A small museum “Vasyl Symonenko’s Working Room” is located in a hundred-year-old house in Cherkasy. Even though it exists for 15 years, it is still not very popular. Locals come there every once in a while. Instead, the museum room is often visited by foreigners, who travel long distances to visit the place where the outstanding poet created his first works in the 1960s. The Day visited the museum, which is located at the editorial office of Cherkasy Land newspaper.
A former land bank building is located on Khreshchatyk Street in the downtown of Cherkasy. It was built in 1914 by the architect Vladyslav Horodetsky. From 1957 to 1959, Vasyl Symonenko worked there for Cherkasy Truth newspaper. In 1998, a museum was opened in his office.
“The floor, doors, and walls are the same. We only replaced windows because the previous ones were falling apart. Everything in here remembers Symonenko. That is why we decided to make it into a memorial room,” says the guide Halyna TARAKANOVA. According to her, after three years of working for Cherkasy Truth, Symonenko moved to Cherkasy Region Youth. The periodical existed for only a couple of years. Later, it was closed down and the editorial office was demolished. However, a lot of Symonenko’s belongings were saved, and now they are displayed at the museum. Among them are his bookcase (there is even a 1948 issue of Dnipro magazine), radio receiver, clothes stand, table, chair, telephone, typewriter, and desk lamp.
“These are the things that Symonenko used. There is even an ink set that belonged to him. He loved using this pen, but that other one he did not like, because it made stains all the time. There are also many letters written by the poet, and even content to the book Earth’s Gravity, which was prepared by the poet but published only after his death. He did not like printing his poems. When he was asked why, he used to say: ‘Let them lie for a while, let the water dry out,’ Tarakanova told The Day. Many pictures are also displayed in the small museum room. Cherkasy Region Youth photographer Ihor Osadchy managed to capture a lot of photos of Symonenko, even though the latter did not like to be photographed.
Another valuable exhibit is a horseshoe. It was given to the museum by Symonenko’s colleague and friend Mykola Snizhko.
“Once we had a picnic on the bank of Dnipro River near Chervona Sloboda village. And Vasyl found an ancient horseshoe. He took it home and wanted to hang it above the door. But his wife did not let him do that. She said that such a horrible rusty old thing should not be kept in a new flat. On the following day, Vasyl brought the horseshoe to the editorial office and hung it there. He said, that every house must have its amulet,” Snizhko told The Day. He took the horseshoe from the editorial office before the building was demolished. Today, the horseshoe is preserved at the Symonenko Museum, so everyone can see it and even touch it and make a wish. It is said, that those wishes do come true for those who desire it deeply.
“Vasyl turned this horseshoe into a charm that was to bring luck and happiness. And who knows whether happiness is to live a long life, or to burn bright but short, like Symonenko did,” Tarakanova ponders. She also tells museum visitors the story of how Symonenko wrote the novel Rose Wine. He went to Talniv raion on a business trip, where he heard a legend about a gardener, who treated a princess to rose wine, after which she fell in love with him. According to Snizhko, this legend affected the poet’s personal life.
“Once Symonenko told me how he managed to charm his future wife. It turned out that rose wine was present in that story. When he first saw Liudmyla, he bought a huge basket of roses, made wine out of them, treated her to that wine, and enchanted her in such way. And he also promised to make wine every spring to consolidate the effect,” Snizhko says. According to him, the poet named his wine in a French fashion: Symone. And he also used to call his wife Lucien. Snizhko recalls the recipe for Symone. He says that rose petals should be crushed with sugar. “You can only do it with your hands. After a while, you should add water. And then wait until it ferments. Pink roses are the best for wine-making,” Symonenko’s friend assures.
When the tour is over, Halyna Tarakanova turns the recorder on so the visitors can listen to Symonenko reading his poems. She says that even the most restless school students stop playing around and listen with bated breath.
Unfortunately, the Symonenko Museum is usually neglected by Cherkasy dwellers. People only remember about it in January, when the poet’s birthday anniversary is celebrated and literature prizes named after him are awarded. According to Tarakanova, there are more visitors from other cities or even from abroad.
“Recently, a lady from Donetsk visited the museum with her grandchildren. She said that she came across Symonenko’s book. And after she read it, she took her grandkids and went to Cherkasy to see where the poet lived and worked. And there was a large group of tourists from Poland in summer: Ukrainians who were moved to that country, and their children and grandchildren visited us. It turned out that they adore Symonenko’s poetry. When the tour was over, they applauded and asked if they could sing a song. And they sang “You Will Grow Up, Son” [a part of a poem written by Symonenko. – Ed.]. They sang it with so much inspiration, elation, and solemnity, as if it was a prayer in church. I had tears in my eyes. I wish that people who live here valued Symonenko and learned more about him,” Tarakanova sums up. For more photos, go to incognita.day. kiev.ua