the rooster house: 15 posts

Celebrating Easter in Ukraine

It was a few days before Easter when I arrived in Ukraine in 2014 to stay with my grandmother, Valentina. Taking advantage of being together for the first time in years for this holiday, we prepared a large feast, colored eggs with onion peels and baked paska, a brioche-like Easter bread.  I became obsessed with photographing every part of our preparations, making my grandmother laugh. She didn’t understand what was interesting about recording everything. I didn’t understand it myself at the time, but I felt that I had to capture as many of my impressions as possible. Ukraine was going through a painful period as Russia had annexed Crimea and was also supporting various separatist movements in the eastern part of the country. We lived with the sounds of gunfire from the military training grounds nearby and with bitter news from the front.

Yet, as we celebrated Easter with its powerful message of renewal and rebirth, we felt hopeful. We planted vegetables and flowers in the garden. We whitewashed our cherry trees. We waited for the blossoms to burst.

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Pre-Order My Book in English

‘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.’ Helen Macdonald, the author of H is for Hawk

‘[A] poignant, gently unfolding . . . elegant family narrative of myriad characters traumatized by the deep-seated Russia-Ukrainian struggle. . . Throughout this powerful text, readers will encounter numerous satisfying layers.’ Kirkus Review

‘The familiar village symbol of a rooster on the roof hides a dark secret in Victora Belim’s marvellously vivid and often heartbreaking account of a personal quest, one that leads us deep into the complexities that lie behind news headlines while introducing us to an unforgettable group of characters. I read it in a single enthralled sitting.’ Miranda Seymour, author of I Used to Live Here Once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys

‘Wild Swans for Ukraine … rich and magnificent.’ Bookseller

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Meet Me at Passa Porta in Brussels: March 26

I look forward to the Passa Porta Festival that takes place in Brussels from Thursday, March 23rd to Sunday, March 26th. On Sunday, I will join the Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabuzhko for a conversation with Peter Vermeersch, writer and professor of political science. If you are in Brussels, I hope to meet you there.

SUN 26.03.2023 16:30 – 17:30 Ukraine Writes Back: Oksana Zabuzhko and Victoria Belim

For tickets and other details, please visit the Passa Porta Festival website.

For my other book news, please take a look at The Rooster House book page.

Hay Festival Wales 2023 : Meet Me on June 2

I’m delighted to share that I will be participating in Hay Festival Wales 2023. The program is now live at hayfestival.org/wales.

Friday 2 June 2023, 5.30pm
Event 298 Victoria Belim and Kevin Jared Hosein in conversation with Rosie Goldsmith
I recently read Hosein’s novel Hungry Ghosts and it moved and impressed me, so I look forward to our conversation.

I will also participate in Passa Porta Festival in Brussels on March 26th, when Oksana Zabuzhko and I will meet for a conversation. If you are in Brussels, I hope to meet you there. For my other book news, please take a look at The Rooster House book page.

In other news, I made the cover of The Bookseller magazine last month. I spoke with Caroline Sanderson about The Rooster House, Ukraine and yearning for home. Our interview is included in the issue.

“A Wild Swans for Ukraine is how I’ve come to think of The Rooster House: A Ukrainian Family Memoir by Victoria Belim. An enthralling richly-layered story told across four generations, it’s a major 2023 title for Virago, was one of the most talked-about books at London Book Fair 2022 and is set to be published in 16 languages. It powerfully illuminates the context of the current conflict in Ukraine but goes beyond it too in reflecting on culture and art, geography and language and how they influence the complexities of who we are.” Victoria Belim in conversation about her memoir, a history of her family’s past and a celebration of Ukrainian identity

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The Rooster House : My Ukrainian Family Story

It’s a pleasure to share with you that my memoir, The Rooster House, will be published in English on June 27th, 2023 by Abrams Press. The book tells my family history across four generations as I search for traces of my great-uncle who disappeared during the 1930s, and explore Ukraine’s complex relationship with its Soviet past. It’s also a story about family ties that survive conflicts and turmoil.

As the publication date nears, I will share more details. In the meantime, here is a publisher’s summary.

In 2014, the landmarks of Victoria Belim’s personal geography were plunged into tumult at the hands of Russia. Her hometown Kyiv was gripped by protests and violent suppression. Crimea, where she’d once been sent to school to avoid radiation from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, was invaded. Kharkiv, where her grandmother Valentina studied economics and fell in love; Donetsk, where her father once worked; and Mariupol, where she and her mother bought a cherry tree for Valentina’s garden all became battlegrounds.

A naturalized American citizen then living in Brussels, Belim felt she had to go back. She had to spend time with her aging grandmother and her cousin Dmytro. She had to unravel a family mystery spanning several generations. And she needed to understand how her country’s tragic history of communist revolution, civil war, famine, world war, totalitarianism, and fraught independence had changed the course of their lives.

The Rooster House is a beautifully written memoir of a family, a country’s past, and its dangerous present. It is about parents and children, true believers and victims, gardens and art, secrets and tragedy.

You can pre-order on Amazon or Bookshop.org.

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