Honor and Identity

When I set out to write The Silence of Trees, I wanted to honor my grandmothers, my ancestors, and my family. I wanted to honor my community and the Ukrainian culture that helped to shape me.

But what is honor? What does it mean to honor? Are these ideas of honor still relevant in modern America?

The definition of honor is tied up with ideas of reverence, respect, and integrity. Most explanations of honor involve the way that someone relates to another person or group. Honor isn’t really about the self, it’s about how we behave toward others, how we consider and treat other people.

Ukrainian Americans of my generation grew up very much aware of their ethnic roots. At that time, Ukraine was not an independent nation, and many of us were raised with the idea that we had to keep the Ukrainian culture alive—we had a responsibility to speak Ukrainian, to carry on the traditions, to dance the dances, and to sing the songs.

There was a sense of urgency in our parents’ and grandparents’ expectations. Those who came over after WWII had lived through efforts to wipe out the Ukrainian language, culture, and history. Many had witnessed Ukrainian artists, writers, and intellectuals rounded up and taken away during Stalin’s purges and WWII. These immigrants, the Displaced Persons, saw themselves as preserving a national treasure – their Ukrainian identity, their history, and their future.

One of the major themes that comes up again and again in my novel, The Silence of Trees, is the juxtaposition of Old World traditions and New World expectations. The old and new often clash. This is not unique to Ukrainian immigrants in America. But how do we find balance? How do we reconcile both parts of our selves?

Published by Valya

Valya Dudycz Lupescu has been making magic with food and words for more than 20 years, incorporating folklore from her Ukrainian heritage with practices that honor the Earth. She’s a writer, content developer, instructor, and mother of three teenagers. Valya is the author of THE SILENCE OF TREES and the founding editor of CONCLAVE: A Journal of Character. Along with Stephen H. Segal, she is the co-author of FORKING GOOD: An Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of The Good Place and GEEK PARENTING: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent, and the McFlys Teach Us about Raising a Family (Quirk Books), and co-founder of the Wyrd Words storytelling laboratory. Valya earned her MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her poetry and prose have been published in anthologies and magazines that include, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, Kenyon Review, Culture, Gargoyle Magazine, Gone Lawn, Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium. You can find her on Twitter @valya.

3 thoughts on “Honor and Identity”

  1. Maryana Drach says:

    Dear Valya, how can I contact you? I am a journalist with the Ukrainian Service of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe and would like to speak with you about your book.

  2. olya says:

    Dear Valya,

    Has your book “Silence of Trees” been published? I find the story fascinating and can`t wait to read the entire book. My parents were friends with your Dudycz grandparents, in fact, I believe they were in Germany at one of the camps together. (Both my parents are now deceased). I went to school with your Uncle Bohdan and knew your Aunt Maria. I believe my daughter may have danced with you and your sister at Cym in the 80`s.

    Presently, I am in Canada with a sick relative. When I return home, I will contact your Baba, perhaps she can share some stories of the DP camp.

    Looking forward to hearing from you. Best regards to all your family.


  3. Valya says:

    Hello Olya,

    I’m sorry for taking so long to respond. I hope that your relative is better now.

    Thank you for your kind words. Who is your daughter? I wonder if I also danced with her.

    As far as the novel, my agent is in the process of shopping it around to publishers. I will certainly update the site with purchase information once it’s available.
    Hope to hear from you again.


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