Klym Polischuk, author of Treasure of the Ages: Ukrainian Legends, was born into a Ukrainian peasant family at the end of the nineteenth century and he became active in the world of art and literature. His writing career was disrupted first by arrest and exile to Russia and then mobilisation to fight in World War I. During the 1920s his literary output included a range of novels and accounts of the Soviet revolution. He was fascinated by folklore and in 1921 produced his collection of Gothic tales, Treasure of the Ages. In 1929 he was again arrested and incarcerated in Soviet labour camps until his execution in 1937.
Liudmyla Starytska-Cherniakhivska, author of Living Grave: A Ukrainian Legend, was born in Kyiv in 1868. She wrote poetry, prose, drama and literary criticism for various publications including the Lviv almanac, Pershyi vinok. Her story Living Grave was first published in 1889 in the journal Kyivska Starina (Kyiv Antiquity). She supported Ukrainian nationalist causes and in 1919 she was co-founder and deputy president of the National Council of Ukrainian Women. In her sixties Liudmyla was first arrested and convicted during a show-trial of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine in 1930. She was imprisoned and exiled. In June 1941 the 73-year-old woman was again arrested and accused of carrying out anti-Soviet activities then tortured. She died during the journey to exile in Kazakhstan and her body was thrown from the train at a location still unknown.
Svitlana Yakovenko is the author of Taste of Ukraine, a professional translator and an expert home cook. Svitlana spent many years seeking out and adapting the recipes of her homeland for Taste of Ukraine.
Svitlana tasted, tested, presented and photographed dishes for the book to ensure the recipes were both faithful to the culinary traditions of rural Ukraine and within the reach of home cooks around the world.
Svitlana was born in the Central region of Ukraine and moved to Sydney, Australia, in the 1990s where she studied Literature and then Law.
Interview with the author – Svitlana Yakovenko
Svitlana, what prompted you to embark on such a demanding project, this cookbook that would take so many years to complete?
Quite simply, after living happily in Australia for years, I could not forget the smell and taste of the beautiful dishes of my childhood. My Australian friends who came to my place for dinner always commented favourably on the Ukrainian dishes and so I wanted to share the recipes with a larger audience.
Why is Ukrainian cuisine relatively undiscovered and how did you capture authentic recipes for Taste of Ukraine?
Unfortunately, there are few surviving written records of the history and recipes of Ukrainian cuisine from before the 19th century. It took me three years to research Ukrainian cuisine in order to find, reproduce – and often to adapt – old recipes, and to record my family recipes.
In what ways did you make Taste of Ukraine unique?
Firstly, there are not many comprehensive Ukrainian cookbooks in English at all, yet we have so much to be proud of. The Ukrainian cuisine is versatile and I tried to incorporate at least a few examples of dishes from the various regions of Ukraine. There are recipes that were recorded by ethnographers two centuries ago and recipes that are relatively new. The recipes range from those known to the whole nation to my family’s secret recipes. Then throughout the book there are articles dedicated to a specific dish, or focusing on different aspects of Ukrainian cuisine including its role in society. There are also hundreds of photographs, which I think make this book unique and really give “a taste of Ukraine”.
How did you manage the process of both writing and publishing the book?
A team of people who worked on this book, as well as those who helped and supported me, were truly dedicated to the project. As a result, I was happy to see the book reach such a high professional standard, including high value production and English language editing.
After producing such a comprehensive work is there anything else about Ukrainian cuisine that you would like to explore?
I do have a particular interest in borshch! For a lot of Ukrainian food fans too it is something of an obsession. Having collected many more borshch recipes than we could fit into Taste of Ukraine I think there might be a place for a small book dedicated to this addictive soup…