While reading Shevchenko’s diary, correspondences, the testimonies of his friends, and the consulting opinions of experts of Shevchenko’s oeuvre, the author of this article has presented some instructions from Shevchenko, revealing his sincere faith, which can teach us some very important things.
- Don’t boast of your talent but help others to improve their skills!
It is known, from his time studying in Saint Petersburg, that Shevchenko worried about unsuccessful students and desired to help them. As evidenced by eyewitnesses, the artist, while still being a serf and working with a group of future apprentices in wall-painting in Saint Petersburg, “never got involved in competitions over the best results, never strived to stand out from among others, but helped the weaker and thus deserved their respect and that of everyone who observed his industry and diligence.”
Читай українською: ПОРАДИ ВІД ТАРАСА ШЕВЧЕНКА
- Be generous towards those in need!
An important counsel from Taras Shevchenko can be found in the memoires of his friend, Oleksandr Afanasiev-Chubynsky: “It should be said that Shevchenko, except for being a completely disinterested person, didn’t like and even was afraid of various money settlements… He never refused people begging alms, and there were times when our common capital diminished to several hryvnias. Taras Shevchenko had always taken some small coins for giving alms. His compassion for others’ misery and sorrow led him sometimes to the most naïve scenes, which, in fact, still increased the attraction other people had towards him… Obviously, respecting his trait, I never told him this, since it wasn’t suitable to investigate each case whether it was worth it or not to give alms, but many friends advised Shevchenko, out of compassion, to spare his finances. ‘I am completely aware of that—he responded—but I’d rather be three times deceived if, for the fourth time, I will give alms to the person who could be lacking a piece of bread.’”
- Don’t forget supporting friends in difficult moments!
Shevchenko had many friends and paid attention to them in many ways. His capacity of giving sincere consolation and compassion is very noticeable in Shevchenko’s letters. In 1853, while being in exile, the poet wrote a very emotional response in the letter to his friend Andriy Kozachkovskyj: “My sorrowful, tearful friend! How can I console your mournful heart? There’s no way. Such tears cannot be dried by us, human beings; friendly sympathy can diminish our semi-sorrows but a great grief, like yours now, can be relieved only by our common helper and reader of the human heart! Pray if you can… Believe! And your faith will save you.”
- Read Holy Scripture
“Throughout his whole life, since his early childhood, Shevchenko never separated himself from Holy Scripture. Several people testified that he knew, by heart, almost the whole book of Psalms,” as Dmytro Stepovyk, specialist in Shevchenko’s oeuvre, assured. Shevchenko’s attachment to the Bible is frequently mentioned by himself. For instance, during his exile, on January 1, 1850, he shares his emotional state with Varvara Riepnina: “I feel now like falling into an abyss, I am ready to catch hold of anything – feeling terribly despaired! Such a terrible despair can be fought only with Christian philosophy… My only consolation in these days is the Gospel. I read it without ceasing, every day and every hour.”
- Don’t be indifferent to sorrows of other people, even foreigners or enemies
His friend Oleksandr relates about a situation when Taras Shevchenko, running to a fire, manifested his self-sacrifice by throwing himself into the situation to salvage the property of the victims of the fire: “He, just as the others carried out various stuff, and when everything was over, made an address to the present Christians who acted reluctantly… Shevchenko ardently reproached those present for their indifference, arguing that a person in difficulty and in grief becomes our closest brother, whatever nation he or she belongs to, whatever faith he or she confesses.”
- In the most difficult moments be optimistic!
Relying on God in his life, Shevchenko often managed not to get panic-stricken in arduous circumstances, particularly during his arrest in Kyiv: “Whoever saw him on his way from Kyiv to Saint Petersburg, where he was brought under the supervision of a police officer,” as was written by Taras’s friend, Mykola Kostomarov, “said that he was extremely joyful, joking all the time, singing songs, and generally behaving in such a way that, at one station, the overseer, doing notes in the travel book, where the police officer and the prisoner were registered, observed that it was difficult to deduce from their appearance which one of the travelers was the prisoner and which one was the policeman transporting him.”
- Don’t be afraid of speaking about your faith
Shevchenko was a sincerely religious person, a point which he himself explicitly asserts in his “Diary”: “Оh, how sweet it is, how unspeakably sweet it is to believe in this wonderful future! I would be an indifferent, cold atheist if I didn’t believe in this wonderful God, in this marvelous hope!” Not only Shevchenko’s diaries and correspondences, but also all of his works are full of testimonies of faith. And, in some cases, it is a cry of the soul, as attested in his poem “Тризна” (1843):
“We are all lonely without hope! Hope is God, and faith is light!”