Book Club

Book Club reviews

Our highly successful Ivan Franko Book Club meets four (4) times a year. Through our readings, we have met unforgettable characters, shared incredible experiences, and have travelled extensively in time and space. New members are welcome!

Our next meeting will be on April 16, 2024 when we will discuss The Photograph by Kat Karpenko (see below for book review).

Our selections reflect a variety of genres: mystery, thriller, humorous and historical novels; memoirs; classic Ukrainian literature in translation; poetry, a play, and movies. Some of the books reduced us to puddles of laughter, while others brought upon a stillness born of empathy and reflection. We did not always agree with each other’s interpretations or evaluations of the books, but we certainly enjoyed the spirited discussions and learned a lot about what it means to be Ukrainian.

Our library is a warm and inviting place to spend some time perusing excellent historical, cultural and literary books and archival material. Members are invited to sign out books for a one-month period. Please phone ahead if you have a particular interest or request. Library hours are Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm.

For information about joining the Book Club or if you have any questions, particular interests, or requests, contact us at The Ukrainian Centre at 604-274-4119 or by email at

The Ivan Franko Book Club meets 4 times a year to discuss excellent books and view films on Ukrainian themes and topics. New members are welcome.

Fall/Winter 2023

In this historically accurate novel, the reader will see a family facing events on the ground level. When Stalin rose to power in 1928 some of these family members saw impending doom for Ukraine and left while others stayed. Inspired by a family photograph taken in 1928, this novel is about what happened to those who stayed and those who left. 

Summer 2023

Our current selection is Andrey Kurkov’s Diary of an Invasion: Eyewitness to Russia’s War on Ukraine, which we will discuss at our meeting in September (date and time TBD). 

This collection of Andrey Kurkov’s writings and broadcasts from Kyiv on Russia’s invasion is a remarkable record of a brilliant writer at the forefront of a twenty-first-century war. Kurkov describes the minute details of the war and how it has altered the lives of every Ukrainian. 

Andrey Kurkov has lived in Kyiv and in the remote countryside of Ukraine throughout the Russian invasion.  He has become an important voice for his people. Kurkov tries to see every video and every posted message, and he spends the sleepless nights of continuous bombardment of his city delivering the truth about this invasion to the world.

Several members of our book club were fortunate to attend a presentation by Andrey Kurkov at a recent Vancouver Writers Festival. His quiet demeanour, deep love for Ukraine and its people, his knowledge and understanding of Ukrainian history and its relationship with Russia, sprinkled with a satirical sense of humour held us spellbound. By his own admission, Kurkov is a “pathological optimist”. We left the presentation a little wiser and more confident that Ukraine will prevail! 

Our book club has enjoyed the following books written by Andrey Kurkov: Death and the Penguin, The Good Angel of Death, The Gardener of Ochakov The Milkman in the Night and Grey Bees. These and the following books written by Kurkov are in our library: Penguin Lost, The President’s Last Love, and Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kyiv

Spring 2023

Our Book Club selection for Spring 2023 was Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov — a captivating, heartwarming story about a gentle beekeeper caught up in Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

The story starts in Little Starhorodiv’ka, a village in Ukraine in the “grey area” near the Donbas area. There are only two people living in the village; everyone else has left. Meanwhile, the Russian troops and Ukraine forces are conducting endless sniping and shelling attacks on each other, over the heads of the two villagers. The protagonist, Sergey Sergeyich, doesn’t really have a particular loyalty to either side. He just wants to survive and take care of his honey bees. And he finally leaves the village to take his bees somewhere that he thinks they will get forage and avoid the upset of all the bombs and firearms.

Winter 2023

We are honoured to have Roxanne as a long-time member of our club and are always grateful for her special writer’s experience and insights during our meetings. Two of the three books she has co-authored; Orchards, Crossroads and Dreams and Olga: The O.K. Way to a Healthy, Happy Life provided stimulating content and elicited spirited discussions at our meetings.

Roxanne is passionate about helping people write their significant stories and leave a written legacy. She led a memoir writing workshop, “Helping to preserve your cherished memories” for club members and guests that has inspired several of us to begin writing our stories. 

We are very proud of Roxanne and happy that she has completed and published her first memoir, The Blue Riviera, A Daughter’s Investigation and enjoyed discussing it with her at our meeting in February 2023. 

The Blue Riviera—Roxanne Kurpita Davis

The author Roxanne Kurpita Davis writes: “Sally Tomiuk, my beautiful Ukrainian mother, died in her car in the wee hours of the morning on a lonely rail crossing, struck by an oncoming train. She was thirty-two. I was eight. Was it suicide? Was it murder? To this day her untimely death is shrouded in mystery. 

