It is astonishing that anyone lived this story. It is even more astonishing that anyone survived it. Stefan grows up in the grip of a raging famine. Stalin’s Five Year Plan brings genocide to Ukraine – millions of people starve to death. To free themselves from the daily terrors of Soviet rule, Stefan and his friends fight imaginary battles in nearby woods to defend their land. The games they play are their only escape. ‘Sliding on the Snow Stone’ is the true story of Stefan’s extraordinary journey across a landscape of hunger, fear and devastating loss. With Europe on the brink of World War Two, Stefan and his family pray they’ll survive in their uncertain world. They long to be free.
“Sliding on the Snow Stone” by Andy Szpuk is an amazing memoir of a young boy from the Ukraine, who comes through Soviet-caused starvation only to be torn into the madness that was WWII for the Ukrainian people. Told with astonishing detail and a captivating voice the story gets to explain what life was like living under and between the horrors of the Soviet and the Nazi regimes.
It is the tragic story of the nation as much as it is that of his family, mis-treated and fallen victim to injustices from both opposing sides of the war.
I particularly ‘enjoyed’ the latter parts that spoke in great detail about Ukrainian people stuck in other parts of Europe after the War and the personal reflections of our protagonist about the history of Ukraine after the war.
I thought I knew a lot about the times and the misfortunes of Eastern Europe at the times, but this close-up on the Ukraine and its individual and unique suffering was of great interest to me.
The book however is also very inspiring as it shows the protagonists spirit and personal resolve, his ability to preserve hope and optimism.
An all round well accomplished piece of literature that I must highly recommend.
Interview with Andy Szpuk:
When did you decide to write this story?
Back in 2008, I was sitting in my father’s conservatory, playing cards and drinking a beer with him, and I asked him the question, ‘What is your earliest memory?’ and the story unfolded from there as he revealed the cards dealt to him by fate.
How involved was your father in the writing process?
I interviewed him many times over a period of weeks, and took copious notes.
What was your main motivation to write the book? What is your main message?
To provide the world with a personal account of the Holodomor (death by hunger), and one Ukrainian man’s journey through Soviet Terrors, Nazi brutality, displacement from his home in Ukraine and his yearning to, one day, get back. There are many themes within Sliding on the Snow Stone – too many to list here. Writing the book was an exploration and a voyage of discovery for me that was profound.
What is your writing environment like?
I have a small office with a computer (shared with the rest of the family), and am so lucky to have that, it’s a real hidey hole/ I also use notebooks and scraps of paper when writing poetry, and that can be anywhere, at home, or out and about.
Have you ever gone to visit the places described in the book?
Yes, I went to Ukraine last year (2012), and visited my father’s old home and the village where he was brought up. It’s changed a lot, but nonetheless, it was a homecoming.
Was it difficult to research or verify data?
Yes it was, but my purpose was not to compile historical data, but to explore the emotional journey of those times and present it in dramatic form.
Who are your favourite authors / influences?
I try to read widely, both contemporary and classic literature, but my favourite three authors are Irvine Welsh, Hubert Selby Jr and Charles Bukowski.
What are your favourite books?
I recently read ‘Slouching Towards Nirvana’ by Bukowski, which was excellent, even though it got a little self-conscious in the final quarter.
Who would you like to play in the movie version?
Leonardo DiCaprio has been cast in the lead role by many readers. It’s a good fit.
Who are your publishers and editors?
Taylor Street Publishing, based in San Francisco are my publisher, and they have a team of in-house editors, although I am lucky in that I have an editor in the UK who guides me through my first draft.
Who did the cover art?
It came together in a serendipitous fashion, but notable contributors are Paolo Brandao, Isabel Szpuk and Simon Klymyszyn.
What are your current projects?
Fate and Circumstance: The story of the Ukrainian Lemkos from the Carpathian Mountains in south east Poland, and their forced displacement from their home in the years following World War Two to break the support they gave to the Ukrainian partisans who were still actively fighting for a free Ukraine.
What else would you like us to know about you and your books?
I also write poetry, which can be found on my blog http://andyszpuk.wordpress.com, under the category ‘Droplets of Verse’. Recently I joined a performance poetry collective in Nottingham, UK, called DIY Poets and performed at a local book festival. I’m looking forward to performing again.
Also by Andy Szpuk:
© Andy Szpuk 2013
AS OF AUGUST I WILL BE MOVING TO http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/
BOTH BLOGS WILL REMAIN BUT I WILL ONLY PUBLISH FROM http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/
PLEASE START FOLLOWING ME OVER THERE TO HELP ME WITH THE TRANSITION
I AM MOVING TO A LESS LIMITED PLATFORM, ALTHOUGH IT MIGHT TAKE A WHILE TO FIND MY BEARINGS THERE