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Ivan Bahrianyi

This is a brief biography of the Ukrainian writer and political activist, Ivan Bahrianyi, whose real name was Ivan Lozoviahyn, 1907- 1963. The biography provides details only about his life and activity during the war years, from the occupation of Ukraine by the Germans in 1941 until the writers escape to western Europe in 1945. This period was important because during this time, Bahrianyi took part in the Ukrainian resistance and became a member of the Supreme Ukrainian Liberation Council (UHVR). However, his activity during this period has not been thoroughly researched.

Ivan Bahrianyi was born in the village of Kuzemyn, Okhtyrka raion, Sumy oblast, in eastern Ukraine. His education was not consistent, owing to the difficulty of life during the war and the revolution and the post-war chaos in education. He entered the Kyiv Institute of Art, but did not graduate. In 1926, he began to publish poetry in newspapers and journals and in 1927, his first collection of poetry appeared. He belonged to the Kyiv association of young writers, MARS. In 1932, he was arrested by the GPU and sentenced to five years in concentration camps in the Far East. In 1936, he escaped from the concentration camp and made his way through the Ukrainian settlements in the Amur River region. In 1938, he visited Ukraine, where again he was imprisoned. His luck turned when Yezhov was discredited in 1939. He was released on grounds of having been imprisoned without cause. He lived in Okhtyrka under police surveillance, working as a painter and decorator.

During the German occupation in 1941, he moved to Kharkiv, where he worked as an artist and writer. There he made contact with the OUN anti-German underground and became the regional propaganda chief. When the front moved westward in 1943, he moved to western Ukraine, first to Lviv, then to Subcarpathia. There he continued to work with the underground and the UPA, while also completing and publishing his adventure novel, Zvirolovy (the English translation, published in 1956, was entitled The Hunters and the Hunted). The novel was highly praised by critics and became very popular. Bahrianyi propagated the ideas of democratic nationalism, popularized the need to establish a non-party leadership centre for the UPA and the resistance, became a member of the UHVR and went abroad with the UHVR General Secretariat of Foreign Affairs group. For the underground, he wrote many leaflets, articles and pamphlets, but his contributions in this realm have not yet been collected and studied. All that is known is his polemical article against D. Dontsov.

Outside Ukraine, Bahrianyi continued his literary work and political activism. He left the OUN and became a co-organizer, and later the leader, of the Ukrainian Revolutionary-Democratic Party, which was based on the ideas of the Ukrainian cultural rebirth in Soviet Ukraine in 1920. A few years later, he became active in the renewed UNR government-in-exile, and from 1954, served as its president. In spite of his political activism and his poor health, he produced a serious body of literary work during this period: two collections of poetry, two plays and six novels. The most important of the novels he wrote after leaving Ukraine is Hetsymanskyi sad, which deals with police terror and prisons in Ukraine during the period of Yezhov terror in the 1930s.

Perhaps because Bahrianyi left the OUN and frequently argued with his colleagues from that party, he did not write about his four years of activity in the underground. His biographers have also not researched these years. However, the author of this biography believes that researching these years is very important for a better understanding of the views and creativity of Ivan Bahrianyi.

Issue 3,    Summer 2000    Litopys
Published by Forum for the Studies of the History of the UPA
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