Vasyl Stefanyk

Vasyl Semenovych Stefanyk (Ukrainian: Василь Семенович Стефаник; May 14, 1871 – December 7, 1936) was an influential Ukrainian modernist writer and political activist. He was a member of the Austrian parliament from 1908 to 1918.

Vasyl Stefanyk
Василь Семенович Стефаник
Portrait of Vasyl Stefanyk. 1896
Portrait of Vasyl Stefanyk. 1896
BornVasyl Semenovych Stefanyk
(1871-05-14)May 14, 1871
Rusiv, Galicia, Austro-Hungary
DiedDecember 7, 1936(1936-12-07) (aged 65)
Rusiv, Stanisławów Province, Poland
Occupationprose writer and political activist
LanguageUkrainian, Polish, German
NationalityAustro-Hungarian Empire, Poland
Alma materKrakow University
PeriodYoung Poland
Notable worksStone Cross (1900)


Early yearsEdit

Vasyl Stefanyk was born on May 14, 1871 in the village of Rusiv in the family of a well-to-do peasant. He was born in the historical region of Pokuttya, then part of Austro-Hungary. Today it is part of the Sniatyn Raion, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast. He died on December 7, 1936 in the same village, Rusiv, at that time the part of Poland.

His primary education Stefanyk was at the Sniatyn City school. He later studied at Polish gymnasia in Kolomea and Drohobytsch. He was excpelled from the Kolomea gymnasium for participation in a revolutionary group. He eventually graduated from the Drohobytsch gymnasium, and enrolled in the University Kraków in 1892. During his student years Stefanyk became acquainted with Oles Martovych and Lev Bachynsky, both of whom had an influence on his life: Les turned him to writing, and Lev steered him toward community-political involvement. Later, while he was a student of medicine at Jagiellonian University Collegium Medicum in Kraków, Stefanyk was befriended by the Polish Doctor Wacław Moraczewski and his wife, Doctor Sofia Okunevska, who acquainted him with contemporary European culture and literature and with the members of the then-fashionable Polish avant-garde group Młoda Polska, particularly with Stanisław Przybyszewski, Władysław Orkan and Stanisław Wyspianski. The hectic and interesting Bohemian life is reflected in Stefanyk's letters, in which references to the works of modernist authors, such as Charles Baudelaire, Gottfried Keller, Paul Verlaine, Maurice Maeterlinck, and Paul Bourget, abound. Stefanyk's letters, full of poetic prose, lyricism, and introspection, also provide glimpses of the future master of the short story in the various narrative vignettes. Attempts to publish some of the introspective poetic prose in newspapers were unsuccessful, but in 1897 the terse narratives of scenes observed by Stefanyk appeared in Pratsia (engl- Work) (-NL-->Chernivtsi); they were followed by several novellas in Literaturno-naukovyi vistnyk (The Literally-scientific informer, 1898) and finally by Stefanyk's first collection of novellas, Synia knyzhechka (The Blue Book, 1899). With its appearance came the immediate literary acclaim, and other collections followed: Kaminnyi khrest (The Stone Cross, 1900), Doroha (The Road, 1901), and Moye slovo (My Word, 1905). Eventually he quit his schooling in 1900.

Political careerEdit

In 1901 Stefanyk was at the height of his literary career, but for the next 15 years he wrote nothing. Upon the arrival to Poltava on the opening of the monument to Ivan Kotliarevsky in 1903 he was met by the members of Ukrainian intelligentsia as the accomplished national writer. From 1908 until the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Stefanyk was a member of the Austrian parliament, elected as a substitute for Volodmyr Okhrymovych in 1907 from the Ukrainian Radical party in Galicia. The horror of the First World War jolted him back into writing in 1916, and he produced one more collection, Zemlia ("Earth", 1926). During the period of the West Ukrainian National Republic, as a former member of parliament, Stefanyk became the vice-president of the Ukrainian National Rada, and in 1919 he went to Kiev for the signing of the agreement with the Ukrainian National Republic on the unification of Ukraine. In 1922 he became the district head of the Ukrainian Radical party. Recognizing him as the greatest living writer in western Ukraine, the government of Soviet Ukraine decreed a life pension for Stefanyk, which he turned down in protest against the repressions in Ukraine. In addition to his five collections of novellas, Stefanyk published stories, in several editions of collected works: an edition in 1927 in Soviet Ukraine; a jubilee edition (Lviv 1933); an émigré edition edited by his son, Yurii Stefanyk (Regensburg 1948); and the three-volume academic edition, published in Ukrainian SSR (1949–54). The 1964 edition of Stefanyk's selected works, edited by Vasyl Lesyn and Fedir Pohrebennyk, complemented and corrected some of the lacunae and faults of the academic edition.

