Bust of Taras Shevchenko
Bust of Taras Shevchenko
Borodianka urban settlement, Kyiv region Bust of Taras Shevchenko

A monument to the classic of Ukrainian literature.

Borodianka urban settlement, Kyiv region
Official status:
Not registered
Date of destruction:

Before April 2, 2022. Photo: nin-gen.livejournal.com

The monument to Ukraine’s major poet shot by Russian troops in the town of Borodianka, near Kyiv, became one of the symbols of the 2022 Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Made famous by a photo where it stands desolate with apartment blocks burnt down by Russian shelling in the background, the bust of Taras Shevchenko with a hole in his forehead resonates deeply with Ukrainians for many reasons.

Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) is an iconic figure in Ukraine. Quite literally: many Ukrainians have kept his portrait next to icons in their homes for over a century now. His importance as a national poet was so high that even the Soviet regime did not dare challenge it. The founder of modern Ukrainian literature and, to a large extent, the modern Ukrainian language, Taras Shevchenko is to Ukrainians what William Shakespeare is for the British or Adam Mickiewicz for the Polish nations. That is why his monuments can be found in every city and town across Ukraine. 



After April 2, 2022.

In the current war, Taras Shevchenko has become even more significant to Ukrainians as a symbol of resistance against authoritarianism and oppression. The poet detested Tsarism and promoted the independence of Ukraine from the Russian Empire, which cost him his freedom. For his writings and political activity, he was sentenced to exile for ten years and died far away from Ukraine. In an inarguably his greatest poem, My Testament, written in 1845, Shevchenko called on his fellow Ukrainians:

(…) break your heavy chains

And water with the tyrants’ blood

The freedom you have gained.

(Translated by John Weir)

These words acquired a newfound urgency after Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine. During the initial phase of the invasion, the town of Borodianka was on the main axis of the Russian advance on Kyiv and came under heavy Russian air strikes and artillery shelling. As a result, over 80 civilians died in the town, trapped under the rubble or shot by Russian soldiers. Most of the buildings in Borodianka were destroyed, including its entire main street.

Standing among the devastation brought by Russia’s war, Taras Shevchenko in Borodianka epitomizes the dire price Ukraine is paying for its freedom.

Whatever stored the memories may now become a memory itself.

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