The genre of memoirs is unique. Every memoir is unforgettable. “It’s strange how memory is passed down from generation to generation” – remarks Tatiana Kardinalowska (p. 7), the lady of grace and courage, who survived and witnessed horrors of both world wars, civil war in Ukraine, holodomor (famine) of the 30-ies.
Preface is written by her daughter Assya Humesky, Foreword – by George S.N. Luckyj and A Personal Remembrance by Frank E. Sysyn.
“Mother’s style is inimitable, in any case” – notes Assya Humesky in her Preface. Doctor Humesky’s mother died in 1993 (“born in Kyiv in 1899 into the family of a career officer of the Russian imperial army”, p. 3). Tatiana’s father was actually a general.
Kardinalowska presents in the first chapter the amazing and quite often tragic story of a close and extended family, relatives, mentioning historic figures and personalities like Leo Tolstoy, Rasputin, her life in Omsk, Moscow and the Caucasus (Dagestan). The stories told are touching (like the story of the rebel Zelim Khan; tragic life of her beloved brother Seriozha, etc.).
Her depiction of life in Kyiv before the World War I is fascinating. In detail she describes the influence of the Russian literature on her formation. Tatiana starts to get acquainted with representatives of Ukrainian intelligentsia (Ivan Nemolovsky, Vsevolod Holubovych). Later she married Vsevolod Holubovych, one of the leaders of the Central Rada. Symon Petliura and Mykhailo Hrushevsky attended the wedding.
Tatiana’s stay in Moscow as well as her coming back to Kyiv is depicted. The birth and death of her infant daughter is presented. Kardinalowska describes tremendous influence of Shevchenko’s writings on her and her family.
Her attempt to save Vsevolod Holubovych from being executed by Chekists was incredible and extremely dangerous. She was arrested and spent nine months in Kharkiv prisons. Tatiana witnessed last moments of 13-14-year old boys and girls from Poltava before their execution “…the toll of human suffering I saw around me was too great for me to remember it all” (p. 101).
Her meetings with Khristian Rakovsky, Vasyl Ellan-Blakytny and Serhii Pylypenko were even hard to imagine after her imprisonment. Shortly afterwards she marries Serhii Pylypenko, the leader of the Pluh association of Ukrainian peasant writers. She describes in detail the contribution of Serhii Pylypenko to Ukrainian literature, especially fable theory and practice.
The loss of Tatiana’s second child (baby boy) is described. The birth of her two daughters – Assya and Mirtala – is depicted with love and care.
Her sister Liza’s life is presented as well.
Episodes described by Mrs. Kardinalowska are striking (not too many people know that Andrii Holovko killed his wife and his daughter, not to mention details how and under what circumstances). Kardinalowska describes how Serhii Pylypenko and she visited Holovko in the psychiatric ward after this double murder.
Meetings and friendship with Yurii Smolych, Natalia Zabila, Valeriian Polishchuk, Volodymyr Sosiura are described. Her account of the famine of the 30-ies in Ukraine (Kharkiv) is unique and unforgettable. Throughout her memoirs she is always honest: “I should add that in addition to coupons, we ourselves received special rations and did not go hungry. The same was true of all high-ranking Party officials” (p. 156).
Serhii Pylypenko’s arrest, Tatiana’s visit to Moscow to see Maxim Gorky and later Andrei Vyshinsky also maintain the reader’s interest.
The memoirs stop with the year 1934, informing of Serhii Pylypenko’s death (the year of execution still unknown).
This reading is a must for Ukrainian literature specialists, political studies students and instructors specializing in Eastern Europe (and particularly Ukraine). It will be an unbelievable source of inspiration and optimism for all Slavists, and, hopefully, broader public as well.