Leopold von Sacher, the son of the Commissioner of the Imperial Police Forces in Lemberg (Lviv), had every chance of not becoming Masoch. From birth, he was so weak that no one was confident that the baby would survive. He was predicted the fate of two of his mother’s brothers who died at an early age.
Little Leopold was saved only by the milk of the nurse Handzia from the village of Vynnyky near Lviv, who not only put the child on his feet, but also instilled love for Ukrainians and everything Ukrainian in the future writer.
“With her milk, I absorbed love for Ukrainians, absorbed the Ukrainian language and love for the land of my birth, for my fatherland. Thanks to my wet nurse, the Ukrainian language became the first one that I spoke,” later recalled Sacher, who received the addition to the surname Masoch only when he was two years old. Permission to change the surname was issued personally by Emperor Franz Joseph at the request of his grandfather Franz von Masoch, the rector of Lviv University, who, after the death of his two sons, did not want his family to end.
The definition known today in psychiatry stuck to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch only at the end of his life as a result of the ill turn of the psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who used the name of Sacher-Masoch in his book Psychopathia Sexualis as a common definition of behavior described in a number of the writer’s short stories.
This definition not only changed the last years of the author, but also significantly distorted the subsequent understanding of his works. The patriotic pro-Ukrainian theme, which permeated a significant part of his works, was in many ways inconvenient both in the West and later in the Soviet Union. The definition of Richard von Krafft-Ebing came in handy for its suppressing.