Maria Zankovetska, the daughter of a landowner from an ancient Cossack family and grand-daughter of one of the heroes of the war of 1812, was born in 1854. After finishing studies in a private school in Chernihiv, she studied for two years at a conservatoire in Helsinki.
The stage of an amateur theatre offered her the chance to plunge into social life. Her talent was noticed by Micola Sadovsky, who became a leading figure of Ukrainian theatre.
Maria dreamed of a professional theatrical career. Together with Micola Sadovsky and Marko Kropivnitsky, she was destined to contribute to the birth of the National Theatre. She became, as Anton Chekhov said, "a symbol of Ukrainian Theatre".
The theatre gave only one performance in Kyiv. The Kyiv governor banned the Kropivnitsky company from performing in the city for ten years after that. The inhabitants of St. Petersburg and other Russian and Ukrainian towns were luckier and had a chance to pay due credit to Maria Zankovetska. She was highly commented by Konstantin Stanislavsky. The wife of Tzar Alexander III sent a note of thanks to her. In 1912 the journal "Women's Profiles" came out. It was devoted to outstanding women of the world, and it mentioned M. Zankovetska as one of three great Russian actresses.
Her talent was sustained by her realization of the importance of what she was doing — educating the people and fostering respect and interest in Ukrainian culture.