Through blogging I have had the privilege of finding out about so many lovely sounding books that would otherwise have passed me by. Today I’m thrilled to welcome Diana Stevan to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me and tell me about one of her books.
Staying in with Diana Stevan
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Diana and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought along my latest novel, Sunflowers Under Fire, a historical fiction, based on my Ukrainian grandmother’s life in Russia during the Great War and after. I brought it along because it celebrates what so many women on this earth go through in trying to provide love and security for their children. I hadn’t realized when I began writing this story about its universal message.
It sounds to me that Sunflowers Under Fire might be about the Great War but is still totally relevant today. Tell me more…
My grandmother was smart but illiterate. When I was just a baby, she moved in with my mom and dad to take care of me as both of my parents were working around the clock six days a week. I shared a bedroom with her from the time I was a baby until I was fifteen. She never talked about her life in the old country. It wasn’t until I did the research for this true life novel that I got to know her in a whole other way.
And the fact that so many readers regard her as a heroine has brought me such joy. I wish I could tell her how much her experiences are resonating with readers today.
I think many of us wish we’d spoken with older family members Diana.
Martha Conway, a wonderful author of historical fiction in the American mid-west, wrote this about my book: “This is a compelling and beautifully told tale of endurance and faith. Mothers everywhere will be drawn to Lukia Mazurets, a no-nonsense Ukrainian woman who in 1915 must protect and save her family when her husband goes to war. Lukia’s arduous journey with her children is a true story of the little-known Ukrainian diaspora. Gripping, illuminating, and personal, this story is a must-read.”
That’s such a lovely review. I have to admit, I don’t know much about Ukrain’s history and Sunflowers Under Fire might be just the way to find out more.
What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
I’ve brought along my mother’s recipe for beet borscht, a family favourite. It’s a popular Ukrainian dish and served with sour cream.
2 large beets, peeled and cut in long slivers
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
4 cups of organic chicken stock
a quarter of a small head of cabbage, shredded
2 T. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp. fresh chopped dill
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 can of pork n’ beans
Salt and pepper to taste.
In a large pot, combine beets, onion, carrot, potato and stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off foam. Add tomato, cabbage, parsley and dill. Simmer for another 15 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add can of pork n’ beans and mix well. Heat and serve with a spoonful of sour cream on top.
Oh. I grow the ingredients for that on my allotment Diana. We always have far too many beetroot (beets) so I think I shall be trying out your recipe very soon. You’ll have to return to see if it tastes as it should!
One reader asked me for the location of the village of Kivertsi in Ukraine. In my novel, which takes place during the first part of the twentieth century, this country is not yet independent. It’s under the rule of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II, the Romanov family. Kivertsi is about 9 miles or 15 kilometres from Lutsk, which is in the north-western part of the country, close to the Polish border.
Here’s a map of Ukraine, which is also helpful in understanding the countries that border this nation today.
In normal times travel a lot but I’ve never been to this area. Hearing about Sunflowers Under Fire makes me want to go.
And here’s the church that Lukia Mazurets, my baba, went to in Lutsk. Her faith helped her survive all the wars in her country. This is a Ukrainian Greek Orthodox church. The religion and mass is similar to those practiced in the high Anglican and Catholic faiths, but there is no Pope and confession takes place once a year before Easter. This photo was taken in 1988 when our family visited Ukraine (when it was still under Russian rule). My mother wanted me to see the country she emigrated from in 1929.
That must have been a very special visit. Thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me all about Sunflowers Under Fire Diana. I’ve loved hearing about it and think it sounds a very special read.
Thank you so much for having me as your guest. It was such a pleasure. Happy Reading!
Sunflowers Under Fire
A Finalist for the 2019 Whistler Independent Book Awards, sponsored by the Writers Union of Canada.
In this family saga set in Russia, love and loss are bound together by a country always at war.During WWI, Lukia Mazurets, a Ukrainian farmwife, delivers her eighth child while her husband is serving in the Tsar’s army. Soon after, she and her children are forced to flee the invading Germans. Over the next fourteen years, Lukia must rely on her wits and faith to survive life in a refugee camp, the ravages of a typhus epidemic, the Bolshevik revolution, unimaginable losses, and one daughter’s forbidden love.
Sunflowers Under Fire is a heartbreakingly intimate novel that illuminates the strength of the human spirit. Ultimately, it’s a story about a simple woman who becomes a courageous and inspirational heroine. Based on the true stories of her grandmother’s ordeals, author Diana Stevan captures the voices of those who had little say in a country that is still being fought over.
You can purchase Sunflowers Under Fire here.
About Diana Stevan
Prior to becoming a novelist, Diana Stevan worked as a family therapist, teacher, actor, model, and a freelance writer-broadcaster for CBC television. She’s published poetry, a short story, and newspaper articles. Her novels are A Cry From The Deep (romantic mystery/adventure) , The Rubber Fence (women’s fiction) and Sunflowers Under Fire (family saga/historical fiction.
When she isn’t writing, she loves to garden, travel, and read. She lives in Campbell River, and West Vancouver, B.C. with her husband, Robert. She has two daughters and three grandchildren.