Lessya Ukrainka
Click the photo to visit the house on Yekaterininskaya street
Publications in the Ukrainian language were banned in the Russian Empire, so Larysa Kosach-Kvitka's first collection of lyrical poetry had to be secretly printed in western Ukraine and smuggled into Kyiv under the pseudonym Lessya Ukrainka.

Larysa began writing poetry at the age of 9, and the pen-name was originally suggested by her mother when her first poem was published in a journal in Lviv when she was thirteen. Her mother was a writer who published poems and stories for children in Ukrainian under the pseudonym Olena Pchilka. Her father was a senior civil servant who actively encouraged the development of Ukrainian culture and financially supported Ukrainian publishing initiatives.

Lessya Ukrainka
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The writer
Larysa loved music and was showing early promise as a pianist when she contracted tuberculosis of the bone, a painful and progressive disease which she fought for the rest of her life. Initially out of a desire to avoid school where all classes had to be taught in Russian, and later as a means of coping with her daughter's illness, Larysa's mother undertook her education personally with the help of tutors. The young girl was encouraged to read widely and to learn several languages by her uncle, Mikhailo Dragomanov, a scholar, historian and social activist , who was obliged to live abroad in France and Bulgaria because of his support for Ukrainian independence, and who was friendly with Victor Hugo and Ivan Turgenev. Larysa herself began travelling abroad in search of treatments for her illness while still a teenager, and during her life spent periods in Greece, the Caucasus, Germany, Austria , Italy , Bulgaria and Egypt.

Lessya Ukrainka's poetry and plays combine her belief in freedom and self-determination for her country with philosophical ideas and a lyrical and intensely personal relationship with nature and with the people she loved. A person with a reputation for shyness and introspection, she nevertheless became a member of the Literary and Artistic Society in Kyiv between 1895 and 1897 (the Society was prohibited in 1905 because of its links with revolutionary activists). Her aunt, Elena Antonovna Kosach was arrested several times for revolutionary activity, and Sergei Merzhinsky, with whom she fell deeply in love, was a member of the radical Russian Social Democratic Workers Party. They met in Crimea in 1897 and had only four years before he died of tuberculosis of the lungs.

The House
Larysa first came to Crimea in 1884, and after this became a frequent visitor, staying in various different towns, including Yalta, where she stayed in the house in Yekaterininskaya street which is now a permanent exhibition in her memory.

Lessya Ukrainka's poetry was strongly influenced by music and in particular by folk songs, and the house includes an exhibition of Ukrainian folk costumes and embroidery, and a small collection of banduras, the traditional folk instrument of Ukraine. In 1907 she married Klyment Kvitka, a folklorist and ethnographer with whom she lived and travelled until her death in Georgia in 1913, aged 42.

The house is set out in turn-of-the-century style, with photographs and memorabilia from Lessya's life, including her own poems and those of German poet Heinrich Heine, whose work she translated. The house has one of the best examples of a carved wooden balcony, typical of Yaltese houses of the time.

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house on Yekaterininskaya
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