by Roman Woronowycz, Kyiv Press Bureau
The Ukrainian Weekly
Ukrainian National Association
Parsippany, New Jersey
October 20, 1996
KYIV - Many famous Ukrainians have had contact with this city in its
900-year existence, but few outside of Ukraine or Russia know much about
Romny, which, with its 57,000 inhabitants (according to the 1989 census,
sits at the confluence of the Sula and Romny rivers in the Sumy Oblast in
The names Shevchenko, Mazepa, Antonenko-Davydovych, Stetsenko, Kalnyshevsky
are all in some way associated with Romny. The city is first mentioned in
1096 in the testament of Prince Volodymyr Monomakh, as one of the eastern
fortresses of the Kyivan Rus' empire.
Some say the city is much older. A story in the September 19 edition of
Molod Ukrainy suggests that the city was founded some time after 988, when
Prince Volodymyr the Great had people relocated to "establish cities around
the rivers Desna, Ustryi, Trubysheva and Sula."
Perhaps older than 900
But Romny, using the Monomakh testament as its birth certificate, was happy
enough to celebrate its 900th anniversary this year with a two-day citywide
celebration on September 14-15. It included the traditional museum and art
exhibits, concerts and sporting events commemorating the anniversary.
It also included politicians, local and national, artists and, of course all
the residents. The spirits of the famous figures who passed through this
city while leaving their mark on Ukraine and the world, should have been
there, too. (Maybe they were, who's to say.)
First Shevchenko monument
Ukraine's national bard, Taras Shevchenko, for a time resided in this city.
In 1918, in remembrance of that, Romny was the first city in Ukraine to
erect a monument to the father of Ukrainian identity. It was sculpted by the
famous Ukrainian sculptor Ivan Kavaleridze, who was born in the city. Later
that year he created another work of Taras Shevchenko for the city of Kyiv.
Hetman Ivan Mazepa spent the winter of 1708 in the city with his ally King
Charles XII of Sweden before moving against Peter the Great of Russia in the
fateful Battle of Poltava in 1709.
The last head otaman of the Zaporozhian Sich, Petro Kalnyshevsky, was born
in a village near the city. The 18th century artist Ivan Stetsenko lived
there. The 20th century writer Borys Antonenko-Davydovych was born there.
The list goes on and on, and includes famous Ukrainian Americans as well.
Leonid Poltava, writer and journalist, was born in the Romny area in 1921,
before emigrating after World War II and ending up in New York. He was an
editor for many Ukrainian American periodicals including Svoboda, Vyzvolnyi
Shliakh and Ukrayinski Visti.
Another person who had ties to the city of Romny is Stephen Timoshenko, a
renowned mechanical engineer and scientist in the U.S. He studied in Romny
from 1889 to 1896 and ended up in the United States in 1922. He eventually
taught at the University of Michigan and Stanford University, where he
developed several mathematical formulas on material strengths. In 1957, the
Society of American Mechanical Engineers inaugurated the Timoshenko Medal,
awarded for major accomplishments in applied technological sciences.
Through the years the city became known as the "Kobzar Capital" of Ukraine.
Such famous kobzars as Yevhen Adamtsevych, who kept alive the famous Kozak
melody "Zaporizhian March," Ivan Petrenko, Fedir Tereshchenko and Hryhoriy
Spytsia all were born in Romny.
Today, the residents of the city are experiencing the same economic decline
as any other city in Ukraine. There is reason for hope, however. Several
large firms have privatized and are beginning to expand production. Most
notable, are a shoe manufacturing outfit called Talan, which recently opened
a clothing manufacturing subsidiary and now has a contract for new school
uniforms for Ukraine's kids, and a meat processing plant, Romnymiaso.
The Ukrainian Weekly, October 20, 1996, No. 42, Vol. LXIV
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