Expatriate authors find inspiration in Ukraine
The EuroMaidan Revolution, Russia’s war against Ukraine, the fate of Crimean Tatars, borshch and music. These are some of the themes that expatriate authors have focused on in their books about Ukraine. All of them are published in English, except for Mauro Voerzio’s book in Italian.
Here’s a sampling:
“Angels of Maidan” (2014, published in Italian, $4 for Kindle edition at Amazon)
S ince 2007, Italian entrepreneur Mauro Voerzio, 47, has been operating a travel agency in Kyiv while splitting his time between Italy and Ukraine. When the EuroMaidan Revolution began in November 2013, he couldn’t stand aside. “We thought that it was the beginning of real changes in the country,” he recalls. Voerzio spent two months on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, photographing and making videos. At the end of last year, Voerzio released his first book with the aim of telling Italians the truth about the revolution in Ukraine, “Gli Angeli di Maidan” (“Angels of Maidan,” Simplicissimus Book Farm).
“Today’s government in Kyiv doesn’t care much about propaganda, especially in foreign countries. In Italy our TV channels use materials from Russia Today, Novorossiya TV, ITAR-TASS, and nothing arrives from Ukrainian journalists or official channels,” Voerzio says.
“The Road to Donetsk” (2015)
Debu t British novelist Diane Chandler oversaw Ukraine aid programs at the European Commission for several years and spent much time in Ukraine between 1994 and 2000. On Jan. 1, Chandler has published the novel “The Road to Donetsk” (2015, Blackbird Digital Books, London). It is a fictional love story that takes place in the “wild east” of Ukraine in 1994, “in a world where millions of dollars can either wash away in a moment’s corruption, or turn around the lives of the neediest.” Chandler was impressed by “incredibly resourceful and intelligent” Ukrainian women, who are the heart of her novel. “The Road to Donetsk” begins with a prologue that touches on Russia’s war in the Donbas. The writer is saddened by the conflict and often thinks about what has become of the Ukrainians she knew back in the 1990s.
J. Michael Willard
“The Legacy of Moon Pie Jefferson,” “Ki l ling Friends,” “Urania: A Fable” and
Wh e n J. Michael Willard came to Kyiv in 1994, he planned to stay a year. Instead, he’s now been here for more than two decades, finding inspiration for his writing. Willard has authored 11 books, fiction and non-fiction. The most recent, “The Legacy of Moon Pie Jefferson” (2014, Vidalia House), is a political thriller, a story of the assassination of a U.S. senator and his adopted daughter, as she embarks on a mission to find her father’s killer. The events take place in the U.S. and Ukraine. Willard plans to write a novel about Russia’s war against Ukraine. He is also working on two books: a novel called “A Mean Old Man,” about a journalist who is nearing retirement and can’t understand all the changes in the newspaper world, and an update of the non-fiction “The Flack,” to be retitled” The Perception Fallacy.”
Raisa Marika Stohyn
“Baba’s Kitchen: Ukrainian Soul Food With Stories From the Village” (2014) A writer, singer and horse trainer from Canada, Ra isa Marika Stohyn, known as Raisa Stone in North America, spent 50 years collecting life stories and cooking recipes from Ukrainian survivors of Soviet and Nazi terror, including her own family that fled Ukraine in 1940s, escaping the Soviet terror. Stone says in her website that she ate pureed borshch as baby food & cut dough circles for varenyky as soon as she could reach the table top.
In February 2014, Stone released the second addition of her book “Baba’s Kitchen: Ukrainian Soul Food With Stories From the Village” (2014, Createspace, U.S.), which Canada Council for the arts has assigned as both a literary work and a Ukrainian cookbook. On the 384 pages of the “Baba’s Kitchen” the reader finds 190 recipes, as well as stories about survival from Soviet and Nazi terror. Raisa’s narrator, Baba (Grandma), teaches readers simple folk remedies and Slavic curses such as, “May you be kicked by a duck!”
William Jay Risch
“The Ukrainian West: Culture and the Fate of Empire in Soviet Lviv”
A professor of history at Georgia College in Milledgeville, U.S., William Jay Risch, first came to Ukraine in 1998 to do dissertation research in Lviv. He stayed for two years doing archival research and conducting interviews. And came back again, in 2002, to teach during tw o years the Eastern European history at Lviv National University. As a result of his researches, he published a monograph about cultural life of Lviv after World War II. “The Ukrainian West: Culture and the Fate of Empire in Soviet Lviv” (2001, Harvard University Press) has received favorable reviews in leading academic journals. His researches on hippies and rock music in Lviv was included into collection of essays “Youth and Rock in the Soviet Bloc: Youth Cultures, Music, and the State in Russia and Eastern Europe” (2015, Lexington Books).
Currently Risch is writing a history of the EuroMaidan Revolution protests and their aftermath in Ukraine, based on 100 interviews and his own observations.
“The Shadow of the Bear: From Ukrainian Activists to ProRussian Separatists”
In 2014, Kat Argo took a break from her career as a gove r nment analyst, packed her belongings and wen t to Kyiv during the very heart of the EuroMaidan pro tests and thereafter to the war-torned east. Argo saw artillery bombardments, broke bread with Russian separatists, met foreign fighters and visited injured Ukrainian soldiers at the hospital. As a result, the book “The Shadow of the Bear: From Ukrainian Activists to ProRussian Separatists” (2014, Eat Your Serial Press, New York) appeared. Author claims its main goal is to show what effect the war had on ordinary people.
“The crisis is complicated, as the people are involved, and can’t be covered in a couple thousand words. I needed a book to show how everything was interlinked,” Argo explains. The author claims she tries to be objective as possible, and show both sides of the war as fairly as she can.
Walter Orr Scott
“Arise, Ukraine” (2014)
Walter Orr Scott visited Ukraine several times before becoming a permanent resident in October 2011. He lived in Kyiv for six months, but found it too busy. Now he resides in a small town of Zmerynka in Vinnytsia Oblast, which he calls a good place for writing.
In 2013, some of Scott’s poetry was published in “Charming Spring Waters,” a collection of 54 Ukrainian poets with him being the only foreigner included. In 2014 Scott released a poetry book “Arise, Ukraine”. All the proceeds from distribution of the book go to the Ukrainian servicemen wounded in Donbas. Now he is working on a historical novel, a three-part trilogy, which covers 2,000 years and takes place mostly in Ukraine.
“Dream Land” (2008)
For more than 10 years, Ukraine was the second home for British writer and journalist Lily Hyde, a former Kyiv Post staff writer and current contributor. In 2008 Hyde left Ukraine but came back in 2014, when she found it impossible to watch the events from a distance. Her materials have been published in the international press, including The Times, Newsweek and Foreign Policy. Her first novel, “Riding Icarus” ( 2008, Walker Books, London), was set in Ukraine. Her most famous book, “Dream Land” (2008, Walker Books, London), is about Crimean Tatars and is endorsed by Amnesty International as contributing to a better understanding of human rights. Now the author admits she could not imagine that the book will become so relevant again, as the Crimean Tatars suffer from annexation of Crimea.
“I never guessed “Dream Land” could become such a topical book. I was sure that the situation for Crimean Tatars could not go back to how it was in the early 1990s, or even 1944,” she says. Currently Hyde is working on two more Ukraine novels: about a mail-order bride in a Ukrainian village and about the “makhnovschyna,” a brief rule of the gangs of Nestor Makhno in Ukraine in 1918.
William Jay Rish during the EuroMaidan Revolution demonstrations on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv on Dec. 19, 2013.(Courtesy)