Some time ago, my friend Lesia asked me if I would be interested in designing a book cover and interior for her. “Sure!” I said, “What kind of book?” She went on to explain that she had been working on a young adult novel loosely based on her Baba’s experiences in Germany during the Second World War. Interesting, I thought… and asked her if I could read it. She sheepishly sent me an unedited version of Tarnished, stating it was really rough and still needed alot of work.
Well… even in a rough, unedited state, it left me speechless. I was more than halfway through Tarnished before I was able to put it down for the first time, tears pouring down my face, thinking of my own grandparents and their WWII experience.
Tarnished is a fictional novel. However, it was inspired by Lesia’s grandmother, Anastasia Chytra, when she and her father were recording her story in an effort to better document and preserve their family history. Both Lesia’s grandmothers, like my own, persevered some of the most horrific experiences that we could ever imagine; forced from their homes in Ukraine as young teenage girls, sent to Germany as forced labourers, possibly never seeing their families or returning to their homeland ever again, then rebuilding their lives from scratch in completely foreign countries, from absolutely nothing.
Lesia has done an impeccable job of fictionalizing her Baba’s experience, and enhancing her story with well researched first-person accounts of Ford-Werke employees and other historical documents. She has an ability to describe scenes in intimate detail that makes it easy for her readers to visualize the experience, and sympathize with young, naive Tasya. Told through the eyes of Tasya, her daughter Alya, and granddaughter Sofiya, this story reminds us just how much the past is a contributing factor in our own personal identity.
There are so many stories like Tasya’s – hundreds of thousands of our grandparents survived the war with experiences like hers. Many have shut out those memories, so horrible they never want to relive them. Others are willing to share – so that we may understand and appreciate what they endured. And so many stories have already been lost, never to be shared at all. This generation, one that is rapidly fading away, is inspirational, and stories like Tasya’s need to be remembered.
I am so proud of Lesia for taking this giant leap and immortalizing her Baba, and – through Tasya – so many of our grandmothers, in Tarnished. It’s easy to pour your heart and soul into a project so personal, but it’s incredibly brave to put it out there for all the world to see.
Thank you, Lesiu… for letting me be a part of this project. I am truly, truly honoured.
Lesia Annastasia Chytra is a second generation Ukrainian-Canadian from St.Catharines, Ontario, and a teacher in the Greater Toronto area. Tarnished is her first, self-published novel, and is available on Createspace.com (An Amazon company), Amazon.com and coming soon to Kindle.com.
Follow Tarnished on Facebook for updates and more about Lesia’s inspiration and her journey in writing her first novel.