Natives to the Chernihiv region contributed to the world history greatly, in a variety of fields. For instance, Mykola Kybalchych was the first to formulate the idea of a jet aircraft — as early as 150 years ago! Besides, he did it while imprisoned.
As early as the age of 20, this talented chemist was imbued with revolutionary ideas and became an active figure in the resistance to tsarism. He discovered special printing ink for clandestine publishers, and a more powerful version of dynamite (compared to that of its original inventor, Alfred Nobel). In 1881, Kybalchych constructed a bomb that basically became a prototype of present-day hand grenades, and it was that bomb that fatally wounded the Russian Tsar Alexander II, known for his policy of forced Russification.
It is for that attempt on the Tsar’s life that Kybalchych was executed in a month. However, while in a cell, he managed to produce a concept of a jet aircraft, and scratched its blueprint on the wall of his jail cell with a button fragment. On the verge of dying, Mykola Kybalchych laid out those exact principles that modern rockets operate on.
Another technical breakthrough was made by Petro Prokopovych, a descendant of a Cossack bloodline. Having retired from the army, he took up beekeeping, and, trying to find ways of increasing his efficiency in it, he designed a so-called frame hive. This method allowed for harvesting honey without having to kill all the bees with smoke, as it had been done before, and Prokopovych himself finally succeeded in creating the world’s largest apiary. That symbolic legacy of the inventor didn’t go in vain, as in 2020, Ukraine ranked the world’s second-largest honey exporter.
While Prokopovych took over the world with his technical ingenuity, Maria Adasovska did the same with her acting skills. Born in a small village in the Chernihiv region, she was married in due time, yet opted to flip her script when offered to join a drama group. Her husband, as well as her family, strongly objected, so she filed for divorce and changed her surname. From then on, the world knew her as Maria Zankovetska (derived from the name of the village of her birth, Zanky). The actress was quick to raise to the leading theatrical performer of the entire Empire, and, while off tour, still kept her primary residence in the Chernihiv region. The Russian Emperor offered her to pay a hefty sum of money (24,000 roubles in gold!) for her relocation, yet she declined: “Something dear, something of my own had me gravitating towards the Ukrainian stage, to its sorrows and prayers.”
Another native of the Chernihiv region, one of the world’s most outstanding film directors Oleksandr Dovzhenko, always spoke of the region fondly. Born to a poor illiterate family on a small farm, it was his talent that brought him to an institute. It was there where his first acquaintance with Ukrainian books occurred, still, he could only read them in secrecy: “Among us, speaking Ukrainian was banned. We were trained as teachers supposed to russify our land.”
Dovzhenko’s later life is much like a script to an action movie: he fought against Bolsheviks during the Ukrainian liberation struggle (for which he was sentenced to a concentration camp as “the enemy of the worker-peasant government” but was later condoned), he was captured by the Poles who were about to execute him (but the rounds were blank), and he served as a diplomat in Poland and Germany.
Over time, he made his way to filmmaking, where he became world famous. His Zvenyhora sold out movie theaters in Europe, and his Earth would be banned in the USSR but praised after screening in Berlin (with about fifty articles dedicated to Dovzhenko being published in the aftermath of that screening, and the director being nicknamed as ‘Homer of Filmmaking’ in Italy). It was only after the film was voted number 10 on the prestigious Brussels 12 list at the 1958 World Expo that the masterpiece celebrating the Ukrainian countryside was allowed for screening in the director’s homeland. Later, after another film “encouraging Ukrainian patriotism instead of the Soviet one,” he was banned from living in his homeland. When he died in 1956, a Ukrainian delegation took the risk of facing the same accusation when they brought a sheaf of rye, a lump of Ukrainian soil, and some apples (as symbols of Ukraine depicted by Dovzhenko in his film Earth) to his grave, to bid their final farewells.