Gente Ruthenus, Natione Polonus, or: Alienation in the Center: On the Poetry of Tkaczyszyn-Dycki

Gente Ruthenus, natione Polonus – this identity-generating expression invoked in a poem by Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki manages to capture issues tied to the poet’s Ukrainian-Polish identity. The borderland, defined here as a specific set of social conditions and “autobiographical site” (Czermińska’s phrase) functioning within the world of the poetic narration, yet referencing actual topographical space and equipped with “its own cultural symbolism,” becomes a recurring theme in subsequent poems. Wólka Krowicka and its environs are portrayed, on the one hand, as an “idyllic region” that has been irreversibly lost, where the Polish language mingles with Podlachian, and Orthodox and Catholic churches stand side by side. On the other hand, this territory bears the imprint of conflict as conveyed through accounts of forced resettlements, persecution, brutal murders, and the “Wisła” action. The poet’s family’s particular geopolitical position left them vulnerable to colonial oppression (from the West and East alike), which entailed the dehistoricization and naturalization of the experience of the Other, and the destructions of communities and their cultures. Surely, this is also why the primary organizing theme for his creative work became the “ritual of salvaging from oblivion” and the search for a chance at emancipation from under the yoke of symbolic violence.