923.[1] After living through the rise and fall of Ukrainian National Republic, Olena took an avid interest in Ukrainian language and literature. In Prague, she attended a Ukrainian teacher's college where she studied history and philology. She met a group of young Ukrainian poets in Prague and started writing poetry herself. After her marriage, she moved to Warsaw, Poland, where she lived until the start of the Second World War. In 1939, like many of the young Ukrainians with whom she associated, Olena Teliha became a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, within which she became an activist in cultural and educational matters.[3]

Fingers breaking – long and slender, To tear up habits like old cats, To take up weapons from your hand And strike hard where a hard strike is needed.

O. Teliha, "Answer"[2]

In 1941, Olena and her husband Mykhailo Teliha (whom she met and married in Czechoslovakia[2]) moved back to Nazi-occupied Kyiv,[3] where she expanded her work as a cultural and literary activist, heading the Ukrainian Writers' Guild and editing a weekly cultural and arts newspaper "Litavry". A lot of her activities were in open defiance of the Nazi authorities. She watched her closest colleagues from the parent-newspaper "Ukrainian Word" ("Ukrayins'ke Slovo") get arrested and yet chose to ignore the dangers. She refused to flee, declaring that she would never again go into exile.[2]

She was finally arrested by the Gestapo and executed, aged 35, in Babi Yar in Kyiv[1] along with her husband.[3] In the prison cell where she stayed, her last written words were scribbled on the wall: "Here was interred and from here goes to her death Olena Teliha".


  • "Only the evening flies over the city"
  • Joy
  • Abroad
  • Life
  • To men
  • I. Someone else's spring
  • II. Sleepy day
  • III. Blazing day
  • Everlasting
  • Turn
  • Tango
  • Cossack
  • Travel
  • "No need for words. Let there be only business..."
  • Summer
  • Loyalty
  • "The night was turbulent and dim..."
  • "My soul and a dark drink..."
  • "Not love, not a whim and not an adventure..."
  • To a man
  • "Sharp eyes open in the dark..."
  • "Today every step would like to be a waltz..."
  • A unique holiday
  • On the fifth floor
  • "They wave their hand! Pour the wine..."
  • Reply
  • "I will not forgive the hand that hit me..."
  • Immortal
  • Fifteenth autumn
  • Evening song
  • Black square
  • Letter
  • "Everything - but not this! Not these peaceful days..."
  • On the eve [Two sonnets]
  • A sunny memory
  • 1933—1939
  • Convicted


Wooden cross in Babi Yar in memory of Olena Teliha and other Ukrainian nationalists executed there in 1942

On July 19, 2007 the National bank of Ukraine issued a commemorative coin dedicated to Olena Teliha.[4]

On 25 February 2017 a monument to Teliha was unveiled at Babi Yar.[5] The monument was consecrated by head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate Patriarch Filaret.[5]

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