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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Souvenirs from Kiev by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger is a collection of short stories that take place in Ukraine in the throes of the Second World War. The anthology weaves together in a series of vignettes that each, in their own way, shed light on the horrors of war in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. The German occupation is a double blow to Ukrainians who only a decade before had seen millions of people die in the man-made famine created by the USSR to starve out dissent with the Holodomor. Once more the land is robbed of its food and resources, and her people are enslaved. This collection captures the small acts of defiance, such as a proud seamstress who is paid “what she deserves.” There are also small acts of kindness, the sharing of food between a soldier and his starving hosts. And there are terrifying acts of bravery, sacrifices made so others may live.
Souvenirs from Kiev by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger at first appears to be a short read based on its compact size, but from the first iteration, it is clear that the weight of the stories is absolutely immense. For this reason, I believe an anthology of short stories is necessary as I definitely needed time to unpack my thoughts. There is one scene in particular where a young girl named Lida and her mother are dragged from their home and violently forced into a pit, effectively burying them and others alive. The description of Lida screaming as her mother is ripped away, reunited only in a moment where their death appears to be imminent - the physical response I had to this was visceral. I felt it and it shook me to the core. The writing is haunting but also beautiful. The characters come to life even in the face of death. This is a book that will stay with me for a while and I am so grateful to have read it.