This is my journey of discovering my mother. The heroes and the villains in her life, the love and loss, the sex and immorality, the adultery and betrayal.

Beyond being a personal family memoir, The Blue Riviera is a thoughtful and courageous investigation and exposé of the rationale for behaviours encompassing the historical, societal, psychological and spiritual realities that shaped them.  For the reader, this is a page turner that reads to the last page with a sense of urgency.

Ukraine Spring – Standing Strong in 2022— Julie Emerson

A sketchbook of 44 gentle hand-painted watercolours by Vancouver artist and writer Julie Emerson. Each painting is accompanied by a handwritten paragraph about events in Ukraine from March to May 2022 with related historical and cultural information.  This is a unique  documentation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the courageous, inspirational response of the Ukrainian people. 

All proceeds from book sales will be donated to humanitarian non-military efforts in Ukraine. 

Fall 2021

At our September meeting, we enjoyed revisiting the amazing illustrations and captivating story of Springtime in Chernobyl by Emmanuel Lepage.

Our current read is Good Citizens Need Not Fear by Maria Reva.  A brilliant and bitingly funny collection of stories united around a single crumbling apartment building in Soviet-era Ukraine.

A bureaucratic glitch omits an entire building, along with its residents, from municipal records. Officially, 1933 Ivansk Street does not exist – and neither do its inhabitants. But as the apartment building’s occupants weather the official neglect of the state, they devise ingenious ways to survive. This forms the intertwined narratives –  nine stories that span the chaotic years leading up to and immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. 

This book has won several awards including a “Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year”. Among the rave reviews: “Bang-on brilliant.” –Miriam Toews; “Luminous” Yann Martel; “Outstanding.” –Anthony Doerr;  “Bright, funny, satirical and relevant. . . . A new talent to watch!” –Margaret Atwood. 

The author Maria Reva was born in Ukraine and grew up in Vancouver, B.C.  

Spring 2021

Our library will reopen later this year. In the meantime, for a captivating story and interesting connections, you are invited to revisit George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This is a brilliant satire published in 1945 on the corrupting influence of power and the history of a revolution that went wrong. It can be read free of charge at

The Ukrainian translation, Колгосп Тваринcan be found at

Ukrainian is one of the first of at least 70 languages, including Esperanto, into which Animal Farm has been translated. The story of this Ukrainian translation and the personal connections George Orwell had with its translator and the journalist who exposed the atrocities of the Holodomor is a fascinating one.

After WW2, about 200,000 Ukrainian refugees were interned in 125 Displaced Persons’ Camps in Germany under British and American administration. About 80 of these camps were fully or predominantly Ukrainian. It was for these Ukrainians that Ihor Szewczenko, a young – Polish-born Ukrainian linguist and academic living in Munich, wanted to translate Animal Farm. In1946 he received Orwell’s permission to translate the book into Ukrainian and a year later when the book was ready for publication, Orwell agreed to write a preface for it.

Orwell begins his preface with, “I have been asked to write a preface to the Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm.…I am aware that I write for readers about whom I know nothing, but also that they too have probably never had the slightest opportunity to know anything about me. …they will most likely expect me to say something of how Animal Farm originated but first I would like to say something about myself and the experiences by which I arrived at my political position.”

What follows is a fascinating story of Orwell’s life and the most detailed explanation of his motives for writing Animal Farm found in any of his prefaces.

The online book does not have this preface. However, it can be found at (George Orwell: Preface to the Ukrainian Edition of ‘Animal Farm: A Fairy Story’ ). An interesting side note is that this preface is actually a translation from Ukrainian as the original preface written by Orwell in English was lost.

Another connection to Animal Farm is the movie Mr. Jones.

Mr. Jones is a 2019 biographical thriller film. It was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival.

The film loosely tells the story of Gareth Jones, an ambitious young journalist who gained fame for being the first foreign journalist to interview Hitler. Intrigued by the Soviet “utopia”, Jones travels to Moscow, where he meets Ada Brooks, a British journalist, who reveals that the truth behind the regime is being violently repressed. Hearing murmurs of government-induced famine, kept secret by the Soviet censors, Jones travels clandestinely to Ukraine, where he witnesses Stalin’s atrocities of man-made starvation. Deported back to London, Jones publishes an article revealing his findings, quickly denied by Western journalist Walter Duranty. As death threats mount, Jones has to fight for the truth. Meeting a young George Orwell, he shares his findings… helping inspire the seminal novel  Animal Farm.

