my ukraine: 9 posts

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.

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The Art of Ukrainian Bead Necklaces

Yesterday, Ukrainians celebrated Vyshyvanka Day, the day of the national embroidered shirt. This traditional garment has so much significance as an embodiment of quintessentially Ukrainian art and sense of beauty that its celebration is a day that many anticipate with pleasure. This week Ukraine’s eastern region of Kharkiv was heavily shelled by Russia, but whenever it was safe, people still came out into the streets wearing vyshyvanka. Certainly, vyshyvanka can be worn anytime and I have many pieces that range from exquisitely embroidered blouses to simple white shirts with subtle decoration.

A popular companion to vyshyvanka is a necklace. Ukrainian traditional jewelry is quite elaborate and there are many types of necklaces made of different materials–stones, coral, amber, ribbons, wood, glass. Some of my favorite traditional necklaces are of the beaded style. Gerdan is a wider, longer necklace that looks like a pendant. Kryza is even larger and it  falls like a collar around the neck (that’s the style you can see in the title photo.) Silyanka is a narrow, choker-style necklace.

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The Rooster House : Best Books of 2023 Lists

I’m immensely grateful to all of you for your support and kind words about my book The Rooster House. I’ve received many warm letters and emails from my readers around the world. As the book appeared in different languages (17 so far), I traveled and met many of you in person. This year has been heartbreaking in so many respects and there are many days when my faith in humanity falters, but whenever I read your comments and notes, I feel an instant boost. The sense of community that I feel with my readers is a precious gift.

Another wonderful honor is that The Rooster House was selected among Best Books of 2023 by Kirkus Reviews, Express, Waterstones. This recognition is important to me personally and a Ukrainian-American author. Ukraine is the place where I was born. It shaped me as an individual and it continues to inspire me. While its situation remains tragic, I will continue to live with pain and anxiety, but I also know from the experience I recount in my book that we must look for sources of resilience within us.

My 2024 projects continue to revolve around Ukraine, participating in various fundraising and community projects, but I’m also devoting more time to scents and olfaction. Since fall 2023, I have been teaching at ISIPCA. I have also resumed my online perfume classes and seminars. It feels wonderful to immerse myself into the world of aromas, the universe that I still find as captivating as I did almost two decades ago when I first started Bois de Jasmin.

Finally, I’m grateful to the reviewers and literary critics for their praise for The Rooster House. Some of their words are below.

  • Charlie Connelly, The New European For my non-fiction pick of 2023, however, I’m plumping for The Rooster House by Victoria Belim (Virago, £20). “Mourning a place is even more difficult than mourning a person,” Belim writes in a deeply affecting memoir of her Ukrainian family that absolutely knocked me head over heels with both its narrative, and luminous prose.
  • Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk The Rooster House is so many things at once, and all of them pull at my heart. The book is a seriously beautiful evocation of an imperilled nation and an account of a personal quest to retrieve the memories and secrets that families and states maintain. It’s a careful meditation on exile, on return and belonging, and what it means to be. And most of all it’s a paean to hope and home, written with such gentleness and deep adherence to emotional truth that to me its words become a fierceness to cast against harm, hardship and hurt. I loved it and it will haunt me for a long time.
  • Bookseller, Caroline Sanderson A Wild Swans for Ukraine … an enthralling, multilayered family story, told across four generations. Rich and magnificent. A marvel
  • Times Literary Supplement Ethereal and transporting … Ukraine comes alive through a tapestry of multisensory descriptions. Barbed by pain, this is a book as poignant as it is timely … it reflects the indestructible strength of the Ukrainian people, who so fiercely hold on to hope
  • New European A beautifully written evocation of the Ukrainian people through the prism of four generations of one family, but it is also a celebration of Ukrainian women… evokes a Ukraine beyond the rubble-strewn images we see on the television news… a truly redemptive book, strangely joyful even, one that makes the tragedy of the Russian invasion personal

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Berlin, Munich and Leipzig Recommendations

I already shared that I will be visiting Germany to speak about Ukraine and my book The Rooster House. I also would like to ask you for your recommendations on what to visit and see in Berlin, Munich and Leipzig. I’ve been to Berlin and Leipzig before, but this will be my first trip to Munich.

Below is my program for these three cities. After I return from Germany, I will be going to Tallinn and Copenhagen for the book events. I will share more details closer to the date.

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The Rooster House is BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week

My book The Rooster House was selected as “Book of the Week” by BBC Radio 4. In anticipation, my book is featured twice in their latest issue – in their ‘On Our Bookshelf’ section and also in their weekly highlights section. I’m thrilled that my work is recognized this way, and I’m beyond delighted to be on the same page as Hercule Poirot.

Starting today, you can listen to The Rooster House being read by the British-Ukrainian actress Vera Graziadie via https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001p6rk. A new chapter will be aired each day this week. Vera’s reading is masterful and it’s going to be a treat. I hope that you will enjoy it.

You can find the list upcoming broadcasts via BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001p6rk/broadcasts/upcoming

Latest Comments

  • Hamamelis in Recommend Me a Perfume: July 2024: Hi Laura, what about Andy Tauer’s L’air des Alpes Suisses? A real mountain scent, but it may lean masculine though. Another outdoorsy fragrance could be Parfum d’Empire Mal-aime, a unique… July 25, 2024 at 5:43am

  • Aire in Recommend Me a Perfume: July 2024: Sisley Eau de Campagne might be nice. July 24, 2024 at 7:49pm

  • Aurora in Recommend Me a Perfume: July 2024: Hi Emi: two pine scents with sweetness: Annick Goutal Nuit étoilée, very outdoorsy and for a richer, more Christmassy pine, Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles. July 24, 2024 at 2:59pm

  • Laura in Recommend Me a Perfume: July 2024: Hi everyone, I am looking for a pergume for a mountain adventure like hiking, walking, etc in a mild climate in August. I would like a scent through which I… July 24, 2024 at 2:11pm

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