Petrovtsii, Ivan (b. May 22, 1945, Osii [Soviet Union], Ukraine) — belletrist, editor, and translator of Rusyn national orientation in Subcarpathian Rus’. Petrovtsii completed a program in French language and literature at Uzhhorod State University (1973), taught elementary school (1973-1975), then worked as a journalist for various newspapers in Soviet Transcarpathia. He has published in Ukrainian several corllections of poetry and a detective novel (Manumissio, 1991). Of particularly high quality are his translations into Ukrainian of several French-language texts, including the challenging poetry of Charles Baudelaire, the French writings of classic Russian poets (Pushkin, Lermontov, Tiutchev), and a wide range of Hungarian poetry from the Baroque period to the present (Iskry chardashu, 1998).
During the last years of the Soviet regime Petrovtsi welcomed the Rusyn national revival in Subcarpathian Rus’, spoke at several of the Rusyn world congresses, and began to publish in Rusyn. Among his works are a unique Rusyn dictionary in verse, Dialektarii, abo zh myla knyzhochka rusyns’koi bysidy u virshakh (1993), and a collection of poems, Nashi spivanky (1996). Several of his poems provoked a literary and political scandal, as they openly denigrated radical Ukrainian nationalists and the government of independent Ukraine, including its president. Petrovtsii is also the founding editor of the Rusyn-language newspaper, *Rusyns’ka bysida (1997- ), and he has translated several classic works of world literature into Rusyn (Nashi y nynashi spivanky, 1999). In 1998 he was awarded the Aleksander Dukhnovych Prize funded by the Rusyn-Canadian Steven *Chepa for the best work in Rusyn literature.
Paul Robert Magocsi
Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
Ivan Petrovtsii was born in 1945 in the village Osii, east of Mukachevo in Soviet Ukraine. After he received a degree in French language and literature from Uzhhorod State University, he taught elementary school and then worked as a journalist for various newspapers in Transcarpathia. A member of the writers’ union of Soviet Ukraine, he published several collections of poetry in Ukrainian and he is well known as a translator of poetry from French, Hungarian, Slovak, German, and Russian into Ukrainian. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Petrovtsii began to write in Rusyn. In 1993 he published Dialektarii, abo zh myla knyzhochka rusyns’koi bysidy u virshakh, a unique dictionary of Rusyn lexical items in verse. Petrovtsii explains the purpose of the book: “If the language of my father and mother must die, I want to die with it! But before that, I want to make a record of my words, to engrave them for eternity in a form accessible to my native people. And this I have done.”
His next book, Nashi spivanky (1996), which was written in the vernacular speech of the author’s native village, provoked a literary and political scandal. The content ranges from a celebration of ordinary aspects of Rusyn life – weddings, customs, superstitions – to light and jovial drinking songs, to verse describing the more dismal aspects of Rusyn reality – poverty, unemployment, and alcohol abuse. In “Song for the Unemployed,” two jobless professionals “drink up their intellect” and all their money in a tavern and manage to harness a pig to pull their disabled car.
Спить будитилями ни розбуженый народ.
Наші свіні тягнуть амирицькый «форд».
Уперед, руснакы! Лем, куды –
[The unawakened people sleep through the awakeners. / Our pigs pull an American Ford. / Alcohol has dulled / The intellect. / Forward, Rusyns! But forward -- / Where to?! ...]
Many of Petrovtsii's songs have a serious message, where the humor becomes sarcasm and the levity turns to bitter cynicism. He openly mocked radical Ukrainian nationalists and the government of independent Ukraine, including its president. The result for Petrovtsii was expulsion from the writers' union and unemployment for him and his wife. There ensued a virulent Soviet-style newspaper compaign against Petrovtsii and the sponsors of his book. He was accused of violating moral standards and inspiring international enmity. Support for the author came from fellow Rusyns, who saw the verses as “a reflection of our contemporary distorted and sarcastic existence.” One reviewer suggested that the virulent criticism may have arisen because there was “too much truth” in the book, and that the fuss surrounding it served to divert the people from “the hungry rumblings in their stomachs.” In 1998, Petrovtsii was awarded the Dukhnovych Prize for Rusyn literature for his commitment to the tradition of the Rusyn “awakeners” in Subcarpathian Rus’ and for his devotion and service to the Rusyn language.
Since 1998, Petrovtsii has translated classic works of world literature into Rusyn. Iskry chardashu (1998) is a collection of translations from Hungarian poetry. His Rusyn-language book Nashi y nynashi spivanky (1999) includes works by Petrarch, Villon, Shakespeare, Goethe, Longfellow, Poe, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, and Kipling, among others. Petrovtsii has also continued to provoke controversy with a publication of erotic verse in Rusyn, Bytangis’ki spivanky. Rusyns’kyi Eros (2001), which has elicited threats of legal retaliation from the Ukrainian authorities.
A word of caution. Petrovtsii, an articulate person with a vivid imagination, as a matter of course creates characters to populate fictional literature he has yet to write. Unfortunately, though his inventions are often blatantly obvious, his mind is capable of blurring reality with imagination to the extent that, in his political life, he occasionally attaches the names of real persons to his fictitious villains, causing mild to severe distress in the minds of the real people named. Occasionally unable to distinguish fact from fiction, Petrovtsi, in his political endeavors, has sown confusion and discord, to the detriment of his own stature in particular, and to Rusyn solidarity in general. Petrovtsii was honored with a Rusyn Bear and the Aleksander Dukhnovych prize for literature in 1998 on the merit of his imagination and literary craftsmanship. Readers of his personal attacks and his political works are cautioned to reflect that fact and fiction freely commingle throughout these writings, and that Petrovtsii appears unable to responsibly distinguish between reality and imagination.