Laureate of the Ivan Franko International Prize Yaroslava Melnyk met with the students of the University of Lviv

On September 3, 2018, a meeting with the Doctor of Philological Sciences, full member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society, professor of the Ukrainian Catholic University and Ukrainian Free University, laureate of the Ivan Franko International Prize, Yaroslava Melnyk, was held in the Mirror Hall of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv.

The prorector for academic affairs, professor Yaroslav Harasym, gave a welcoming speech for the guests.  Yaroslav Ivanovych spoke about the Ivan Franko International Prize tradition, noting that it is already the third time that this Prize is awarded for significant achievements in the field of Ukrainian studies and in the field of social and human sciences. According to the prorector, it is quite natural that this year’s prize was awarded to Yaroslava Melnyk, since few people know, can feel, and are able to present Ivan Franko’s work and personality to the general public.

Ihor Kurus, the director of the Ivan Franko International Fund, also greeted the audience. He briefly outlined the essence of the award itself, noting that the University of Lviv has always submitted competitive works for the prize. Ihor Kurus gratefully mentioned the two previous winners – his Beatitude Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop emeritus, and his scientific monograph “Andrey Sheptytsky, Metropolitan of the Galicia (1901-1944), a Precursor of Ecumenism” and the Honored Professor of the University of Lviv, Oleh Shabliy, who became a laureate in the field of social and human sciences with his scientific work “Social Geography” in 2 volumes.  This year, Yaroslava Melnyk with the book “…I Ostannia Chast Dorohy.  Ivan Franko v 1908-1916 Rokakh” [And the last part of the road.  Ivan Franko in 1908-1916] was added to the list of prize laureates whose scientific works are directly related to the University of Lviv.

During her speech, Yaroslava Melnyk departed from the canons of an academic lecture and communicated freely with all the attendees. She shared her history of becoming a researcher of literature and biographer, speaking about three “oases of inspiration” that gave her an impetus to study the heritage of the great Kamenyar: the Ivan Franko Museum, the Ivan Krypiakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies and, particularly! – the Institute of Ivan Franko studies at the University of Lviv. Yaroslava Melnyk paid much attention to the figure of professor Ivan Denysiuk. “When I was working at the Institute of Ivan Franko studies, the thing that united us most of all was the love for Ivan Franko. Ivan Ovksentiyovych and I had time to talk about everything that was of interest to us at that time, including the key aspects of Franko’s life and work,” Mrs. Yaroslava recalled.

So it is not surprising that proper scientific study of the biography of Ivan Franko and publication of a full academic collection of his works remain one of the most important issues for Yaroslava Melnyk.  “Biography is one of the most complicated scientific genres. People started talking about the need to create Ivan Franko’s scientific biography as early as in 1916, immediately after his death, relying on facts that were still “fresh”. But the complexity of compiling Franko’s biography lies in the fact that this presupposes an incredibly large amount of data that has to be processed. We should also mention the practice of Ivan Franko studies in the Soviet times. At that time, biographers were subject to ideological influences.  Perhaps this is precisely why Franko is not as present in the modern world, as he deserves to be,” Yaroslava Melnyk said.

So what should the ideal Ivan Franko’s biographer look like? According to Yaroslava Melnyk, in addition to being comprehensively educated, this person should also be very brave. After all, a person who will work on Franko’s biography will have to process an enormous amount of material, to know almost all of his written works, to check a lot of letters, and browse through a lot of periodicals. This is a long and tedious process.

According to Yaroslava Melnyk, love should be another important incentive for the biographer: “This is the reason why a person starts doing something. But not only should there be love for the writer or the poet whose life you are describing, but also for other artists and, in general, for the social, literary, and historical processes of that time. For you cannot place, say, Hrushevsky above any other historian only because you infinitely like him. You need to be objective.”

Yaroslava Melnyk stressed that the biographer should also be morally responsible: “The true biographer cannot afford to distort the history of a great man’s life, to hide the facts or vice versa – to mention things which did not happen. We should be particularly cautious about the secrets of others, because everyone has the right to privacy.”

“A good biography is the one which shows all possible points of view with regard to a certain person, reveals both their good and bad sides,” Yaroslava Melnyk noted, finishing her speech. – Biography is a genre which should be readable, since it is intended for a wide range of readers.”

Then, the meeting turned into a dialog, during which students and teachers of the University of Lviv discussed with Yaroslava Melnyk various aspects of Franko’s biography, as well as the peculiarities of the researcher’s scientific activities.

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