top of page

Maria Zankovetska - A Star of the Ukrainian Stage

What do you know about Maria Zankovetska - one of Ukraine's most amazing women of culture..? As actress and theatrical figure, she was a star of Ukrainian theater of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and is one of the brightest female leads to have played on the stages across the country.

Born Maria Konstyantyniva Adasovska in the village of Zanky, Nizhyn oblast, her father was an impoverished landowner and nobleman Kostyantyn Kostyantynovych Adasovsky while her mother was a Chernihiv city resident (burgess) Maria Vasylivna Nefedova. Though she was one of many children family, she would go on to graduate from the Chernihiv City Female Gymnasium.

In 1876, Adasovska appeared on stage at the Nizhyn Theatre for the first time. However, her professional career kicked off on 27 October 1882 at the Yelizavetgrad City Theater in Kirovohrad under management of Marko Kropyvnytsky, where her first role was Natalka from Kotlyarevsky's Natalka Poltavka.

She would go on to participate among the most popular and professional Ukrainian troupes of Marko Kropyvnytsky, Mykhailo Starytsky, Mykola Sadovsky, and Panas Saksahansky. It was during this time she conceived her stage name, Zankovetska, which was derived from the name of the village where she was born.

Her professional career spanned more than 30 roles, the characters of which were often dramatic heroes with a fierce sense of humour. He favourite roles were those in which she got to play ordinary folk, revealing, at the same time, the depth and intensity of their souls. In addition, Zankovetska had a beautiful mezzo-soprano, incorporating Ukrainian folk songs wherever possible in her performances.

Zankovetska desperately wanted a permanent state theater in Nizhyn. In 1918, she organised the people's theater "Ukrainian troupe under the direction of M. Zankovetska", where actors such as Borys Romanytsky, Andriy Rotmyrov, and others could often be seen in plays Natalka Poltavka, Hetman Doroshenko, and Aza the Gypsy.

In 1922, Ukraine triumphantly celebrated the 40th anniversary of Zankovetska's career. She was the first person in Ukraine whom the government awarded the high title of the People's Artist of the republic. The great actress died on 4 October 1934, and she is buried at the Baikove Cemetery in Kyiv.

A few interesting facts about this wonderful woman:

* Maria Zankovetska could have become an opera singer. In Finland, she took lessons from the famous Professor Grzymali, who predicted a brilliant career for her. However, diphtheria changed the tone of her voice and therefore her ability to sing.

* Marko Kropyvnytskyi was so moved by performance that following one of her rehearsals he is said to have taken off his turquoise ring, and put it on her finger saying, "I entrust you, Marusya, with the stage, now I have someone to write plays for."

* The audience adored Zankovetska. After one of her performances, enthusiastic spectators unharnessed the horses from her carriage and themselves trotted through town to the train station.

* In Odesa, composer Peter Tchaikovsky once gifted her with a laurel wreath inscribed as: "Immortal from mortals."

* As students, Mykola Sklifosovsky and Oleksandr Bogomolets (famous professors of medicine) were taken to performances of Zankovetska as a sort of "psychological workshop".

* In 1912, when Ukrainian director and theatre and film actor Hnat Yura could not find the funds to organise a tour of the Hutsul National Theater, Zankovetska lent him all of her jewellry as collateral to acquire a loan.

328 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page