Арсеньева Наталья (Наталля Арсеннева)
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Poet Natalla Arsiennieva
(Наталля Аляксееўна Арсеньнева)
(also spelled: Natalya Arsen'neva)(September 20, 1903 - July 25, 1997)
Photo Credit: Photo taken in 1955.
Belaruskaya Mova: Entziklapediya, edited by Mikhevich,
A. Ya., et. al. (1994); page 43.
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Go to the Belarusian Writers Section Go to the Famous Belarusians Section Go to the A Belarus Miscellany Topic List
- Also see Dz'micier Zinowjew's Belarusian Poetry Web site for additional information and poems by Natalla Arsiennieva (two other of her poems are on that Web site--" In the Classroom," and "In the Forest," but not in English) and other Belarusian poets.
- In 1995, her poem, "Mahutny Bozha" ("O God Almighty"), has been put to music by composer Mikola Revienski and is widely sung in Belarusian churchs and at various ceremonies in the West. In 1995, this poem was under consideration as the lyrics for the Belarusian National Anthem.
The following is compiled from (1) her entry in the Historical Dictionary of Belarus (Zaprudnik, 1998; p. 39), and (2) the introduction to her poems by Vera Rich in Manifold Magazine, No. 29; Spring, 1998.):
Natalla Arsiennieva was one of the most outstanding Belarusian poets of the twentieth century. Her works include references to great figures of Belarusan history. Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, to the family of a tsarist official and Russian by descent, Arsiennieva obtained her secondary education at a Belarusan school in Vilnia, where she joined a circle of intellectuals promoting the idea of Belarusan national revival. She married Francishak Kushal, a Belarusan political figure and officer of the Polish army. Her first book of poetry, Pad sinim niebam ("Under the Blue Skies"), was published in 1927.
In 1940, after West Belarus was incorporated into the Soviet Union, Arsiennieva was deported with her children to Kazakhstan. After intercession on her behalf by other Belarusan writers, she was permitted to return to Belarus. She spent the years of the German occupation (1941-1944) in the city of Minsk. Evacuated to Germany in 1944, she eventually emigrated to the United States. She died there and was buried in Rochester, New York.
Arsiennieva's early poetry is imbued with lyricism and philosophical musings, while later in life, especially during the war and exile years, her works sang of patriotic courage and resolve, tapping into Belarus' culture and history.
Until the coming of independence to Belarus in 1991, her work was proscribed there -- and now, once more, after a brief "window" of free speech and thought, the authoritarian regime of Alaksandr Lukashenka has listed her among those authors whose writings may not be mentioned in the state school syllabus.
(Note: In the preceding excerpt, terms in bold refer to other entries in the Historical Dictionary of Belarus. The Historical Dictionary of Belarus is an important summary of the history of Belarus.)
The following biographical sketch (with my attempt at revising some of the more imprecise English) is from Наталля Арсеннева: Выбраныя творы, Minsk, 2002, "Summary," page 580.
Natallia Arsiennieva, probably the most eminent Belarusian poet writing outside of Belarus, was born in 1903 and died in 1997. She is rightfully considered to be a classic of Belarusian literature and the best examples of her landscape lyrics are considered the equal to that of the masterpieces of M. Bahdanovich and Y. Kupala.
Natallia Arsiennieva was educated in Vilnya but her higher education was interrupted when she married a well-known Belarusian military and civic leader, Frantsishak Kushal. In 1922, the young poet left Vilnya and accompanied her husband to Poland, the place of his military service. In 1940 N. Arsiennieva with her two sons left Poland for Belarus but almost immediately was arrested by the NKVD and was deported to Kazakhstan. After the outbreak of World War II, the poet moved to Minsk. There she stayed until June 1944 when, with the approach of Soviet troops, she and her family were evacuated to Western Germany. In 1950, the poet and her family emigrated to the USA where she lived the remainder of her life.
The young poet completed her earliest literary work while living in Vilnya, the cradle of Belarusian history. There her creative work was appreciated and encouraged by Maksim Haretski, an outstanding writer, literary critic, and historian of Belarusian literature. In 1927 her first collection of verse, Pad sinim niebam (Under Blue Skies), was published. While living in German-occupied Minsk, N. Arsiennieva wrote and published a lot to help and contribute to Belarusian culture that was suffering both from Eastern and Western invaders.
Without being directed by the ideas of socialist realism, unlike the rest of Belarusian literature in the BSSR, the poetical works by N. Arsiennieva are the praise to pure and true beauty, the wonders of nature and love. Besides, since the 1940s, the patriotic motif became accute and leading as well. Later, having emigrated, the poet remained true to the ideals of a free and independent Belarus and its national symbols of the white-and-red-and-white banner and the emblem Pahonia, forbidden by the Soviet governors.
And nowadays the poetical legacy of N. Arsiennieva, that for half a century was a source of spiritual strength and national consciousness for her countrymen abroad, is returning to the home country. Until the present moment the book Mizh berahami (Between the Shores), published by the Belarusian Institute of Arts and Sciences in New York in 1979 with the preface written by Anton Adamovich, has been considered to be the most complete collection of the poet's creative works. It served as a fine resource for the present volume as well. Thus, the present edition composes all of the most valuable works of N. Arsiennieva, her recollections, interviews, and letters, as well as notes concerning the people close and dear to the poet. A number of materials are published for the first time, including some that taken from difficult to obtain periodical editions.
See the following examples of her poetry:
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