Oleksa Voropay

Biography

 
 

I haven’t had much luck finding biographical information about Oleksa Voropay, except for this 2008 article by Oleksandr Stepanchenko,from Slovo Prosvity, a Ukrainian weekly (my translation).  It was written in conjunction with the republication of one of Voropay’s non-ethnographic works about the Holodomor, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the famine-genocide.

Oleksa Voropay was a professional biologist/agronomist who survived the Holodomor and WWII, ending up as a DP in western Europe after the war.  He worked as a biologist, but also studied in his beloved area of ethnography, and earned a PhD in 1957 in the field of Slavic Ethnography.

Voropay is best know for his ethnographic tome “Folk Customs of Our People,” which was published in two volumes, in Munich, the first in 1958, and the second in 1961.  Since Independence, this work as been republished, in a single volume, several times in Ukraine.


Oleksa Voropay is well known in Ukraine as the author of "Folk Customs of Our People,” but among his creative works are many other books that are almost unknown to the contemporary Ukrainian reader. These include "Lights in the Church,” “Ukrainian Folk Legends,” “Yasyr,” “Ukrainian Folk Zahadky (Riddles),” “On the Road to the West,” and “The Adventures Marko Chubatyi. "Most of these books were never pubished in Ukraine. In 1953 Voropay published a small book, with little more than 40 pages, in London, entitled "In the Ninth Circle.” It was among the world's first documentary evidence about the Holodomor of 1932-1933.Thanks to a 1954 English language edition, the work became widely known. Robert Conquest, in his work “Terror Famine,”  referred to Voropay’s book 37 times.

We know that Oleksa Voropay was born in Odessa on November 9, 1913. He spent his childhood in a village in the Kherson region. His father came from an aristocratic family. 1919 was forced into exile, leaving his family behind in difficult circumstances. After graduating from agricultural college, Voropay worked as an agronomist in the Vinnytsia region, where the Great Famine found him. Voropay carried memories of those days with him all his life and, in exile, described that he had seen. The Holodomor was also a pain in his heart because his mother died in 1933.

For the epigraph to his book took Voropay took a poem by Yuriy Klen called “Tertsyny” (“Terza Rimas”):

Beware of the magic of scary numbers.

This is hell, this land of the sixth part,

A land of green willows and lush trees,

That everywhere has been covered has scabies,

–The last circle in hell, the ninth circle.

In 1944 Oleksa Voropay tleft Odessa, traveling through Podillya, Halychyna, Poland to Germany. He wandered for several years among displaced persons camps, and described these times in detail in his book “The Road to the West "). In 1948 Voropay’s family moved to England, and in 1961 Oleksa Voropay defended his doctoral disertation in Munich.

In 1960s and 1970s his work in ethnology brought him recognition not only among Ukrainian emigres, but also in the academic world of Europe. His works were printed in the USA, Canada, France, Germany and England. Voropay died in 1989, and two years later his main work, "The Customs of Our People" was first published in Ukraine.  The time for the rediscovery of the rest of Voropay’s works has not yet come, but Odessa branch of "Prosvita" has taken a step on this path.



Олекса Воропай добре відомий в Україні як автор “Звичаїв нашого народу”, однaк серед 

його творчого доробку є книжки, майже не відомі сучасному українському читачеві. Серед 

них “Вогні в церкві”, “Українські народні лeгенди”, “Ясир”, “Українські народні загадки”, “В 

дорозі на Захід”, “Пригоди Марка Чубатого”. Більшість цих книжок в Україні ніколи не 

друкувалась. 1953 року О. Воропай видав у Лондоні невелику, трохи більше 40 сторінок, 

книжку “В дев’ятім крузі” — одне з перших у світі документальних свідчень про Голодомор 

1932/1933 рр. Завдяки перевиданню 1954 року англійською мовою, робота стала широко 

відомою. Так, Роберт Конквест у праці “Терор голодом” 37 разів посилався на книжку 

Воропая.

Відомо, що Олекса Воропай народився в Одесі 9 листопада 1913 року. Дитинство минуло 

в селі на Херсонщині. Батько хлопчика походив з аристократичного роду. 1919 року був 

змушений емігрувати, залишивши родину в скрутному становищі. Закінчивши 

сільськогосподарський технікум, Олекса Воропай працював агрономом на Вінниччині, де 

його і застав Великий Голод. Спогади про ті часи Олекса проніс крізь усе життя і вже на 

чужині описав, що бачив. Голодомор став болем його серця ще й тому, що 1933го року

померла мати Олекси.

Епіграфом до книжки Воропай взяв вірш Юрія Клена “Терцини”:

Вважай на магію страшних чисел.

Ось пекло, це землі частина шоста,

А край зелених верб і пишних зел,

Що скрізь його покрила вже короста, 

—Останній в пеклі круг, дев’ятий круг.

1944 року Олекса Воропай з Одеси через Поділля, Галичину, Польщу виїхав до 

Німеччини. Почались роки поневірянь у таборах переміщених осіб (ці часи Воропай 

детально описав у книжці “В дорозі на Захід”). 1948 року родина Воропая переїхала 

до Англії. 1961го в Мюнхені О. Воропай захистив докторську дисертацію. 

У 60-70 роки праці з етнології принесли йому визнання не лише в середовищі української 

еміграції, а й у науковому світі Європи, його роботи друкували у США, Канаді, Франції, 

Німеччині, Англії. Помер Олекса Воропай 1989, а за два роки в Україні побачила світ його 

головна праця “Звичаї нашого народу”. Час повернення більшості праць Олекси Воропая 

ще не настав, але Одеська “Просвіта” зробила крок на цьому шляху.



You can find a more expensive listing of his literary and scientific works in his Wikipedia article.




Text © 2010 by Luba Petrusha.  Be advised that the translation on this page and the English text is my work.  It has been put here to share; if you wish to print it out for personal use, or for teaching purposes, please feel free to do so.  If you wish to reproduce it on your website, or in another publication, please ask first. You can contact me via the e-mail link below.



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Ukrainian Author and Ethnographer

Dr. O Voropay in his study (London, 1961)