Sharisa Aidukaitis is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia. She holds a B.A. in molecular biology from Brigham Young University and an M.A. in Slavic languages and literature from U.Va. Sharisa has successfully completed her written and oral Russian exams, her written and oral comprehensive literature exams, as well as reading proficiency exams in German and Ukrainian. During the 2016-2017 school year, she presented research at four academic conferences on topics of Gulag literature, Pushkin’s ethnic heritage, Ukrainian political poetry, and Soviet film and literature. She spent the summer of 2018 in Eastern Europe doing archival research on Ukrainian poets and crafting her dissertation proposal, which she successfully defended in the fall of 2018. She is currently working on her dissertation which focuses on the poetry of Anna Akhmatova and Lina Kostenko. She presented her dissertation research at the UVa Huskey Exhibition in 2019. Sharisa has two little boys, one born in 2017 and the other in 2019.
Poetry of Home in a Hostile Motherland: The Works of Anna Akhmatova and Lina Kostenko
Anna Akhmatova and Lina Kostenko are widely considered the prominent women poets of Russia and Ukraine respectively, yet both poets have connections to both Ukraine and Russia. Anna (Gorenko) Akhmatova was born in Odessa and educated in Kyiv, yet she considered Petersburg to be her home and the place that she truly became a poet. As a result, her poetry has a Russian-imperial slant to it, never mentioning Ukraine as a separate nation or people. To her, Ukraine appears to be a part of the whole of Russia—she refers to her birth and experiences “by the sea” as if that were not somewhere different from her beloved Petersburg. Kostenko, on the other hand, is a fierce Ukrainian patriot. While she was educated in Moscow, she considers Kyiv and Ukraine to be her home. Both during the Soviet Union and on through the contemporary political struggles in Ukraine, Kostenko has been a voice for her people, speaking out against tyranny and proclaiming the importance of Ukrainian independence (often taking it to be a given—something that has no other choice but to be that way). Both of these poets refer a great deal to place, and these geographical references are revealing about what each poet finds to be important. Akhmatova speaks at great length of Petersburg and the Neva, depicting her beloved St. Petersburg/Leningrad through prosperous and perilous times. Kosenko, on the other hand, rarely refers to Russian localities, but instead focuses on Ukraine, the Dnepr river, and the steppe. She appeals to Ukrainian myths and traditions grounded in contemporary geography, tying her modern words with the legacy of bygone centuries in order to emphasize the eternal nature of Ukraine as an entity. Akhmatova’s references to Ukraine are frequently veiled and indirect, with the exception of a few poems dedicated to the city of Kyiv. The widespread discussion of place and geography in the works of these two poets reveals Akhmatova’s Russian imperial identity and Kostenko’s Ukrainian national identity.