One Summer Day in Our Ukrainian Village

Russian rockets struck our village the other day. It was a beautiful early summer day in June and people were outside working in their gardens. Our village in the Poltava region of central Ukraine has been unscathed so far. The rocket sounded like an airplane, and by the time everyone released what it really was, it was too late. The sound deepened, shrill and terrifying. Then came the blast.

The house that we always called “the house beyond the river” was hit and our neighbor who lived there was killed. She didn’t have time to escape before the roof collapsed on her. Her family was weeding the garden, while she was cooking. She was in her forties and was working as a nurse in our small clinic.

My grandmother’s house was not touched, but the windows cracked because of the force of the blast. My cousin is safe.

Many of you know my story and have visited my family’s home via my book The Rooster House, and I received messages daily asking about my relatives and the village. I wanted to share this tragedy with you to bring the realities of the war closer. I don’t want to make you sad, but I don’t wish for another person to end up as an impersonal statistic. We mourn our neighbor as we mourn many other people who lost their lives in this senseless violence. Ukraine is not the only place in the world torn apart by war, but it’s my country and my land. Its colors and impressions influence me and Bois de Jasmin owes its existence to the homesickness I felt as a student in a small American university town.

If you would like to help, my main recommendation is to learn about Ukrainian culture. It’s even more essential than ever before. From the beginning of the war, Russia has been targeting Ukrainian cultural institutions, museums and publishing houses. Our region of Poltava is far from any military targets, but it’s the cultural heart of Ukraine and its spiritual abode. Poltava’s dialect gave shape to the modern Ukrainian language. Its traditional dress and arts have a quintessential Ukrainian quality about them. The historical legacy of the first Ukrainian state lies in Poltava.

Recently, Russia destroyed the largest publishing center in Ukraine, in the region of Kharkiv, east of Poltava. Its repeated attacks on Ukrainian cultural institutions reveal that this war is about the destruction of Ukrainian identity and spirit, more so than simple territorial gains. Otherwise, targeting Poltava makes no strategic sense whatsoever.

You can look through my Ukraine archives to find articles about my family, our village and Ukrainian culture, from food to fashion. I will share more in the weeks to come. Here is a small selection of topics:

I will be donating part of the proceeds from my classes to help my community in Ukraine, so please join me for a workshop of your choice. If you prefer to donate the equivalent amount to a charity organization working in Ukraine, you’re also welcome to participate in any of my classes (please send me a receipt and you will receive the joining instructions.)

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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55 Comments

  • Amin: I am so sorry, Victoria. I’m sending you much strength. I pray for the safety of your loved ones. 💛💙 June 10, 2024 at 8:12am Reply

    • rachel: God bless you and your family Victoria. I am so sad for your neighbors family haw tragic. What a loss for what!??? June 10, 2024 at 7:06pm Reply

      • Victoria: It’s sad on so many levels. June 13, 2024 at 8:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. June 13, 2024 at 8:07am Reply

  • Silke: Dear Victoria,
    oh dear! What can I say? Your beloved village, your childhood paradise, was affected, too by this -yes!- senseless destructive violence. I am so sorry!
    I am teacher for german language for migrants, so I meet everyday nice ucrainian people.
    I send you a hug and wish you strength!
    Greetings June 10, 2024 at 9:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for your kind words. June 13, 2024 at 8:09am Reply

  • Julie Ann Basile: Father God we pray to you for the healing of grief and dissipation of sadness for beautiful Ukraine and its beauty and people. Wrap them in the knowledge of your safe haven and love. ❤️ julie

    What wonderful articles here. I want to make something!!!! I love your fragrance articles so much for years. June 10, 2024 at 9:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Julie. June 13, 2024 at 9:40am Reply

  • Klaas: Oh Victoria, what sad news!! Thank you for posting…..as I’m slowly but surely numbed by the endless stream of images and reports of wars, genocides, disastrous elections and the likes, this story brings these huge topics back to an understandable and emotionally relatable perspective.

    I wish you strength, courage and tons of hope & inspiration. And keep up your good work. Write books, teach classes, share your stories. You’re one in a million!

    With love 💛💙 June 10, 2024 at 9:30am Reply

    • Tourmaline: I so agree, Klaas. Victoria really is one in a million. June 11, 2024 at 4:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Your support means a lot to me! June 13, 2024 at 9:40am Reply

  • Gabriela: I am so very sad to hear this. This is part of your story ant it must be devastating to see so much destruction and violence.
    I wish you strength and peace, when possible. Keep sharing beauty with us. June 10, 2024 at 9:37am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your kind words. June 13, 2024 at 9:41am Reply

  • Shiva-woman: I’m crying as my husband and I read through this update. I’m so very sorry for all that you and your family and people are going through. And yes, I’m going to say it: so much depends on who Americans elect in 2024. One man has already shown support for Ukraine. The other does not and will be Putin’s ally. I hope Americans vote to support the man who supports Ukraine. Europe depends on it as well. Thank you for sharing your beautiful prose, pictures, and rich cultural heritage. I’m trying to get as many people to read The Rooster House as possible. June 10, 2024 at 10:00am Reply