In cultureEdit

Stefanyk's "Blue Book" was republished in Ukraine in 1966 under the title "The Maple Leaves" in an edition lavishly illustrated by Mykhaylo Turovsky.

Three stories from the "Blue Book" were the basis of the classic Ukrainian 1968 film "The Stone Cross" by Leonid Osyka.

Literary signatureEdit

Stefanyk's whole literary output consisted of 59 published novellas, most of them no longer than a couple of pages. In them he showed himself a master of a species of the short story genre, the Stefanyk novella, which is characterized by a succinct and highly dramatic form used to capture single crucial moments in the life of a hero. The dramatic quality of the novellas ensured their being successfully staged as plays by Volodymyr Blavatsky and adapted for film (Kaminnyi khrest, screenplay by Ivan Drach). The heroes of Stefanyk's stories are for the most part peasants from his native Pokuttia. Against the general background of poverty or war (in the later stories) Stefanyk showed his heroes in a universal dilemma, confronting the pain at the heart of existence. Stefanyk concentrated on capturing the turbulence of the soul, the inner agony, which revealed the psychological complexity of the hero. His characterizations were achieved through the speech of the characters. Words spoken became important not only for their meaning, but also for the elements of a story, which throws direct light on the character's emotional state, personality, social position, and degree of literacy. The special blend of the literary Ukrainian and the Pokuttian dialect created a flavor not easily duplicated or translated. Nevertheless, there have been several attempts to translate Stefanyk into Polish, German, and Russian. The French translation La croix de pierre et autres nouvelles appeared in 1975, and the following English translations have appeared: The Stone Cross (1971), Maple Leaves and Other Stories (1988), and some individual stories in anthologies.


Stefanyk was deeply concerned with the destiny of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada and often mentioned them in his many writings. One of his stories, The Stone Cross (Kaminnyi Khrest), (later made into a movie) is a stirring account of an immigrant's departure from Stefanyk's native village, Rusiv. The man upon whom it is based died in 1911, in Hilliard, Alberta.

The monument that was erected to commemorate Vasyl' Stefanyk is located at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, east of Edmonton, Alberta. That is a statue that was a gift from Ukraine to the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians. The statue was sculpted by W. Skolozdra in 1971 to mark the 100th anniversary of Vasyl Stefanyk.


  • Lepky, Bohdan. Vasyl’ Stefanyk: Literaturna kharakterystyka (Lviv 1903)
  • Hrytsai, Ostap. Vasyl’ Stefanyk: Sproba krytychnoï kharakterystyky (Vienna 1921)
  • Kryzhanivs’kyi, S. Vasyl’ Stefanyk: Krytyko-biohrafichnyi narys (Kiev 1946)
  • Kostashchuk, V. Volodar dum selians’kykh (Lviv 1959)
  • Kushch, O. Vasyl’ Stefanyk: Bibliohrafichnyi pokazhchyk (Kiev 1961)
  • Kobzei, T. Velykyi riz’bar ukraïns’kykh selians’kykh dush (Toronto 1966)
  • Lesyn, V. Vasyl’ Stefanyk — maister novely (Kiev 1970)
  • Lutsiv, L. Vasyl’ Stefanyk — spivets’ ukraïns’koï zemli (New York–Jersey City 1971)
  • Struk, Danylo. A Study of Vasyl Stefanyk: The Pain at the Heart of Existence (Littleton, Colo 1973)
  • Wiśniewska, E. Wasyl Stefanyk w obliczu Młodej Polski (Wrocław 1986)
  • Chernenko, Oleksandra. Ekspresionizm u tvorchosti Vasylia Stefanyka (New York 1989)
  • Hnidan, O. Vasyl’ Stefanyk: Zhyttia i tvorchist’ (Kiev 1991)
  • Mokry, Włodzimierz. Ukraina Wasyla Stefanyka (Cracow 2001)
  • Struk, Danylo. The Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993)

External linksEdit