Yakub Kolas: ‘I’ve come especially for you’

[b]Those who visit Yakub Kolas State Literary and Memorial Museum have the chance to write their cherished desires while sitting at the writer’s table, using his ink and pen. They can also have their photo taken beside a Pobeda car once used by Yakub Kolas, and listen to ballads played on a hundred year old gramophone[/b]It’s common knowledge that each of us lies at the centre of our own world.
Those who visit Yakub Kolas State Literary and Memorial Museum have the chance to write their cherished desires while sitting at the writer’s table, using his ink and pen. They can also have their photo taken beside a Pobeda car once used by Yakub Kolas, and listen to ballads played on a hundred year old gramophone
It’s common knowledge that each of us lies at the centre of our own world. Meanwhile, we cannot help but imagine that the worlds of prominent writers are even more impressive — able to create such amazing characters. It’s always interesting to learn which real life people inspired a novel’s leading protagonists, just as we are fascinated to discover more about a writer’s life and creativity.
Accordingly, Yakub Kolas State Literary and Memorial Museum is carefully preserving precious exhibits connected with the life and creativity of the outstanding writer: not only manuscripts, books and the table at which Yakub’s uncle worked but the Pobeda car driven by the legend. Of course, Yakub Kolas was an academician at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, as well as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR.
This year, we’re celebrating the Year of Yakub Kolas and the Year of Yanka Kupala: both classical writers of Belarusian literature and people’s poets born 130 years ago. They first met a century ago, at Smolnya farmstead, near Minsk Region’s village of Nikolaevshchina. There, in the house of his uncle Anton, Yakub Kolas welcomed Yanka Kupala for a summer visit. As literary experts affirm, he arrived on foot from Stolbtsy, walking along the Nieman River.
At the Kolas Museum, we can learn more about how the memory about our outstanding writers is being honoured here and abroad. Landmark projects are being implemented to mark his anniversary, explains Zinaida Komarovskaya, the head of the museum and a laureate of the Special Award of the President for ‘Museum Affairs’. Much has been done to honour the memory of the great poet under her guidance.
Ms. Komarovskaya, how are the anniversaries of the classical writers of Belarusian literature being celebrated?
A range of events is being organised while the most major will take place in the writers’ home villages. Molodechno District’s village of Vyazynka, where Yanka Lutsevich (Yanka Kupala) lived, is hosting a celebration in July, as is Stolbtsy District’s Bervenets farmstead, where Kastus Mitskevich was born (later known as Yakub Kolas). Writers, poets, artistic groups and masters of decorative-and-applied arts are taking part, while a large exhibition of Kupala and Kolas’ books is being prepared at the National Library. The 12th ‘Molodechno-2012’ National Festival of Belarusian Song and Poetry, in June, will be followed by a Republican artistic exhibition in September. Twenty volumes containing Yakub Kolas’ works are also being released to mark the anniversary.
A four series film — ‘Talash’ — was recently shot by director and script writer Sergey Shulga, at the Belarusfilm National Film Studio, based on Yakub Kolas’ ‘Marshes’ story. A monument in the shape of an original bell-lyra is to be unveiled in Warsaw to mark the 130th anniversary of these Belarusian classical writers. Meanwhile, sculptors Lev and Sergey Gumilevsky (who have created monuments to Kirill Turovsky in Gomel, Yanka Kupala in Moscow and Frantishek Bogushevich in Smorgon) are working on a new monument to the Belarusian poets. It is to adorn the Eye of the Sea in Mokotуw — one of the central districts of the Polish capital.
Which precious exhibits have been recently added to your museum treasury?
Members of the Union of Writers of Belarus Ganad Charkazyan and Stanislav Sokolov acquired a book in Moscow, which they’ve donated to us: ‘Trial in the Forest’, released in 1943. It boasts Kolas’ own note, which reads: ‘To S. Koshachkin, an employee of ‘Pravda’ newspaper’. We also have poetry written by him for the newspaper in 1948, as well as a poem written by hand in Belarusian. We’ve received a donation of 40 books and magazines — from the late 19th century — given to the museum by the former Chairman of Stolbtsy District Executive Committee’s Culture Department, Anatoly Grekov. He has done much to promote Kolas’ creativity in his homeland. Meanwhile, Mr. Grekov heads a voluntary council, established two years ago.
