You read the newspaper and watch the television and social media reports, and you wonder how a tragedy like the Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen. You learn of atrocities and possible war crimes, and you say, “This is the 21stcentury?” Well, yes, it is. You might ask, “How does this happen?” In the case of Russia and Ukraine, the poet Taras Shevchenko might have an answer.
Shevchencko (1814-1861) was born in a village near Kyiv in Ukraine. Given his later literary fame, it’s surprising he was born to a family of serfs. The region had been under the control of the kingdom of Poland, but various dismemberments of Poland had eventually led to control of Ukrainian territory by Russia and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Russia controlled the area where Shevchenko was born, but it was a relatively recent control.
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