Archduke Wilhelm of Austria was born on 10th February 1895 in Austria-Hungary (present day Croatia) and died in 1948, aged 53, in Kyiv, Soviet Union (present day Ukraine). An Austrian archduke, colonel, rifleman and poet, Wilheim was also a member of the influential House of Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty.
Dr. Huk is inspired by the brave actions of Wilhelm von Habsburg, along with his family’s significant impact on the history of Ukraine. Even though not all the Habsburg’s were ‘patriots of Ukraine’, particularly Wilhelm’s father the Archduke Karl Stephan who was more sympathetic to the Polish people, but it was Wilhelm’s interest in the Ukrainian people that earned him the nickname ‘the Red Prince’.
Dr. Huk explains, “My grandmother used to tell me that life is made up of details. Here is one detail about Wilhelm von Habsburg. A 14-year-old Wilhem went to Count Czartoryski, who had married his sister, and told him, ‘You deceived me; you told me there was no Ukrainian nation, language, culture, I will not come to your house again.’ And he kept his word. We can recognise a great man in this small detail.”
Wilhelm read Ukrainian poets, studied the language and took time to learn about the colourful history of the divided nation. In 1918 he was offered the leadership of the Ukrainian government, in 1921 a collection of his poems titled ‘Days are passing’ was published under the pseudonym Vasyl Vyshuvaniy, and during World War II he lived in Vienna. Under surveillance from Stalin’s security services, he was arrested and taken to Kyiv, being sentenced to 25 years in prison camps in May 1948. He died of tuberculosis in August of that year and was rehabilitated in 1989 by the Soviet Office of Military Prosecuto