The Taras Shevchenko Prize of the Ukrainian S.S.R. was awarded to the first two authors in this collection; little is known of the life of the third author, however, reading her works leaves little doubt about the excellence of her writing abilities. Input by three authors (Anatoliy Dimarov, Yevhen Hutsalo, and Olena Zvychayna) gives perspectives on the Holodomor that are insightful; their stories are poignant and personal--and, the impressions left will linger and last longer than the time spent in reading them. Each of the three authors is introduced by way of a Biographical Note. A one-page Glossary defines certain words within the text; Ukrainian words used in the story are anglicized by the "s" ending. A Hunger Most Cruel (The Human Face of the 1932-33 Terror-Famine in Soviet Ukraine) is Ukrainian Short Fiction in English published by Language Lanterns Publications (winner of the first annual Vesna Festival Arts Award).
As a brief background, the word Holodomor means in Ukrainian murder by starvation. In fact, the second story in this collection by Yevhen Hutsalo is entitled Holodomor: Murder by Starvation. All six of the stories in A Hunger Most Cruel are historical fiction based on true events, which really happened and which are recorded and documented in the annals of history. Following this review is a brief description of Holodomor. For much more detailed, accurate information, please visit the Encyclopedia of Ukraine.
Born in Myrhorod (Poltava region), Ukraine in 1922, Dimarov lived during the years of the horrendous Holodomor that starved millions. During the ravaging Terror-Famine, Dimarov's father, Andronyk Harasyuta, was denounced as a kurkul (a well-to-do peasant/farmer [Russian: kulak]), and his sons from his first marriage fled to avoid persecution. "To protect his second family, he persuaded his young wife--the daughter of a priest--to leave him, take a teaching position in a distant village, and raise their two sons under her maiden name, Dimarov."
Dimarov has worked as a journalist and has taken correspondence courses from the Institute of Literature in Moscow. His first book was published in 1949, the same year that he was accepted into the Writers' Union of the Ukrainian S.S.R. Since that time, his publications have included collections of short stories, narratives based on autobiographical material, a number of novels, and a two-volume autobiography. Additionally, his works have appeared regularly in literary newspapers, anthologies, and journals. The Taras Shevchenko Prize of the Ukrainian S.S.R. was awarded in 1981 to Anatoliy Dimarov (the first author featured in A Hunger Most Cruel)--at the time, he was one of the foremost prose writers of his era. Dimarov's short story, The Thirties, spans 80 pages in this collection, and was written in Kyiv in 1966.
The second author featured, Yevhen Hutsalo, was born in Staryi Zhyvotiv (today Novozhyvotiv) in the district of Vinnytsya (Vinnytsia oblast) in 1937 into a family of a village schoolteacher. Although he, himself, was born just four years after the 1932-1933 Terror-Famine, his parents lived through the Holodomor. Hutsalo, a popular and prolific Ukrainian journalist and writer started his career in writing in the 1960s as one of the shistdesiatnyky ("the Sixtiers")--as the Encyclopedia of Ukraine tells, they were: "the postwar generation of writers and cultural activists who rejected Stalinist methods and ideology and pushed for cultural and political liberalization. His works are noted for their detail, lyrical descriptions of nature, psychological portraits, and abundant use of the rural vernacular." To see his photo, visit the website of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Hutsalo's "faith in the basic goodness of human nature is subtly exemplified in his story in A Hunger Most Cruel called Holodomor: Murder by Starvation." Hutsalo's short story spans 114 pages, and is the longest selection in this collection.
Yevhen Hutsalo "was awarded several of Ukraine's top literary prizes, including the Taras Shevchenko Prize in 1985. His works have been translated into most of the languages of the former Soviet Union, as well as into many Western European languages." In 1995, he died, having authored over thirty collections of novellas and short stories.
The six short stories in A Hunger Most Cruel take place in the former Ukrainian S.S.R.