For information about our Library, Book, and Movie Clubs, contact Theresa at or call our Society at 604-274-4119 to leave a message.

Summer 2020

Scheduled events will not resume until further notice due to Covid-19.  In the meantime, are you ready to try a new recipe for holubsti that will knock everyone’s socks off?

I have just watched an amazing step-by-step video on the Ukrainian Institute’s YouTube Channel ( on how to make vegetarian holubtsi with beet and/or chard leaves and I can hardly wait to try making them myself. The author of Mamushka, Olia Hercules, gives this lesson from her summer kitchen while conversing with Peter Pomerantsev, a Soviet-born British journalist, author, and TV producer. Even if you are not inclined to actually make the holubtsi, the conversations about cooking in Ukraine are interesting, and watching her cook is a pleasant way to spend a relaxing hour. 

This video serves as an online book launch for Olia Hercules new book, Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine. It will be available in hardcover on July 14, 2020, from a variety of booksellers and later this summer from our Ivan Franko Library. 

What is a ‘summer kitchen’? In Ukraine, it means a small cooking space located in the vegetable garden, away from the main house. Calling on fond childhood memories and countless conversations and cooking sessions, Olia Hercules shows how you can truly make the most of summery ingredients to create new, inventive, and utterly delicious plates of food. Her recipes include burnt aubergine butter on tomato toast, sourdough garlic buns, and poppy seed cake with elderflower and strawberries – each bite more delicious than the last. 

As you cook your way through generous salads, mains, and sweet delights, you’ll discover a way of cooking that is both traditional and contemporary, because these techniques and flavour combinations have been handed down through generations, yet reworked for every home kitchen. 

Summer Kitchens also has a detailed chapter on fermentation, preserving, and pickling (an ancient practice in Ukraine) that will inspire beginners and frequent picklers alike. It’s a gorgeous way to discover sustainable, healthy, and delicious food for the summer and beyond.

Summer Kitchen Video Links

Summer Kitchens: book launch and online cooking lesson with Olia Hercules – YouTube from Ukrainian Institute’s Tweet.Ukrainian Institute (@Ukr_Institute)

NEW VIDEO on our YouTube channel!
Watch ⁦‪@Olia_Hercules⁩ tell the story behind her new book of recipes from #Ukraine – #SummerKitchens in conversation with ⁦‪@peterpomeranzev⁩.
🥘Plus a cooking demo with one of her amazing summer delicacies!
Watch & share

For information about Library, Book or Movie clubs, contact Theresa at or call our Society at 604 274-4119 to leave a message. 

Featured Books/Films and Library Acquisitions

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My Dead Parents by Anya Yurchyshyn, was named one of Esquire‘s “Best Nonfiction Books of 2018”

“My Dead Parents is a gripping, novelistic page-turner about a couple whose love collapsed into grief and pain, and the daughter who, while sorting through the mess they left behind, found something wholly unexpected. We all wish we could understand who our parents were before we existed, especially if their lives or deaths were shrouded in mystery. In this remarkable, unflinching work of art, Anya Yurchyshyn comes closer than anyone else ever has to achieving that impossible goal.”  
 — EMILY GOULD, author of Friendship

In Displaced, Irena Kowal mixes memoir and novel, historical facts and universal tragedy. This story gives us a vivid recounting of the deadly consequences that the Soviet totalitarian regime had in the lives of so many.  Irena Kowal tragically lost her brother Orest at an early age, but she gave him life in this book to whom it is dedicated.

If you are looking for a book with the components of a thriller, psychological drama, espionage – all with a subtle blend of realism, fantasy and humour –Displaced is for you.

Mamushka is not a typical cook book. It is a celebration of the food, flavours, and heritage of Eastern Europe—from the Black Sea to Baku, Kiev to Kazakhstan –Mamushka features over 100 recipes for fresh, delicious, and unexpected dishes from this dynamic yet under appreciated region.

The author Olia Hercules was born in Ukraine and lived in Cyprus for several years before moving to London and becoming a chef. In this gorgeous and deeply personal cookbook, she shares her favourite recipes from her home country with engaging and loving stories about her culinary upbringing and family traditions. The lifestyle photography is stunning!