    • Amy: Hear, hear. The election of the next US president is crucial. There’s a reason why the architect of Ukraine’s misery is rooting for the former President. June 10, 2024 at 11:52am Reply

      • Victoria: I become depressed just thinking about it. June 13, 2024 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m giving you a big hug. We were all in shock when we heard the news. June 13, 2024 at 9:41am Reply

  • Jeanne: My heart is with you Victoria. I’m praying for your beautiful country. ❤️❤️ June 10, 2024 at 10:12am Reply

  • Hamamelis: I am so sorry to read this. Just visiting Poltava through the Rooster House and your many posts here make it feel as if I have been there, a sweet memory. Please keep sharing your Poltava and Ukrainian treasures, so we can look after them too. Good to read that part of the proceeds of your workshops go to your community. An extra reason to partake in one when I can! June 10, 2024 at 10:16am Reply

    • Victoria: I so wish you could visit it in person one day. June 13, 2024 at 9:44am Reply

  • Suzanne: I am so very sorry to hear this atrocious news. How horrific. Sending love. ❤️ June 10, 2024 at 10:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Sending love to you too. June 13, 2024 at 9:44am Reply

  • Rhinda: Love and prayers for you and yours Victoria. June 10, 2024 at 11:11am Reply

  • Amy: I’m so sorry. Absolutely horrrific. June 10, 2024 at 11:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your support, Amy. June 13, 2024 at 9:45am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Victoria, I am so sorry to hear this. I have been praying for the people of Ukraine ever since this horrible war started. June 10, 2024 at 11:55am Reply

  • Aurora: How heartbreaking for you that someone you knew was a casualty of this war, my heart goes out to her, you were absolutely right to share this sad news. Ukraine has been so often the theater of terrible suffering. I am so glad of your generous decision and apart from my deep enjoyment of the classes I took with you that something so positive comes out of it. June 10, 2024 at 12:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for everything. June 13, 2024 at 9:46am Reply

  • Donna: I appreciate so much your insightful, contextual sharing of such a tragic, unfair & heartbreaking event. My deep empathy for this loss and all the losses suffered there.

    In agreement with your perspective that this war’s agenda is an attempt to efface the heart of Ukrainian spirit & culture. This is what I’ve seen since the beginning. June 10, 2024 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: I will share more! June 13, 2024 at 9:46am Reply

      • Donna: Wonderful! June 13, 2024 at 10:03am Reply

  • Tamm: Victoria, I’m so very sorry to hear of this recent loss of life and home. Unthinkable tragedy . I pray for an end to this violence. Sending love and strength 🙏 June 10, 2024 at 4:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Tamm. June 13, 2024 at 9:46am Reply

  • Marianne: Your honest, spare and poetic words bring forth the beauty and now tragedy of war in Ukraine. This war touches us all. Its aim is to destroy the dignity of nature and beauty, to replace them with rampant egoic negativity. So deeply sorry, Victoria. June 10, 2024 at 7:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. June 13, 2024 at 9:46am Reply

      • Marianne: Thank you Victoria. On re-reading, I’ll clarify that there is no beauty in war. My intention was to communicate ‘bring forth the beauty, and now the tragedy due to war, in Ukraine’. You’ve opened my eyes and heart. The photo of you under the blossom tree is filled with such joy, intelligence and sensitive awareness. I feel privileged to have been part of your Bois de Jasmin community and am glad to return after a time away. June 13, 2024 at 11:07pm Reply

  • Ruth Janszen: When a man has power and wealth he pays humans to slaughter humans. Let that same man kill and maime his own blood first. So sorry for your trauma and the senseless slaughtering of people. No human should have to deal with this meditated murder. We stand with you now and forever! June 10, 2024 at 8:22pm Reply

  • Tourmaline: Dear Victoria,

    I am sorry for the loss of your neighbour and for the senseless destruction. It makes me so very sad to hear of the deliberate targeting of cultural institutions by Russia.

    I have some bad news of my own, although nothing of the scope of your predicament. I have just been diagnosed with cancer in my other breast, and will have a lumpectomy followed by a course of radiation. As my dear surgeon said when she saw me again, “This is very disappointing!” At least I know what to expect, having done it all before. On the positive side, I always enjoy chatting with the doctors and nurses, and just prior to being put under, I like to ask the anaesthetist when and how she (they’ve all been women so far) decided that anaesthetics was for her. There’s also the hospital food, which I enjoy very much.

    I hope that you can maintain optimism in these dark times for your beloved country. I’m thinking of you.

