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Iurko Kharytun / Þðêî Õàðèòóí: Recipient of the Dukhnovych Prize for 2012

Iurko Kharytun (b. 1948) was born in the village Ostruznica, Slovakia, in the Snina District. His beloved village and memories of his life there loom large in his poetry and prose particularly because Ostruznica, along with six other Rusyn-inhabited villages, was evacuated beginning in 1981 to make way for the construction of the Starina Reservoir. The reservoir, fed by the headwaters of the Cirocha River, displaced approximately 3500 inhabitants, their homes, churches, and cemeteries. One cannot return to a homeland under water, and the sorrow of this loss has inspired many of Kharytun’s best verses.

Among his most recent books of poetry are Husl¿ z iavora (Violins made from a sycamore tree, 1995), Mo¿ zhal¿ (My sadnesses, 2010), and Mo¿ sny (My dreams, 2011). He has published his poetry in the collection Muza spid Karpat (The Muse Below the Carpathians, 1996) and also in literary supplements in the newspaper Narodny novynky, entitled “Pozdravl¿nia Rusyniv” (Greetings to the Rusyns) and “Rusalka” (Rusalka), intended for children and young people.

It is for his two volumes of free-verse poetry from 2010 and 2011 that Kharytun received the Dukhnovych Prize. His simple, largely short poems are powerful in their imagery, clean lines, efficiency of language and style. He is proud of his Rusyn identity and the Rusyn language. The dominant tone is melancholy. As Presov University instructor and translator of some of Kharytun’s poetry into Slovak, Valerii Kupka, says, however, “Kharytun’s motif of pathways, both real and imagined, lead him to his village under the cold Starina water, but his memories ultimately offer hope that nothing and no place completely dies or perishes.”

“Our Hut” (from My Sadnesses)

Thoughts can’t be locked up in a prison
Can’t be fastened with a chain
Thoughts flee
run away
Like shoed horses
I sit on one
With a golden mane
although the halter has torn
Such silence
To sit under the roof
Listening to the drumming of rain
Until it is muted
By the crowing of roosters at dawn.
And our hut?
Don’t ask about it,
Mama,
It has disappeared without a trace.

“Our Word” (from My Dreams)

Our word
has grown its way into my heart
deeply into my soul
there is no power that can extract it
I love it like bread
like water from a well
without which there is no life

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