Although known as the "Harriet Beecher-Stowe" of Ukrainian literature, little is known of the life of the third author of A Hunger Most Cruel, Olena Zvychayna, who was born in the early 1900s and died in 1985. She was an émigré author born in Ukraine into a well-educated family (father an attorney, mother a teacher). Zvychayna graduated from a high school in Kharkiv with a gold medal, and continued her studies at an institution of higher learning. She vowed not to publish any of her works as long as she was subject to Soviet censorship. Her resolve was further increased by her marriage to a man who actively was involved in a movement to free Ukraine and who was incarcerated several times as an "enemy of the people." Zvychayna, herself, was interned in a Nazi labor camp in Austria.
In the late 1940s, she settled in the United Sates and began publishing her works, which describe life in Ukraine under Nazi occupation and under Soviet oppression, and also the experiences of people displace d by war. "In an autobiographical novel written in collaboration with her husband (pen name: Mykhaylo Mlakovy) she describes the fate of the unfortunate millions accused of being 'enemies of the people' by the NKVD. Her short fiction about the Terror-Famine of the early 1930s during the period of forced collectivization in Ukraine draws vivid contrasts between the horrific suffering of the starving peasants and the privileged lifestyles of those who enforced the decrees of the Soviet state."
Few of Zvychayna's writings have been translated into English, which is, indeed, a loss to world literature--for her writings are full of imagery, her stories are enthralling. In A Hunger Most Cruel, Zvychayna's short stories number four. The first, The Market at Myrhorod was written in 1953 "on the basis of factual material, and the names and surnames of the characters in the story have been deliberately maintained. One of the sons of the late Mr. M. S. Samodyn lives in the United States. This work is dedicated to the millions of Ukrainians who were the victims of the artificial famine inflicted on Ukraine by Moscow in 1932-33."
Published by Language Lanterns Publications, this Ukrainian Short Fiction in English is very carefully translated by Dr. Roma Franko, former Head of the Department of Slavic Studies and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan.
On September 19, 2011, Professor Franko received the Prime of Life Achievement Award from the University of Saskatchewan Retirees Association. "Roma Franko (appointment, 1968, Department of Slavic Studies, College of Arts and Science; retirement, 1996). Professor Franko was head of the Department of Slavic Studies and of its successor, the Department of Modern Languages. Her fine teaching was awarded, and she developed and published a number of innovative language teaching materials. In 1996, she and her sister, the late Professor Sonia Morris, took early retirement to found Language Lanterns Publications, publishing works of Ukrainian literature in English. Roma did the translations, and Sonia was the editor. To date, twenty volumes have been published. Professor Franko received the Shevchenko Medal from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in 1998, and the Nation Builders Award from the Saskatchewan Provincial Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in 1999, and (jointly with Professor Morris) the inaugural award of the George S. N. Luckyj Ukrainian Literature Translation Prize from the Canadian Foundation for Ukrainian Studies in 2009."
A Hunger Most Cruel is edited very aptly by Sonia Morris, former Assistant Dean of the College of Education, and former Head of the Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education, University of Saskatchewan.
The design and concept of A Hunger Most Cruel is by Dr. Roma Franko and Sonia Morris. Paul Cipywnyk provided editorial assistance; Mike Kaweski provided cover production and technical assistance.
Very definitely five stars, plus, this volume of A Hunger Most Cruel, a historical fiction based on a true chapter from Ukraine's horrendous past, is sure to provide hours of enthralling, educational, informative reading while, in the process, depicting life in Ukraine, in general, and life experienced by the innocent victims of Stalin's Holodomor, in particular. A Hunger Most Cruel belongs on library shelves worldwide--both personal and public.
Readers of the excellent Women's Voices in Ukrainian Literature Series, which is also published by Language Lanterns Publications, translated by Roma Franko, Ph.D., edited by Sonia Morris, and provided editorial assistance by Paul Cipywnyk, will be saddened to learn that Sonia Morris (sister of Dr. Roma Franko and mother of Paul Cipywnyk) passed away in April, 2007. She was a community leader, teacher, promoter of multiculturalism, and supporter of educational and charitable causes. Her obituary is listed on the Language Lanterns website. I enjoyed the books which she edited immensely; may she rest in peace!
Some notes regarding Holodomor: E News Channels wrote recently informing readers that Holodomor, which took place between 1932-33 during Stalin's brutal reign against the Ukrainian populace, was genocide by famine--murder by starvation. Its aim was to bring about Sovietization of the Ukrainian people and forced collectivization of Ukraine's farms. Read more ›