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Philipovna: The Daughter of Sorrow is a creative non-fiction based on the author's mother's surviving the holodomor [the Ukrainian starvation] in the early 1930's. It is the story of an orphan who goes to live with her aunt in a rural village in the Ukrainian countryside. The aunt swears on her dead sister's Bible that Vera Philipovna will survive no matter what might befall the family. No one foresees the horrors that they will have to face between the fall of 1930 and the spring of 1933. In the end, out of a healthy extended family, only Philipovna, a cousin and the aunt survive. The acts of real savagery that are perpetrated on the village are unflinchingly narrated by a pre-pubescent girl, who also gives us a good grasp of the beauty and richness of the Ukrainian culture with its superstitions, customs and celebrations. From the author: "The story is one of resilience and survival. It is my attempt to restore the voice of a generation that has been silenced and buried. It is a conflation of my mother's stories, years of detailed research and my own insight of a child having to face adult challenges long before she is ready."
"[Philipovna] describes how in the early 1930s, tactics of deliberate starvation and denial of basic rights were used to force the people of Ukraine to surrender to the Stalin regime... told through the eyes of a young girl who witnessed the brutal results of what has been called a “crime against humanity.” This book illustrates the fragility of human rights and how such rights can easily be obliterated by corruption and power yet it is a very accessible and exciting read."--Yvonne Peters, human rights lawyer and past Chairperson of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.
"Gal has written a haunting, gut-wrenching account of her mother’s life in Stalin’s Ukraine. In carefully-measured prose, she recreates the daily lives of those who suffered—and endured."-- James King, Professor at McMaster University.