Throughout the Ukrainian world, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Lesya Ukrainka (1871–1913) is being celebrated this year. Ukrainka wrote “Forest Song” two years before her death. When first presented, B. Yakubsky wrote, “In truth, this is a symbolic drama of profound psychological interest, of an extraordinarily deep and tender lyricism whose language, full of the rich treasures of native folklore, is most harmonious and musical. It is an outstanding creation, not only of Ukrainian but of world literature.” Set against the background of Ukrainian mythology with “the activity of the manifold spirits behind the visible world,” the work interprets a myth about Mayka, a woodland nymph who falls in love with a human.
Suffering from bone tuberculosis from early childhood, Ukrainka insisted that, like Mayka, her spirit could transcend physical suffering. At the end of the play, Mayka becomes immortal as she turns into a willow tree—“I am alive! I will live eternally; I have that in my heart which cannot die. I love my pain, for I gave life to it.”
Мавка: Ні! Я жива! Я буду вічно жити! Я в серці маю те, що не вмирає.
Марище: По чім ти знаєш це?
Мавка: По тім, що муку свою люблю і їй даю життя.