    With kind regards,
    Tourmaline June 11, 2024 at 4:14am Reply

    • shelly: Tourmaline, how difficult for you to face this again. Wishing you strength and positivity. I thought that you were going to ask the medical team about their favourite fragrances!
      Positivity is an antidote to the world situation and your personal challenges. I marvelled at the beauty of the peonies in my bathroom this morning-what can you focus on that ids beautiful? June 11, 2024 at 8:18am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Hi Shelly,

        Thank you for your good wishes.

        Actually, last time I remember asking one of the nurses about her fragrance and writing the name down in my little handbag notebook. I can’t remember the name right now, but it was a scented oil. I would enjoy taking your tip and asking everyone about their favourite fragrance!

        I agree that thinking positively is the only way to proceed with anything. I’m confident that I’ll get through it again, and I count myself fortunate that I don’t require anything more than a lumpectomy and some other treatment. I love looking at the flowers that are growing in my late father’s garden. Also, at the moment, I am so busy going through Dad’s things and moving some of them and my own things back to my unit that I have plenty to keep my mind off the surgery, which is not for four weeks. (I stayed in Dad’s house to look after his cat when Dad went into hospital early last year, but then Iggy had to be euthanized in December and I grieved for him and dawdled in relation to moving back home, whilst having chemotherapy, which finished a couple of months ago.) I love many things, including film. At the moment, I’m watching one of my favourite films on TV – “The Dish”, about the role of the Parkes satellite dish in broadcasting the 1969 moon walk.

        Thanks again.

        With kind regards,
        Tourmaline June 11, 2024 at 9:38am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m sorry to hear this, dear Judith. I’m sending you lots of good thoughts and wishing the fastest of recoveries. Please take care of yourself. I agree with Shelly, finding something beautiful to enjoy, even for a brief moment is very important. June 13, 2024 at 8:07am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Dear Victoria,

        Thank you for your kind thoughts; your support means a lot to me. I always bring perfume to hospital – usually my old favourite default, the original Oscar. I’m never without fragrance! I’m fortunate that I enjoy all the small pleasures of being in hospital – talking with all the staff, taking the opportunity to look at all the apparatus, the food (which here is great, despite the bad reputation that hospital food often has), photographing everything and sending updates to family and friends. Once, I even got a nurse to take a photo of me when I was preparing for an MRI!

        Thanks again.

        With kind regards,
        Judith June 13, 2024 at 8:37am Reply

    • Marianne: Hello Tourmaline, it’s lovely to be in contact with you again. I’m sorry to read of your health difficulties, while at the same time smile at your strength and good humour. No doubt you’re a beacon of good cheer and fab insights when in hospital! Your brilliant insights and wide reaching knowledge would be looked forward to. You can’t help but use scent and beauty towards bringing joy to those around you. All the very best dear Tourmaline xxx June 13, 2024 at 11:12pm Reply

      • Tourmaline: Dear Marianne,

        Thank you for your lovely reply. I do try to be cheerful, and your comment leads me to think that you must have enjoyed and remembered some of my previous musings on fragrance, which makes me very happy! Thank you so much for your good wishes.

        With kind regards,
        Tourmaline June 13, 2024 at 11:59pm Reply

  • Shelly Rubinstein: Dear Victoria,
    this is terrible news and I am so sorry to hear about it. I will try the recipes and have Ukraine in mind while I am making them. Sending hugs to you. June 11, 2024 at 8:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Shelly. June 13, 2024 at 9:47am Reply

  • Bregje: ❤️ June 11, 2024 at 6:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. June 13, 2024 at 9:47am Reply

      • Maria Perry: Dear Victoria,

        What terrible news and I am so so sorry for your neighbor. It is devastating to hear about the war in Ukraine, but so important to have recounts such as yours that bring us closer to reality, instead of numbing us like the news.
        Praying for you and your people!
        Sending peace and strength from linden blossom filled Berlin,

        Maria Perry June 14, 2024 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Kim: Dear Victoria, I am so deeply saddened to read about the tragedy that struck your village. Distance is what makes the situation worse as it is times like these when you merely want to be there. Because of your novel your village feels like family. Wishing you inner peace and strength. Warm regards, Kim June 14, 2024 at 3:45pm Reply

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Latest Comments

  • Kim in One Summer Day in Our Ukrainian Village: Dear Victoria, I am so deeply saddened to read about the tragedy that struck your village. Distance is what makes the situation worse as it is times like these when… June 14, 2024 at 3:45pm

  • Maria Perry in One Summer Day in Our Ukrainian Village: Dear Victoria, What terrible news and I am so so sorry for your neighbor. It is devastating to hear about the war in Ukraine, but so important to have recounts… June 14, 2024 at 12:11pm

  • Victoria in What is a Rushnyk?: Thank you very much. You can try looking for a rushnyk on Etsy. A number of Ukrainian artisans have shops there. June 14, 2024 at 11:59am

  • Victoria in What is a Rushnyk?: It was such a lovely museum. A volunteer effort. June 14, 2024 at 11:58am

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