I’ve known Yosyp Pavliv since they started building the Baikal-Amur Magistral, a railroad stretching thousands of miles across Russia’s wilderness to the Far East. First, our acquaintance was through word of mouth. My journalist friends in Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk-on-Amur told me about a Ukrainian guy, a land surveyor from Lviv, who lived in Urgal-2, one of the largest settlements along the railway, who writes talented stories, novels, essays and studies at the renowned Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. We met for the first time in the summer of 1976, when I came to the eastern section of the railroad while traveling through the region.
Here is what he had written about himself when he submitted a manuscript collection of stories to the Ukrainian publishing house Molod:
“I am 42 years old, almost half of them spent in the Far North and the Far East. I’m a professional surveyor. Love my job, love the endless expanses of tundra and taiga, love my colleagues – surveyors, geologists, mushers, explorers and helicopter crews. And I tell their stories.”
He has already published two novels in Russian magazines in Yakutsk and Khabarovsk, many essays and short stories in newspapers such as Tikhookenskaya Zvezda, Molodoy Dalnevostochnik and Rabocheye Slovo. But while his name is already known to readers in Siberia and the Far East, it is not yet familiar to Ukrainian readers. That’s ironic, because Yosyp Pavliv also writes in Ukrainian.
Yosyp writes about what he knows best. Severe northern weather has steeled his character, and has taught him to see the beauty in seemingly inconspicuous details. He uses simple words while telling stories of courage and fortitude, friendship and loyalty. Harsh lands and harsh people are what Yosyp Pavliv writes about. And he does not try to gloss over harsh reality with romantic fictions. You read his stories without stopping.
The theme that Yosyp Pavliv is working on is not very well represented in world literature. There are wonderful stories and novels on this theme by Jack London, James Oliver Curwood, Tikhon Semushkin, Nikolai Shundrik, Oleg Kuvaev, Albert Mitakhutdinov and Yuri Rikhteu. But those are in American, Canadian, Russian, Chukchi literature. In Ukrainian literature, Mykola Trublaini and Ivan Bagmut created interesting books for children. Yosyp Pavliv does the same for adult literature, and this is where he opens up a whole new world for a Ukrainian reader. He does not follow in the footsteps of his predecessors – he goes his own way.
a foreword to Yosyp Pavliv’s book “The Blossoming Snow”, 1985.