Shakespeare in Chernihiv, and Zaporizhzhya, North central, and South East Ukraine.

One thing puzzled me continually in the lovely historic small city of Chernihiv. Everywhere I go, since my brother Pat was creating Shakespeare Magazine, I see Shakespeare connections. There is always everywhere some link to William Shakespeare.


But not in Chernihiv. I didn’t see any link at all in this cultured modern Ukrainian city.


Until my very last night. Going to call in to a bar to see the barman that I knew, Rosti (Rostislav), I saw this poster on a door next to the entrance to the basement bar. For a performance at the Theatre in the city a few days earlier.


A one man performance by Valerii Chilyaev. In my last week of work in the town I probably walked past a giant banner advertising this event, as it was on at the main theatre on the main square. 20 April. “Performance after the performance”. A one man show including extracts from Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night or What You Will. By Valerij Chyglyayev, Honored Artist of Ukraine.


By contrast as soon as I arrived in Zaporizhzhya, the post industrial post Soviet city in the South East I saw a Shakespeare poster immediately. Although this isn’t a surprise in the Faculty of Foreign Philology (Language) in a city that is a centre of Shakespeare scholars in Ukraine. A week earlier there had a been a whole host of events, put on by students for students across the Zaporizhzhya National University, to celebrate the bard’s birthday. I saw a poster for one postgraduate giving a seminar, and then this noticeboard with several others. All badged as part of the large scale ‘Shakespeare Days in Ukraine 2019’ linked running festival of events across the country. Many of the links promoted by the energy and ideas of Professor Nataliya Torkut.


Just one of the presentations was by Oksana Sobol, speaking on Shakespeare and Nazi ideology. How the texts and words were used both to support and resist Nazi ideology. Oksana gave the same presentation to third year students immediately after my talk to them, on 10 May, about Shakespeare Magazine.


When talking about Nazi attempts to co-opt Shakespeare one can’t but help laugh that Hamlet here is Gamlet (like that well known magician, Garry Potter). Ironic as well that this talk was taking place yards from where Hitler gave two speeches in 1943, the day after victory over the Nazis was celebrated. Our civilised cultural links have survived and grown stronger.


With thanks to Christina Bondarenko for original and additional translation.

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