Taras Shevchenko's 210th Birthday

Olena Liashenko
March 9, 2024

Happy birthday to Ukraine’s great poet, artist, and anti-imperialist, Taras Shevchenko! On March 9th, 1814, Taras Shevchenko began his life journey, defined by steadfast courage and an unyielding dedication to freedom. Despite enduring persecution and oppression from Russia, he boldly raised his voice against injustice, tirelessly advocating for the rights and dignity of the Ukrainian people.

Even in his lifetime, Shevchenko's impact reverberated far and wide, posing a perceived threat to Russia, which sought to silence him. Today, as efforts to erase his cultural legacy persist, it becomes imperative for us to rally together in safeguarding his memory and acknowledging his profound contributions to Ukrainian literature and identity.

(Photo: © Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The monument to Shevchenko, tragically struck by Russian troops in the village of Borodyanka near Kyiv, has become an emblem of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The haunting image of the Kobzar monument against the backdrop of residential buildings ravaged by Russian shelling reverberated worldwide, symbolizing the brutality of war and the resilience of the Ukrainian spirit.

(Photo: © Yurii Veres)

For Ukrainians, Taras Shevchenko holds an unparalleled place in their hearts and history. Even in the face of oppression, his portraits adorned Ukrainian homes, and his words echoed through generations. Shevchenko's enduring legacy as the founder of modern Ukrainian literature and language is akin to the importance of Shakespeare for the English or Mickiewicz for the Poles.

In the current struggle against authoritarianism and oppression, Shevchenko emerges as a potent symbol of Ukrainian resistance. His unwavering advocacy for Ukraine's independence from the Russian Empire, despite facing exile and persecution, echoes loudly in today's context.

Grave of Taras Shevchenko, Taras Hill near Kaniv, historical postcard. The cross was dismantled by the Soviets in the 1920s.

Shevchenko's poignant "Testament," penned in 1845, resonates profoundly:
"Oh bury me, then rise you up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrant’s blood
The freedom you have gained."

These words take on renewed meaning amidst Russia's aggression against Ukraine.

Borodyanka, where Shevchenko's monument stands amidst the devastation wrought by Russian forces, epitomizes the sacrifices endured in the pursuit of freedom. The city bore witness to the horrors of war, with civilian lives lost and buildings reduced to rubble by Russian aggression.

Standing among the destruction caused by the Russian war, Taras Shevchenko in Borodyanka personifies the terrible price that Ukraine pays for its freedom.

That which protected the memory can now become a memory.

“Keep fighting — you are sure to win!
God helps you in your fight!
For fame and freedom march with you,
And right is on your side!”

Pochaiv Lavra. Southern View, 1846, watercolor
Nude, 1840, watercolour
See more of Shevchenko’s paintings
Read some of Shevchenko’s poetry
Order Shevchenko’s poetry collection

Our materials about Shevchenko from previous years