What are its goals?
We have decided to install a ‘Yakub Kolas. Meditation’ sculpture on the Minsk estate where the writer spent his final years of life. He devoted much time to helping little-known people. We can remember his words: ‘I live not for my own sake but for yours’. He was anxious for the future of the country, writing in his last letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Part of Belarus (not long before his death) that our culture should achieve a definite level and our native language should be heard. Of course, being a mature person, he thought about the future while also looking back. He turned the pages of the past and recollected his native Stolbtsy and Pukhovichi districts, which he loved greatly. Moreover, he was thinking about his family; his son Yuri failed to return from the war while his wife Maria Dmitrievna had died. Sculptor Andrey Zaspitsky has already made a model of the composition, which is to be erected near a tree personally planted by Yakub Kolas on his return to Minsk from war. The voluntary council has paid for the sculpture, with fund raising ongoing.
What would you do with a large grant for museum development?
We plan to make capital repairs to the museum faзade and revamp the grounds. As you know, we also have our Nikolaevshchina branch in Stolbtsy District, with four memorial estates: Okinchitsy (where writer Kastus Mitskevich was born); Albut (whose ‘New Land’ poem is well-known); Smolnya (where Yakub Kolas and Yanka Kupala first met and which now houses a literary museum); and Lastok (which now boasts an exhibition dedicated to ‘Symon, the Musician’).
We need a great deal of money to develop these estates and would like to restore a tavern on the bank of the River Nieman, where Yakub Kolas’ parents once resided. It’s described in the poem ‘Symon, the Musician’. The Mitskevich family lived there from 1885 to 1890 and I’m convinced that Kolas was inspired to write ‘Symon, the Musician’ from his recollections of that part of his life. His father worked for some time as a forest guard on land owned by the Radziwill family. Kolas loved Lastok, writing that even skylarks sang better there than elsewhere. This is why we’d love to restore the house.
I’ve heard that you can study the personality of the great poet endlessly…
I agree. If we look at his photos, he may appear gloomy and wearisome but he had a subtle sense of humour, writing humorous poems. Some of his verse is quite intriguing; the unpublished ‘A Song to Sleep during Insomnia’ is like a lullaby, written by the poet in post-war 1945.
Does Kolas Museum take part in international projects?
We’ve signed co-operative agreements with our colleagues from various countries. In particular, we liaise with Mikhailovskoye State Memorial Historical-Literary and Natural-Landscape Museum-Reserve of Alexander Pushkin, in Russia, and with Alexander Pushkin Literary Museum, in Vilnius. We’ve also seen great creative results from our strong ties with Maxim Rylsky Literary and Memorial Museum, in Kiev. This year, we plan to organise the international ‘Creative Legacy of Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas in the System of State-Cultural and Spiritual-Aesthetic Priorities of the 21st Century’ conference, partnering the National Academy of Sciences and the Union of Writers of Belarus, as well as the Education and Culture Ministries.
According to sociologists, virtual trips are becoming popular. How do you attract visitors?
The Internet can’t replace direct contact with items and places connected with the life of Yakub Kolas. Also, I believe that tourists are attracted by new sites in Kolas’ lands. This year, a ‘Tree of Life’ public garden opened in Smolnya; there are 43 trees — from 17 districts of Belarus. Each has been planted to honour a certain classical writer from domestic or foreign literature. The first saplings were planted in an avenue leading from Mikhailovskoye while Skorina’s oak tree, from Polotsk, is also growing strong. Bicycle and walking paths have been developed, including one from Okinchitsy to Smolnya, passing through Albut; it’s about 5km long.

By Yanina Pokrovskaya
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