Don’t come any closer
Don’t come any nearer
My vision of you
Can’t come any clearer
Oh I just want to hear girls talk
Svitova Slava totters on her high heels in Taras Shevchenko park and tumbles in a beautifully executed pratfall. Myroslava Koshka bites into an apple nearby, while Maryna Bratko jogs towards them. They all flock round a bench with Violina Sytnik and Olenka Nekrasova laughing and passing a bright yellow book round. The ladies were shooting a promo clip for their book “Balachky pro Vse na Sviti” (“Gossip About Everything on Earth”).
The bright yellow collection of uplifting stories (beautifully illustrated by Olena Havryshchuk) seems almost out of place in Ukraine, like a daffodil growing on a Donbas slagheap. The country has been invaded by Russia whose forces operate under the guise of a separatist insurgency in Donbas. The Crimean Peninsula was annexed by Putin and even now Russian troops are massing as if for a wider assault. Yet, as you watch the clip and the women wave and yell “hello” the war seems remote and unreal… these five women are waving at an English speaking world for which Ukraine still seems remote and alien. Some people in the EU and US believe in the fictional alternative reality of rampant Ukrainian Nazis crucifying babies. The country is suffering one of the worst refugee crises globally. How can these five women help?
[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]The twenty-five tales are written in prose as light and airy as a meringue… every one of them has a happy ending.[/quote]Balachky pro Vse na Sviti was published in 2014 and hovers on the borderline between young adult and children’s fiction. The stories help you “to see life in colour” according to reviewer Khrystia Venhryniuk and “answer every question that might trouble a girl.” The twenty-five tales are written in prose as light and airy as a meringue… every one of them has a happy ending. Anyone would enjoy these tales which speak not only to women but of small moments of happiness. They reflect the spirit of this book which is an unusual collaboration between five friends.
The first story “about an Umbrella, homeless Vasia, and happiness” is simply about a lost (and found) umbrella. But it’s also about the little surprises in life that make us happy.[quote]The umbrella saw for the first time a small swollen, weeping cloud in a blue sky flooded with sun. She felt for the first time the big warm drops of spring rain and saw green apples with pink blossom and the barely noticeable arc of a rainbow in the sky. She sensed for the first time the wind and the fragrance of wet asphalt.[/quote]
The stories are all simply but beautifully told. In one of the tales by Olenka Nekrasova, a girl flies to London clutching a cake on her eighteenth birthday. The story is simply about being on the threshold of adulthood and a wider world and the chance kindness of strangers.
In another story, a woman is dispatched by her boss to buy a white rat which she ends up befriending. It’s impossible to read this book and not smile. As Violina Sytnik says, “our book was written during extremely difficult times but does not contain a single word about them.”
We are hoping to translate this book because it allows the west European reader to peer through a crack in the wall of misinformation about Ukraine.
Ukrainians laid down their lives for the right to be European. They barricaded their capital city with burning tyres and ran towards gunfire while carrying only wooden shields. They only wanted one thing, to be able to have a normal life. This book cuts through all the propaganda and news footage… Yes, Ukraine is being invaded, but its people mostly try to live their lives like those of other Europeans… they relax with a cappuccino, trip up while they are running for the train, they can’t find their socks in the morning… They do all this while wearing a smile on their faces… this book was meant to make them smile.
But it could potentially bring a smile to the faces of people lounging in cafes in Berlin, London, and Paris. And just possibly help them understand that the people catching the tram to work in Kyiv or returning fire against Russia’s invading army in Donbas are no different to them.
Please help Kalyna Language Press translate these stories into English by supporting our Kickstarter before 16 September. And help make the world a slightly happier place!
Read about our previous project: Ukraine’s Executed Renaissance and a kickstarter for one of its modern successors