Taras Shevchenko is a great Ukrainian poet. He is the founder of the modern Ukrainian literary language. Shevchenko was born in the family of a serf in the village of Moryntsy in 1814. Young Taras became an orphan very early.
Born a serf, Shevchenko was orphaned in his early teens and grew up in poverty and misery. At the age of 14 he was taken by his owner, P. Engelhardt, to serve as a houseboy, and traveled extensively with him, first to Vilnius and then to St. Petersburg. Zhukovsky was disposed of in a lottery, the proceeds of which were used to buy Shevchenko's freedom from Engelhardt in 1838.
Shevchenko entered the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg, there he became a student of Bryullov. Studying at the Academy T. Shevchenko understood that his main calling, his true passion was poetry. In 1840 he published his first collection of poems “Kobzar”. In 1841 followed the epic poem “Haydamaky”, in 1844 the ballad “Hamalia”.
Shevchenko’s works take an important place in Ukrainian literature and history.
Shevchenko was an outstanding poet and a highly accomplished artist. There are 835 works written by him, although 270 are known to have been lost. His collection also contains over 150 portraits, 42 self-portraits. There are many landscapes, watercolours and etchings.
In 1843 Shevchenko returned to Ukraine. He travelled a lot about the country and learned to know the heavy life of the Ukrainian serfs. In 1846 Shevchenko joined a revolutionary organisation — Cyril and Mefodiy Society, which aimed to liberate the serfs. He wrote several revolutionary poems directed against the tsarist despotism ("Dream", 1844, "The Caucasus", 1845, and his famous "Testament").
In 1847 he was arrested and exiled as a soldier to Orsk fortress in Kazakhstan. Here, being a soldier, he wrote several novels in Russian. He also painted several of his best pictures. In 1857 Shevchenko returned from the exile to St Petersburg. Here he published several of his masterpieces in which he criticised the tsarist regime and demanded liberty for serfs.
On the 10th of March, Shevchenko died. His death was a great loss for Ukrainian literature and liberation movement — A. Gertsen published a big article on Shevchenko's death in his magazine "Kolokol" in London. Shevchenko is the favourite author of millions of Ukrainians, a real people's poet. His works are translated into many languages.