Out Now: The Story of Us by Lana Kortchik

The Story of Us by Lana Kortchik

I can’t wait to read this one. Ukraine suffered more death and destruction in the 1930s and 1940s than any other country in the world, and I’m so glad to see some mainstream publishers picking up books (also this one) with these themes.

The Story of Us by Lana Kortchik

Love can’t be defined by war. Watching the Red Army withdraw from Ukraine in the face of Hitler’s relentless advance, Natasha Smirnova realises her life is about to change forever.

As Kiev is cast under the dark cloud of occupation, Natasha falls in love with Mark, a Hungarian soldier, enlisted against all his principles on the side of the Nazis.

But as Natasha fights to protect the friends and family she holds dear she must face up to the dark horrors of war and the pain of betrayal. Will the love she and Mark share be strong enough to overcome the forces which threaten to tear them apart?

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Book Feature: My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih

My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih

Ukraine is basically the forgotten country of the twentieth century. Before the Second World War arrived on its doorstep it had already suffered a genocide at Stalin’s hands that killed at least as many as the Holocaust. More people died on Ukrainian soil than anywhere else in the war, leading to historians calling Ukraine the Bloodlands.

My Real Name Is Hanna appears to be well-researched, and I hope to read and review it soon. Of course, it’s going to be a touchy subject for me, as both my mother’s parents were taken prisoner by the Nazis, and my family still lives on Ukrainian land full of WW2 craters.

My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih

Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.

Sparse, resonant, and lyrical, weaving in tales of Jewish and Ukrainian folklore, My Real Name Is Hanna celebrates the sustaining bonds of family, the beauty of a helping hand, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will resonate with fans of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray.

On this day: human rights in Canada

Ukrainians in Castle Mountain concentration camp in 1915.

The 22nd of August, 1914 saw the passing of Canada’s War Measures Act. The act would result in government-sanctioned human rights abuses against Canadians of largely Ukrainian origin.

Ukrainians were declared “enemy aliens” and thousands were put into concentration camps to be used for slave labour across Canada. They were seen as enemies because the western regions of their homeland were under Austro-Hungarian rule at the outbreak of the First World War.

Some 80 000 Ukrainians who weren’t imprisoned were still required to register as enemy aliens and barred from leaving the country.

Plaque and statue at Castle Mountain near Banff.

The infamous Castle Mountain Internment Camp in Alberta saw prisoners used to work in the national parks, where they established the groundwork for the massive tourism to Banff and Lake Louise seen today.

Abuses at the camp were widespread, and were reported as far away as Britain.

Internment continued for two years after the war ended.

Kapuskasing_ON_3The Ukrainian cemetery at the Kapuskasing Internment Camp a concentration camp for mostly ethnic Ukrainians imprisoned to be used for slave labour during the First Wor

Ukrainian cemetery at the Kapuskasing Internment Camp in Ontario.

The internment of ethnic groups was widespread across many countries in both the First and Second World Wars, including in Australia and the United States, though the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s is generally the only instance most know of.

Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die

Cyborg_(film)Cyborgs Heroes Never Die (Кiборги Герої не вмирають). It is a movie about the battle for Donetsk Airport during the first year of the Russian invasion o

 

I’m a bit late with a post today, because I got home late last night and wanted to write about where I’d been. Also, the wine was free-flowing at the function, and I wasn’t in the mood to type when I got back!

At the invitation of the embassy, last night I attended the Australian premiere of the movie Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die (Кiборги: Герої не вмирають). It’s hard to believe, but this is the first time I’ve been to see a movie since Les Misérables in early 2012!

Cyborgs is a movie about the battle for Donetsk Sergey Prokofiev International Airport (named after the Ukrainian composer) during 2014, the first year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Cyborgs is the nickname given to the Ukrainian Army units who fought, lost, and died in the conflict.

When the battle began the airport was brand new, and had just been built for the Euro 2012 Football Championship.

Here is drone footage of the place after the battle (about twenty seconds in). Other than the ruined aerobridges, it’s hard to tell it’s an airport until about 2:20 when there’s suddenly a burnt-out plane. It’s total destruction:

 

 

At the moment, the major Ukrainian city of Donetsk has fallen to the Russians and is allegedly now part of the Kremlin-invented “Donetsk People’s Republic”. I have family who lived there who – like a few million others in the region – had to flee. Why this humanitarian crisis never makes the news is beyond me.

The film is entirely about the battle, which I’m sure was a little disturbing to some of the guests who attended! Think Black Hawk Down, with a bit less gore. Cyborgs is a brilliant movie because it utterly refuses to work as propaganda. I’d heard from Western journalists who’d already seen it in Europe that it was surprisingly balanced in its portrayal.

This is in stark contrast to most war movies that paint one side as perfect and the other evil. Right now in Australia they are showing WW2-era movies late at night, and they’re all ridiculous. The pre-Pearl Harbor ones – imported to America from Britain – have all war things edited out of them, and the post-Pearl Harbor ones are blatant propaganda, where the US singlehandedly saves the world a million times over.

I don’t know what more Ukraine can do to get anyone to give a damn about the ongoing Russian invasion. It’s ironic that the day I attended this function was the same day it was confirmed it was the Russian military who shot down MH17 (duh!). Imagine this war was happening in any other country in Europe. Imagine how different the international reaction would be.

The Week: 2nd – 8th April

Canberra Australia Australian Capital Territory Hot Afternoon Autumn Colours Autumn Leaves Sonya Natalia Heaney Easter Monday 2nd April 2018 Garden Blue Sky Nature

Canberra Australia Blue Sky Australian Capital Territory Tuggeranong Sonya Heaney Eucalyptus Tree Gum Tree Autumn Sunny Afternoon 4th April 2018

Autumn leaves and blue skies in Canberra during our current heatwave.

This week feels more like a month! I started it in Broulee on the New South Wales South Coast, spent most of it in the bizarre autumn heatwave that has hit Canberra, watched more than my share of the Commonwealth Games that started mid-week, and now it’s Ukrainian Easter!

I have a number of review books – and a few books I bought for myself – that I thought I’d be finished and have reviewed by now, but I’m really behind. What might have been a relaxing beach holiday with my family turned into lots of kilometres-long walks along coasts and around rocky headlands, visits to lots of Victorian towns, visits to beaches I went to as a kid in the 1980s, and lunches and dinners out at both pubs and fancy restaurants! I walked along a lot of beaches, but never even sat on the sand once!

Today is A Big Day for Ukrainians. The Easter basket and the traditional foods have more significance than Christmas, and if you are in Ukraine around this time of year (as I’ve been a few times), people will continue to wish you “Христос воскрес!” – (Khrystos Voskres! – “Christ is Risen!” – “Happy Easter”) for many weeks after the holiday is over.

Easter Long Weekend

North Broulee Beach New South Wales South Coast Australia Sonya Heaney 31st March 2018 Coast

New (Old!) Books

London as it Might have Been by Felix Barker and Ralph Hyde

Release Day for Anne Gracie

Marry in Scandal (Convenient Marriage series #2) by Anne Gracie

Does a Fiction Author Need a Blog?

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Good Friday – again!

Velykden Old Ukrainian Eastere Postcard Oleg Kovalenko, Lviv, Ukraine (1990-1995)