Dialogue between the Writer and the Researcher
Writer Leonid Daineko masterfully reflected the history of Belarus, comprehending it, layer by layer, in his books. He passed away on August 21, 2019. Tatyana Lavrik, an employee at the National Library of Belarus, has been studying the writer’s life and work.
Leonid Daineko is a laureate of the Ivan Melezh Literary Award and the Belarus State Award named after Kalinovsky. Real historical figures and facts, embodied in his novels, satiate the readers’ thirst for the knowledge of Belarusian antiquity and world history. The writer’s books fascinate both adults and teenagers with adventure, vivid imagination, swirling plots and elements of mysticism.
Daineko was born in 1940, in the village of Dmitriyevka 2nd, Klichev District. As a child, having read adventure books about Marco Polo, Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Mikloukho-Maklay, he dreamed of being a traveler. At school, he began to write poetry in the Belarusian language. His first poem appeared in a newspaper of the Ural Military District, where he served in airborne troops. In 1963, he entered the faculty of journalism.
In June 1968, Leonid Daineko attended a republican seminar for young literati and scientists, which was conducted on the shore of Lake Svityaz. Known Belarusian writers Yanka Bryl and Vladimir Korotkevich lectured at the seminar. This event served as the impetus for his returning to the Belarusian language and literature. After graduating from BSU, Leonid Daineko worked in Vitebsk as a senior editor at a regional television studio. He had linked his fate with television even when he moved to Minsk. In 1972, he came to work at the editorial office of the Maladosts literary magazine, where he had been an executive secretary for 17 years. For some time he headed the poetry editorial office at the Mastatskaya litaratura publishing house.
Leonid Daineko’s first poetry collection Voices (in Belarusian: Галасы appeared when he was 29. The young author had naturally joined the polyphonic chorus of Belarusian poetry. His books Waiting Shore (in Belarusian: Бераг чакання, Nightime Telegrams(in Belarusian: Начныя тэлеграмы, My Fortieth Spring (in Belarusian: Мая вясна саракавая, Eternal Instant (in Belarusian: Вечнае імгненне), Snowflakes under Fire (in Belarusian: Сняжынкі над агнём) inspired readers in the 1970s–80s. The author made his confident debut as a prose writer and novelist with the dilogy Humans and Flashlights (in Belarusian: Людзі і маланкі) (1978) and Memorize Our Youths (in Belarusian: Запомнім сябе маладымі) (1981). Then his novel Football on the Mined Ground (in Belarusian: Футбол на замініраваным полі appeared (1983).
In his first historical novel (Sword of Prince Vyachka (in Belarusian: Меч князя Вячкі) (1987) the prose writer went deep into the national antiquity and depicted the heroic struggle of the townspeople of ancient Polotsk against the Teutonic knights.
In 2004, he and his wife Zinaida converted to Catholicism. They were baptized by Father Vladislav Zavalnyuk at the Red Church in Minsk. The writer had three sons – Dmitry, Sergey and Stepan. Leonid Daineko had visited the Holy Land several times, where he drew inspiration for his works.
The protagonists of one of the author’s best novels Name Your Son Constantine (in Belarusian: Назаві сына Канстанцінам (2008) are Emperor Constantine I the Great, who contributed to the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Constantine Palaiologos, the defender of Constantinople from the invasion of the Turkish conquerors, and the great hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Constantine Ostrozhsky, who was widely famous for his state affairs, military victories and, at the same time, was known as an adherent of Orthodox education, founder of temples and monasteries.
In the thrilling novel Man with a Diamond Heart (in Belarusian: Чалавек з брыльянтавым сэрцам, Leonid Daineko, developing the genre of Belarusian national fiction, embodies the dreams and outlines the problems of the future of mankind. The writer warns: we can disappear from the face of the earth if we do not preserve the national memory gene.
We’re talking to the researcher of the writer’s life and work, an employee at the Information-Analytical Department of the National Library of Belarus, Master of Philology Tatyana Lavrik.
– I read Leonid Daineko’s first novel, Sword of Prince Vyachka, as a teenager. The book grabbed me, and since then I’m interested in his work. At the Pedagogical University, I wrote the term paper on his novel Werewolf Track (in Belarusian: След ваўкалака). Having started teaching Belarusian literature at a sanatorium school in Zhdanovichi, I delved into his works and began to study contemporary historical prose.
I first read the novel Name Your Son Constantine in the journal Maladost, in 2008. The legend of Prince Palemon (about the origin of our ancestors from the Roman patricians) is found in the chronicle of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the novels of the writer there are many admirable battle scenes. Preparing for various events, I re-read the novel three times, and each time I discovered more and more new aspects. Speaking at a scientific conference at the university, I analyzed the image of Constantine Ostrozhsky.
Later, Leonid Daineko posted works on his website, and I read them on the Internet. At that time I was interested in a novel about the era of the reign of Sigismund III Vasa. The writer also used other genres, small aphorisms and sketches, which he published on Facebook.
Our dialogue with Leonid Daineko began in 2010, when the writer celebrated his 70th birthday. At the moment I prepared an exhibition of his books at the Belarusian literature hall.
My first article about Leonid Daineko was published in 2016 in the journal Maladosts (No. 9). I decided to enter the magistracy in order to explore his work more deeply. It was especially interesting for me to highlight the problems of his new books.
When I met the writer’s son Stepan, he handed me a letter in which Leonid Daineko said that he had read with excitement my review of his novel. For a critic, it’s great happiness if you can collaborate with the author whose work you are exploring!
The novel Helots (in Belarusian: Ілоты (2015) about the Slutsk uprising in Belarus was published by Knogazbor. The autobiography The Son of Lion, the Daughter of Zeus (in Belarusian: Сын ільва, дачка Зеўса – Леанід і Зінаіда) (2017) is dedicated to his wife and children. In fact, this work is a farewell.
When asked by Radio Free Europe what happiness is, the writer replied: “My happiness is the happiness of my family and my Belarus.”
Ela Dvinskaya, freelance writer for the National Library of Belarus.