Varonka Jazep (also spelled Voronko Iazep; Варонка Язэп), lawyer, journalist, teacher, political leader. Jazep Varonka was born on April 17, 1891 into the family of a poor peasant who became a smith and later a letter-carrier in the township of Dziatłava, Navahradak region. His father wanted him to get an education and sent him to St. Petersburg. The young Varonka enetered St. Petersburg University and graduated in 1915 with a law degree. Varonka was active in St. Petersburg editing the Russian-language newspapers Voskresnaia Vecherniaia Cazeta and Stolichnye Novosti as well as being on the editorial board of the magazine Zritel'. He also wrote poetry under the pen name Iurii Vegov. Varonka came to Miensk after the February Revolution and dedicated himself entirely to Belarusian affairs. He became the prime mover in organizing the All-Belarusian Congress of 1917 while actively participating in a multitude of Belarusian organizations as well as carrying on diplomatic contacts with government circles in St. Petersburg, Kiev, and other cities. He was elected chairman of the Council of the Belarusian Democratic Republic. Together with Anton Łuckievič who came to Miensk from Vilna in 1918, and a few other Belarusian political leaders, Varonka authored the Constituent Charters of the Belarusian Democratic Republic and advocated proclaimimg Belarus an independent state. Jazep Varonka held several important leadership positions in the Belarusian Government including the chairmanship of the Council and the office of the Prime Minister. He also master-minded several diplomatic moves of the Belarusian Government and contributed his professional expertise to state affairs. In addition, Varonka was an able and thoughtful writer who contributed numerous articles on Belarusian statehood, including the analysis of the Belarusian movement, 1917-1920. Varonka also edited the following Belarusian journals: Belorusskaia Zemlia (Miensk, 1919), Varta (Miensk, 1918). In Horadnia he edited Belaruski Narod (in both Russian and Belarusian, Horadnia 1919), in Kaunas the Belarusian magazine Časopis (1919-1920) and Volnaja Litva (1920?) as well as several other publications in Russian and Ukrainian languages.

When the government of the Belarusian Democratic Republic went into exile, Varonka decided to emigrate to the United States. He came to Chicago in 1923 and soon became an outstanding organizer and leader of the Belarusian community in the United States as well as serving as the representative of the Belarusian Democratic Republic. Varonka initiated numerous political programs, and began publishing the first Belarusian newspaper in the United States, Beloruskaia Tribuna (1926). Varonka started a weekly radio program in Chicago in Belarusian and Russian in the late twenties. He was active in Belarusian affairs through the years of Great Depression and World War II. All these years Varonka uncompromisingly promoted the ideals of an independent Belarusian state. His attitude toward Soviet Belarus softened somewhat in the forties, but he did not by any means become a Soviet patriot. Although he was interested in the activities of Belarusians in Chicago who had arrived after World War II, he was not able to establish effective working relations with them. Jazep Varonka merits the title of the outstanding leader of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, and together with J.Čarapuk-Zmahar they must be considered the pioneers of the Belarusian political movement in the United States. He died in Chicago on June 4, 1952.

References: The New York Times, New York, June 6, 1952, 23:4; Baćkaŭščyna, Munich, no. 108, July 20, 1952; Belarusian Institute of Arts and Sciences, New York, Archives.

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