Bohdan-Igor Antonych, Lemko Poet — Petro Kohutov
Petro Kohutov

“At dawn intently looked the lad,
But could not find his own.”
Bohdan-Igor Antonych

Bohdan-Igor Antonych (1909-1937)

I will never forget my first meeting with Bohdan-Igor Antonych in January 1934 in the People’s House in Lvov where we attended cooperative courses. One frosty evening the poet unexpectedly came to our dormitory where seven lads from the Lemko area were living.

He was of average height, wore glasses, and held a newspaper in his hand. A Kind smile lit up his face. He greeted us warmly. We began a vivid and frank discussion about the fate of the Lemko area, about the severe condition of economic and cultural neglect which was forcing the Lemkos to look for work in foreign lands. He told us how difficult it was for Ukrainians to receive a higher education, especially if you were a Lemko under the arbitrary rule of bourgeois Poland. And then, as if bewitched, we listened to the verses of our fellow countryman and were intoxicated from happiness. They were like a breath of fresh air in spring when the flowers are in bloom. His verses not only skillfully painted a picture of the bitter fate of the Lemkos, but personified an open window into a world of hope. Only Bohdan-Igor Antonych, strongly in love with the fairytale beauty of his native parts could so deeply understand it, feel a love for the soil, forests, trees, flowers and animals, to love people and the world, praise life and spring.

At that time we did not perceive all the grandeur of the poetic activity of Bohdan-Igor Antonych and the prominent place it occupied not only in Ukrainian, but in Slavic literature.

During the three months I spent in Lvov, I was fortunate to meet with the poet several times, and I will remember these meetings forever.

In the preface of the collection of poetry by Bohdan-Igro Antonych which was published in Kiev, the well-known Ukrainian poet Dmytro Pavlychko wrote: “It is for certain that our grandchildren will stand in the temple of his creativity, amazed and enlightened by the golden mosaic glass of his landscapes, will take no notice of the ugly paintings in the corner and together with the poet will sing praise to the sun, life and man.”

On the yellow-from-time page in the collection of verses “Greeting to Life”, the poet’s inscription reads: “To Lemko Petro with love and best warm wishes for a bright destiny.” They remind me of my youth and my joyous meetings with Bohdan-Igor Antonych.

For some time Bohdan-Igor Antonych was rarely mentioned in literature. Only 25 years after his death did his name emerge in Kiev, Presov, Warsaw and Prague. He emerged before us as a poet of the new national awakening of the Lemko area, conscious of its ethnographic and spiritual link with the Ukrainian people. He is eternally remembered in Ukrainian poetry.

The lyrical talent of Bohdan-Igor Antonych made its strongest influence from 1931-1934 when he wrote: “Three Rings” (1934), the best collection of verses from his poetic works. As to his sincerity, Bohdan-Igor Antonych is compared to the most famous lyricists of world literature. His verses are joyous and modest as a first love, as a clear mountain stream. They contain the world of the poet-his stormy youth, against the background of the eternal beauty of the Lemko landscapes, poetic soul and childish amazement and inquisitive eyes.

The poet deeply experienced the great gift of nature — youth, which became the medicinal source of his creativity.

O, Youth, you are one
pure and wonderful.

A sincere and youthful life inspired by spring can be felt in the "Elegy about a Singing Door" in which the poet described the Lemko area and appeared as the “highlander glorifying life.” A hymn to youth and his enchanting Lemko area is described in his “Elegy about the Keys to Love.” In his verse “Christmas” Bohdan-Igor Antonych transfers a biblical legend from the sacred land to the Lemko area.

Many of his verses in the collection “Three Rings” are devoted to the pain of his native Lemko homeland. He bore this pain in his heart until his dying day.

No one before Bohdan-Igor Antonych and no one after him has praised the land of the Lower Beskid Mountains as he did.

Bohdan-Igor Antonych was born on October 5, 1909, in the village of Novitsya, Lemko province, into the family of a priest. During the years of World War I he spent some time in Vienna and in the Presov area. He finished a gymnasium in Syanok and the University in Lvov where he remained to live out his days. He died of pneumonia on July 6, 1937.