On 22 July, one of the best-known Ukrainian actor Bohdan Stupka died, aged 71, after a long illness. The star of stage and screen – and a renowned activists in the cultural sphere – was also the head of Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theatre in Kyiv, Ukraine, between 1999-2001.
The news about the renowned actor’s death – closing a huge chapter of the history of Ukrainian theatre and cinematography – came from Anna German from the President’s office and spread fast through Ukrainian and international media, due to Bohdan Stupka’s immense popularity and great accomplishments. According to Interfax-Ukraine, his demise came after a four-month long confinement, and a fight against a serious illness, in Kyiv’s Feofania Hospital. Ostap Stupka, the son of the deceased, confirmed that the cause of death was a heart attack.
It is perhaps a paradox that Bohdan Stupka will be best remembered for his roles in films rather popular than of the highest artistic value. In Poland, he was admired for his performances as Bohdan Khmelnytsky in “With Fire and Sword”, King Popel in” An Ancient Tale” – both directed by Jerzy Hoffman – and Konstanty in Krzysztof Zanussi’s “Serce na dłoni” (Award for the Best actor at the Rome Film Fest). In Ukraine and Russia, Stupka was, however, probably best known for his roles as historical heroes – hetman Ivan Briukhovetsky, Ivan Mazepa, Genghis Khan. One of his more recent film works was the title role in Vladimir Bortko’s adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s “Taras Bulba”. He played in more than 100 films and the list of directors of international acclaim he had an opportunity to collaborate with includes Sergei Bondarchu, Yuriy Illienko – Stupka debuted as Orest Zvonar in his White Bird with Black Mark – or Vladimir Bortko.
Furthermore, Stupka performed in more than 50 plays and through his whole career he maintained strong connection with a theatre stage. Several times he performed in the Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theatre in Kyiv under the supervision of director Serhiy Danchenko. Later, as its artistic director, he introduced a new tradition: inviting directors from various countries – in majority big names in the theatre world – to the Kyiv stage. Stupka opened doors of his theatre to, among others, Robert Sturua from Georgia, Robert Sturua, Krzystof Zanussi from Poland, Hryhoriy Hladyform Lviv, Urkaine. A few times he performed himself, for instance as King Oedipu,s directed by Sturua.
Bohdan Stupka was also a great reformist, following steps of his talented predecessors – his first teacher was Borys Tiahno, a student of the very Les Kurbas, who is numbered among the best directors in the history of thatre, right next to Craig or Reinhardt . At the same time, Stupka was a magnificent mentor and a role model to young actors, moving with the time, acknowledging – and even becoming a symbol – of contemporary theatre.
Wings by Lina Kostenko
As a talented and successful promoter of Ukrainian art, he was always underlining the value of investing in culture. In Rome, while receving the Award for the Best Actor, he said: My life dream has always been Ukrainian culture becoming well-known in the whole world. Dreams must come true and I am happy that I can participate in this process.
A farewell to the great actor was held on Tuesday, 24 July, at the Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theatre. Anna German informed that on the President’s instructions the funeral was to be organized by a special committee appointed by PM Mykola Azarov. The actor was buried at the Baikove Cemetery in Kyiv.
His legacy will not be forgotten.