G. F. Kvitka-Osnovyanenko

Grigory Kvitka-Osnovyanenko portrait

   8 August is the remembrance day of Grigory Fedorovich Kvitka-Osnovyanenko, our countryman, the author who was one of the founders of Ukrainian literature. He was a descendant of a renowned and the oldest gentry family in the Slobod Ukraine. Among his ancestors is a most famous colonel Grigory Semyonovich Kvitka. The Kvitkas had family relationships with the families of hetman Danila Apostol, Yoasaf Gorlenko and others. Kvitka-Osnovyanenko and his brother Andrey were a kind of Olympus of this family line.    


18 November 1778 to a family of a Kharkov nobleman Fyodor Ivanovich Kvitka was born a son, who was named Grigory. Since his early childhood he was weak and sickly. As a result of scrofula he went blind when he was five. He regained his sight after visiting Ozeryansky temple in Kholodnaya Gora that is still extant. Young Kvitka saw light coming from the icon of the Ozeryanskaya Blessed Virgin and began to see. This fact made such a profound impression on him that when he was twenty three, he decided to become a novice in the monastery. Actually before taking this step he had been in military service: as a Wachtmeister in Life Guards Cavalry regiment, after that up to 1796 - in a heraldic department, and finally as a captain in Kharkov cuirassier regiment. When a novice of the Kuryazhsky monastery, Kvitka in his black humble cassock did out various jobs till 1806. After that he went to military service again directed by the government committee to Kharkov region militia.

In 1812, G. F. Kvitka begins his social activities. He was appointed the director of a new regular lay theatre open in Kharkov. As he was prone to take up any task eagerly, he became so interested in theatre that almost married one of its actresses. And although he had to quit his post in the theatre because of his diverse charitable and educational activities, Osnovyanenko carried his love to theatre through all his life. Later this feeling made him write theatre drama works. In 1841, he wrote his marvellously interesting"Kharkov Theatre History".

Being an active member and later the chairman of the Charitable Society, Grigory Fedorovich initiated the creation of the Institute of Noble Young Ladies in Kharkov in 1812. Later it was through his efforts that a military school and a University public library were open. His publicist activities Kvitka began in 1816 with an article on the Institute of Noble Young Ladies in "Ukrainian Newsletter", after that he was one of the editors of this magazine until 1817. The institute to which creation and propagation Kvitka contributed so much efforts, played in its turn an important role in his life. In 1821, he married one of the student ladies. In 1817, Kvitka was elected the Leader of Gentry and held that post until 1829.
G.F.Kvitka and V.A.Zhukovsky in 1830 G.F.Kvitka's social, official and philanthropic activities were marked by numerous rewards, but the most far-famed he became owing to his literary gift. Collaborating with popular capital magazines he corresponded intensively with famous literary figures: S.T.Aksakov, M.P.Pogodin, P.A.Pletnyov, V.I.Dal, F.A.Koni, E.P.Grebinka, maintained friendly terms with V.A.Zhukovsky.
He corresponded respectfully with Taras Shevchenko, keeped up constantly with literary life, read magazines thoughtfully, always had his own opinion on going events and as extraordinary person always provoked interest of collocutors.
About the 1820's he began his literary activities. His literary works one after the other get published: "Hunnusya of Kharkov" (1832), "The Portrait of a Soldier" (1833), "Shelmenko the Batman", "Gentry Elections". In 1827, Osnovyanenko wrote the play "A Visitor from the Metropolis, or Helter-skelter in the Province" that was published much later, in 1840. 
The play is close to the famous Gogol's "Inspector". There is a hypothesis that Gogol saw it when the play manuscript was in the Censorship Committee. Grigory Fedorovich's novel "Marusya" won immense popularity.   G.F.Kvitka-Osnovyanenko visits Slobozhan fair
It was Kvitka-Osnovyanenko who wrote the song "Hryts, Hryts, Get to Work", which was so well known that became a folk song - the fact of highest acknowledgement.

The outstanding writer all his life loved theatre, organised home stage performances, as well as acted in them. He also played flute superbly and was a good composer. Alongside with that he never quit he social activities for the benefit of his native town. In 1832, Kvitka-Osnovyanenko was appointed the judge, and later he was elected the Chairman of Kharkov Chamber of the Head Court. This was his last post.

Kvitka-Osnovyanenko was a man of unusual modesty and kindness. He was self-denying and had a strong feeling of home (during his lifetime he never went outside of Kharkov and its vicinity). He spend the days of his life in the atmosphere of family happiness, with his loving wife and children. For a long time they lived in a secluded neighbourhood in the Southern part of Kharkov called Osnova. The witness for the writer's great love for the place is his literary pseudonym - Osnovyanenko. Heavig already the great publicity Grigory Fedorovich served as churchwarden in Osnovyanskaya church, always benevolent and unpretentious. There is a fragment from N.I.Kostomarov memories: "The country seat consisted of pine grove and botanic garden with greenhouse. There was situated the huge manor-house of his brother  - governor A.F.Kvitka, and self Grigory Fedorovich lived in little low house surrounded by stone fence. While division of father's inheritance he gave all to his brother and lost for himself only small capital to provide modest life mode". And when the family left Osnova which was next to a curative pine forest, and moved to town, it greatly worsened Grigory Fedorovich's weak health.

G.F.Kvitka's grave
  In June 1843, he got pneumonia and in eleven days, after he had time to prepare for his death, he quietly died in presence of his wife and relatives and friends, among them were N. U. Kvitka, P. P. Gulak-Artemovsky. As the dead body was carried out of the Blagoveshchensky Cathedral, the whole Catherinoslavskaya street (now Poltavsky Shlyakh) was thronged with people. He was buried in Kholodnogorskoye cemetery. A magnificent view opens from there on the town to which he dedicated all his life.  
G.F.Kvitka's memorial, elevated in 1993
Kvitka was an unusual person: he had a wonderful memory, and even when he was old, he had a constant and seemingly odd love of fire, the fact that he would like his biographers to remember. He never parted with his great grandfather's golden chain, with which according to a legend a memorable event in his ancestors' life was connected. He was very careful about his writing - everywhere in Grigory Fedorovich's house were inkpots: at any given moment he had to be able to fix his thoughts.           

One of the streets in the centre of the city near Konstitutsii square is named after Kvitka-Osnovyanenko.



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