The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled With Ivan Nikiforovich by Nikolai Gogol. (also know in English as The Squabble)

How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled With Ivan Nikiforovich is part of the 2 volume Myrhorod Collection of Ukrainian Tales, by Nikolai Gogol published in 1835. It takes place in a bucolic town of Myrhorod near the village where Gogol was born. This short story is a comedic satire about a ridiculous conflict between two gentlemen landowner friends. It is one of Gogol’s most popular short stories. A short movie in English entitled “How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled With Ivan Nikiforovich” can be found on the internet and this short story was featured as a play on BBC Radio 4 in 2002.

the delusionist

The Delusionist by Grant Buday

  • Kobzar Literary Award, Finalist
  • Eric Hoffer Award, Shortlist
  • City of Victoria Book Prize, Finalist

Cyril is the only Canadian-born member of the Andrachuk family.  His parents and older brother having survived Stalin’s systematic starving of Ukraine. His brother’s brittle bones are not the only legacy of Stalin. Cyril’s famine-free childhood has built up a distance between him and the rest of the household.

Art, love, and history furnish the setting in this tale. The Delusionist is a novel of longing, loss and rediscovered joy.  Set In Vancouver, B.C. 1962.

Chasing Two Hares

This is a 1961 Ukrainian cult classic comedy film directed by Viktor Ivanov.  The film is based on the theatre play of the same title written by Mykhailo Starytskyi in 1883.

It is a hilarious film which follows the misadventures of an 1910’s barber shop owner and a con man whose fondness for drinking and gambling lead to bankruptcy. He marries an unattractive rich woman to solve his financial woes, but pines for a virtuous beauty who despises him. The moral of the story lies in its title.


Lesia’s Dream by Laura Langston

Although the topic is heavy, this is a quick and easy summer read. Our library has 2 copies which are booked by book club members. A quick search has shown that Vancouver library has a copy. There may be other libraries.  There is a free entire book on line – just follow the book’s links –  There are also copies on from $3 used to $7 new. So…. there are plenty of opportunities to borrow or buy this book.

Sons of the Soil

 Illia Kiriak’s Sons of the Soil is the translated into English, condensed version of Kiriak’s novel, Syny Zemli, first published in 3 volumes (1100 pages) by the Ukrainian Institue Press in Edmonton between 1939 and 1945. This book is generally referred to as the most important literary work of the Ukrainian pioneer writers. In it, Kiriak depicts the experiences of three generations of Ukrainian settlers in Canada; showing the process of their integration in the new land with their day to day joys and sorrows and asserting their importance in the settlement of Western Canada.

The English translation (1959) is only 1/3 in length of the original Ukrainian, however, it remains true to Kiriak’s insights into the Ukrainian pioneer experience and his deep affection for the peasant farmers he portrays.

Illia Kiriak (1888 – 1955) emigrated to Canada in 1906 as part of the massive migration of approximately 170,000 Ukrainians to Canada between 1891 and 1914. He was an itinerant worker criss-crossing the nation before he settled in Alberta where he trained as a public school teacher and taught for 25 years.

The Boy from Reactor 4

The Boy From Reactor 4 by Orset Stelmach is a mystery/suspense/ thriller.

Also by Orest Stelmach is The Altar Girl  (more details about this book below) in which we were introduced to super sleuth Nadia Tesla and Orest Stelmach’s fast paced, fact based and nail biting style of writing.

Our library also has Orest Stelmach’s The Boy Who Stole From the Dead and The Boy Who Glowed in the Dark  among many other excellent books on Ukrainian themes and topics for our members to enjoy.

Synopsis of the Boy from Reactor 4:  Nadia’s memories of her father are not happy ones. An angry, secretive man, he died when she was thirteen, leaving his past shrouded in mystery. When a stranger claims to have known her father during his early years in Eastern Europe, she agrees to meet—only to watch the man shot dead on a city sidewalk. With his last breath, he whispers a cryptic clue, one that will propel Nadia on a high-stakes treasure hunt from New York to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine. There she meets an unlikely ally: Adam, a teenage hockey prodigy who honed his skills on the abandoned cooling ponds of Chernobyl. Physically and emotionally scarred by radiation syndrome, Adam possesses a secret that could change the world—if she can keep him alive long enough to do it. A twisting tale of greed, secrets, and lies, The Boy from Reactor 4 will keep readers guessing until the final heart-stopping page.

Book - The Alter Girl

The Altar Girl by Orest Stelmach.

The daughter of uncompromising Ukrainian immigrants, Nadia was raised to respect guts, grit, and tradition. When the events around the seemingly accidental death of her estranged godfather don’t add up, Nadia is determined to discover the truth—even if she attracts the attention of dangerous men intent on finding out what she knows through any means possible.Her investigation leads her to her hometown and to the people least likely to welcome her back: her family.

In this thrilling prequel to the Nadia Tesla series, Nadia must try to solve the mystery surrounding her godfather’s death—and his life. The answers to her questions are buried with the secrets of her youth and in post-World War II refugee camps. What Nadia learns will change her life forever.

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