Незлим тихим словом (A kind, quiet word)

Back in November, I was invited to participate in a reading of Ukrainian American writers at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago.

I’ll admit to being a bit nervous before the reading at UIMA. It was a new venue for me, and I was uncertain of the audience: Who would attend? How would the Ukrainians like my selection from The Silence of Trees?

Any anxiety was unfounded; the audience was gracious and enthusiastic. I even ran into a few people I hadn’t seen in years. I thoroughly enjoyed the readings by the other Ukrainian American writers: Anya Antonovych-Metcalf, Michael Beres, Ksenia Rychtycka, and George Wyhinny.

Ukrainian American Literary Voices Reading at UIMA. Here we are pictured with the two organizers (Anna Golash and Sonya Arko) on opposite sides of the group.
Three of us had been students (at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian School) of the artist Alexandra Kochman. Pictured: George Wyhinny, Alexandra Kochman, Valya Dudycz-Lupescu, and Anya Antonovych-Metcalf

Such diverse voices, genres, and themes in our writing, and yet there were familiar echoes . . . of sacrifice, displacement, hope. There were references to Chernobyl, to WWII and the DP camps. Ukrainian words peppered the prose: familiar names and places.

As I listened to the other readings, I found myself thinking about our little sampling. Was there something that connected our work as Ukrainian American writers? Something that set us apart from other ethnic American poets, dramatists, novelists, artists?

Clearly our worldview and voices have been shaped by certain defining historical events of the 20th century. Shared traditions and language influence our imagery and help to define our characters. But what does it mean to be a Ukrainian American writer/artist in this day and age?

I didn’t come up with answers, only more questions. But I think that for writers and artists, questions can be better. They encourage us to seek, to stretch, to challenge, to uncover, to make connections. Questions fuel us. They certainly motivate me.

I was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the event and happy for the time I had to chat with the other writers. I would have liked a few more hours to sit down with them around a large table, perhaps over coffee or tea, to talk about our inspiration and experiences. I look forward to the next time our paths cross, and I hope that it’s soon.

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.

2 thoughts on “Незлим тихим словом (A kind, quiet word)”

  1. Ania says:

    Dear Valya,

    I truly appreciate your comments about the evening. Be assured that Sonya and I were as apprehensive about the reception of the event as you were. We carried the burden of being the organizers, you and other readers viewed it from the author’s perspective. I am glad you found a common thread that connects all of the Ukrainian-American writers.

    I hope we are going to be in touch.
    Ania Bohoniuk-Golash, UIMA

  2. Ksenia Rychtycka says:

    Hi Valya,

    I greatly enjoyed reading your post because I pretty much experienced the same fears and feelings about the reading! It was such a thrill to hear those familiar themes in works that are so different and yet in many ways so similar to my own work. It was also my first time reading before a Ukrainian American audience and any feelings of trepidation were quickly replaced by this sense of a bond that we all share in one form or another. In a way it was like meeting someone who’d just grown up around the corner from you and discovering shared experiences yet from different perspectives.

    I loved listening to everyone’s work and hope that we all continue to keep in touch and share our writings. I am also so grateful to Anna and Sonya for organizing this event and for all the hard work involved in pulling it off!

    Do zustrychi,
    Ksenia

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