From the Shevchenko Museum:
In spite of physical weakness as a result of his exile, Shevchenko’s poetical strength was inexhaustible, and the last period of his work is the highest stage of his development. In a series of works, the poet embodied the dream of the people for a free and happy life. Shevchenko understood that the peasants would gain their freedom neither through the kindness of the tsar nor through reforms, but through struggle.
The poet began to feel increasingly ill, and complained in letters about the state of his health. Taras Shevchenko died in his studio apartment St. Petersburg at 5:30 a.m. on March 10, 1861. At the Academy of Arts, over the coffin of Shevchenko, speeches were delivered in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish. The poet was first buried at the Smolensk Cemetery in St. Petersburg. Then Shevchenko’s friends immediately undertook to fulfil the poet’s Zapovit (Testament), and bury him in Ukraine. The coffin with the body of Shevchenko was taken by train to Moscow, and then by horse-drawn wagon to Ukraine. Shevchenko’s remains entered Kiev on the evening of May 6, and the next day they were transferred to the steamship Kremenchuh. On May 8 the steamship reached Kaniv, and Taras was buried on Chernecha Hill (now Taras Hill) by the Dnipro River. A tall mound was erected over his grave, and it has become a sacred site for the Ukrainian people.
This is Taras Shevchenko’s Testament:
My Testament (Zapovit)
When I am dead, bury me
In my beloved Ukraine,
My tomb upon a grave mound high
Amid the spreading plain,
So that the fields, the boundless steppes,
The Dnieper’s plunging shore
My eyes could see, my ears could hear
The mighty river roar.
When from Ukraine the Dnieper bears
Into the deep blue sea
The blood of foes … then will I leave
These hills and fertile fields —
I’ll leave them all and fly away
To the abode of God,
And then I’ll pray …. But till that day
I nothing know of God.
Oh bury me, then rise ye up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrants’ blood
The freedom you have gained.
And in the great new family,
The family of the free,
With softly spoken, kindly word
Remember also me.
Pereyaslav, December 25, 1845
Translated by John Weir Toronto, 1961