This File Last Updated: 2006/08/20

Poet Natalla Arsiennieva

(Наталля Аляксееўна Арсеньнева)

(also spelled:   Natalya Arsen'neva)

(September 20, 1903 - July 25, 1997)

[ Photograph: Natalla Arsiennieva, 1955 ]

Photo Credit: Photo taken in 1955.
Belaruskaya Mova: Entziklapediya, edited by Mikhevich,
A. Ya., et. al. (1994); page 43.

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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.):

(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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