Assya Alexandra Humesky, a renowned scholar of Ukrainian language and literature, passed away at Birchwood Retreat in Chelsea, Michigan on March 31, 2023, at the age of 97. She was born on May 23, 1925, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Serhiy Pylypenko and Tetyana Kardinalowska. Assya's father was arrested and executed by the Bolsheviks when she was nine years old, and during the war, she and her family were conscripted as forced laborers by the Germans. They lived in labor camps in Graz, Austria, and worked in a munitions factory.
After the war, Assya, her mother, and her sister moved to London, where she met Eugene Humesky, a fellow Ukrainian refugee. They promised to write to each other every week, and after five years of correspondence, they reunited. Assya attended Albertus Magnus College and Radcliffe College, where she earned her Ph.D. in Russian language and literature. Her Ph.D. dissertation was a comparison of the neologisms of the Russian poets Vladimir Majakovsky and Igor Severyanin, and she studied linguistics with Roman Jakobson and Ukrainian language and literature with Dmytro Chyzhevsky (A History of Ukrainian Literature, 1975), and Church Slavonic with Horace Lunt. She joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1953 and taught Russian language and literature courses. And, in 1969, she began teaching Ukrainian language and literature courses in addition to Russian language and literature courses. She retired from U-M in 1998 after teaching for over forty years.
Assya was a founding member of the Ann Arbor chapter of the Ukrainian National Women's League of America and was active in several Ukrainian scholarly organizations, including the Shevchenko Scientific Society and the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the US, where she served as vice president. She was also a beloved friend and mentor to her colleagues and students in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at U-M, where she initiated the Ukrainian studies program and authored the textbook for the Ukrainian courses she taught.
Assya was the author of Modern Ukrainian (1980), a widely used book on Ukrainian grammar, and published numerous articles on Ukrainian literature, which can be found in her Selected Works (Vybrani filolohichni pratsi, 2017). She also co-authored two Russian language textbooks, Modern Russian I (1964) and II (1965).
Assya loved singing, music, poetry, philosophy, mushroom hunting in the woods, and was an acknowledged mediocre cook. She was a devoted mother to her two sons, Roman “Rick” and Ihor “Gary,” and is survived by her sister Mirtala, nephew George, several grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Assya Humesky will be deeply missed by her colleagues, friends, and students. She was a brilliant, kind, thoughtful, and gracious teacher and friend who made a lasting impact on so many of her students, both graduate and undergraduate. Her legacy will continue to inspire and influence generations of scholars of Ukrainian language and literature.
For more, please read the Slavic Scene's articles on Assya Humesky:
The obituary in MLive can be found here: ASSYA HUMESKY OBITUARY