I'm so excited to finally join in on a book tour, and Souvenirs From Kyiv by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger seems like a very timely book to start with. I'm always a fan of World War 2 novels, both fiction and non-fiction, and the Ukraine is currently another of my reading interests. (Fun fact: one of my favorite classes in undergrad was on the politics of Russia and the former Soviet Republics, taught by a professor native to one of the Baltic countries.)
About Souvenirs from Kyiv:
‘Russia has been trying to wipe Ukraine off the world map for thousands of years. They haven’t succeeded yet. Now, I’m picking up my stone and throwing it at Goliath. I want people to understand. I want to save this country.’ Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger, March 2022
Larissa is a renowned embroiderer, surviving in occupied Ukraine during World War II as a seamstress in her ruin of a workshop. Surrounded by enemies, she expresses her defiance by threading history into her garments. But at what cost?
Mykhailo is a soldier on leave, returning to Ukraine from the front on Christmas Eve. As he travels through his country, he is confronted by the hardship the war has brought to his fellow countrymen. Will what he sees this Christmas change the course of his life forever?
Marusia and her family are woken early one morning by the arrival of the Nazis, who have come to search for her partisan brother. As the soldiers move through their house, her family has just moments to make choices that will determine their survival.
Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger’s stories bring to life the true history of her Ukrainian family who fought to survive World War II. Laced with hope, Souvenirs from Kyiv celebrates the endurance and resilience of the human spirit.
I deeply enjoyed the separate short stories within the book. While the author noted that these stories were from her family, each story reads mostly independently from the others. It was quite easy to stop at the end of each one to process what I had just read.
One of the most interesting facets of the book is the dilemma the Ukrainians face. With the Nazis on one side and the Russians on the other, there is no good scenario for the Ukraine. Regardless of who they align with, the future looks to be difficult under the Nazis or the Soviets, and the Western allies are not expected to be a part of the future. The Ukrainians were (and still are) fighting for self determination in the face of a larger and more powerful enemy, and their spirit comes through in these stories.