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Potushniak, Fedor

Potushniak, Fedor (pseudonyms: Theodorus Bercolensis, F. Pasichnyk, F. Vil’shyts’kyi, Vox clamantis) (b. February 27, 1910, Osii [Hungarian Kingdom], Ukraine; d. February 11, 1960, Uzhhorod [Soviet Union], Ukraine) — professor, ethnographer, philosopher, archeologist, belletrist, and translator in Subcarpathian Rus’. Potushniak studied at the Ukrainian gymnasium in Berehovo (1922-1930) and at the philosophical faculty of Charles University in Prague (1930-1937). He taught briefly in elementary schools (Bilky, Velykyi Bychkiv) until mobilization into the Czechoslovak Army (1937-1938), during which time he published in Ukrainian a short story (Zemlia, 1938) and three collections of poetry (Daleki vohny, 1934; Taiemnychi vechory, 1938; Mozhlyvosti, 1939). After *Subcarpathian Rus’ was annexed to Hungary he worked as a librarian (1939-1940) in Brno (by that time in the Nazi German Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia). Taking advantage of an amnesty issued by the Hungarian government for Subcarpathian *Ukrainophiles Potushniak returned home, although he remained under suspicion for disloyalty to the regime and thus could not find employment. He did, however, contribute to the *Subcarpathian Scholarly Society, through whom he published, under the pseudonym Pasichnyk, his own poetry (Na bilykh skalakh, 1941; Khatka ta mlynok, 1944), short stories (Opovidania, 1942; Hrikh ta ynshi opovidania, 1944), translations, and scholarly essays. Drafted into the Hungarian Army (1944), he was sent to the eastern front, where he surrendered within a few months and was made a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union.

Potushniak returned to Subcarpathian Rus’ in March 1945, worked for a short time at the Communist party organ Zakarpats’ka pravda, then joined the staff of the newly established Uzhhorod State University (instructor, 1946; docent/associate professor 1948), where he taught archeology, ethnography, and several Slavic languages. He adopted a passive attitude and basically ignored the Communist system, since his training as an idealist philosopher forced him to conclude that Marxism, with its emphasis on socioeconomic determinism, was a primitive ideology. Instead, he directed his attention toward archeological research in Subcarpathian Rus’ (Arkheolohichni znakhidky bronzovoho ta zaliznoho viku na Zakarpatti, 1958); and wrote epic novels about Rusyn life (Povin’, 1959; Maty-zemlia, 1962) as well as short stories and tales.

Potushniak’s literary career dates back to his student years, when he became well-versed in contemporary literary currents throughout Europe. His poetry was in particular influenced by the French symbolists. In this regard, Potushniak stood out in stark contrast to the generally amateurish literary culture of interwar Subcarpathian Rus’. As an ethnographer he was particularly interested in Rusyn traditional beliefs, demonology, tragic elements in folk music, historical ballads, and the etymology of Subcarpathian ethnonyms and toponyms, all topics on which he published scholarly articles. Potushniak was the first scholar to analyze the evolution of philosophic thought among Rusyn thinkers from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century (“Korotkyi narys fylosofii Podkarpatia,” 1943). His other writings, which included a unique approach to existentialist philosophy, were published in Subcarpathian newspapers and journals during World War II Hungarian rule. Under the postwar Soviet regime such philosophical studies could no longer be published, although Potushniak did prepare a collection of essays that remain in manuscript (“Filosofichni statti, 1945-1960").

Potushniak was an intellectual of wide breadth who could easily have made a career beyond his homeland. As a believer in patriotic self-sacrifice, however, he consciously remained in a provincial environment, armed with the hope that he might be able to raise the educational and intellectual standards of his countrymen. But postwar Soviet-ruled Transcarpathia had no need for a European-oriented intellectual; on the contrary, his very presence provoked distaste among the new Communist lumpenproletariat “intelligentsia.” The herd mentality brought to Subcarpathian Rus’ from the East methodically debased the conditions surrounding Potushniak and contributed to his premature death.

Bibliography: Ivan P. Vyshnevs’kyi, Zakarpats’ki novelisty (L’viv, 1960), pp. 27-48; Vasyl L. Mykytas’, F.M. Potushniak (Uzhhorod, 1961); Roman Ofitsyns’kyi, “Filofs’ki pohliady Fedora Potushniaka (1910-1960),” in Molod-Ukraini, No. 1 (Uzhhorod, 1994), pp. 50-67; Lidiia Holomb, Poetychna tvorchist’ Fedora Potushniaka (Uzhhorod, 2001); Mykhailo Tyvodar, ed., Naukovo-pedahohichna diial’nist’ ta literaturna tvorchist’ Fedora Potushniaka/Carpatica-Karpatyka, Vol. IX (Uzhhorod, 2001), pp. 9-70 and 179-219.

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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