Kobzar Literary Award 2014

Oksana Zakydalsky


The fifth Kobzar Literary Award will be announced on Wednesday, March 5 at the Palais Royale in Toronto. Presented every two years, the $25,000 Award recognizes a Canadian writer who best presents a Canadian Ukrainian theme with literary merit. Four esteemed Canadian authors served as jurors and diligently selected five books for the shortlist from 14 works submitted for this year’s award. The Kobzar Literary Award is sponsored by the Shevchenko Foundation and was first presented in 2006.

This year’s nominees focus on culture and memory: an immigrant’s bittersweet biography in the face of great achievements, a teenager’s year in a Nazi slave labour camp, recollections of folk remedies used by Ukrainian settlers in Western Canada, a heartrending story of cruel confinement in a Canadian internment camp, a poetic rendering of a woman’s return to Ukraine to bury her mother’s ashes.

Luba, Simply Luba” was written as a stage presentation by the incomparable Ukrainian comedienne Luba Goy. It chronicles the life of one of the best known and successful Ukrainian Canadian actors, a 35-year veteran of the CBC’s political and cultural satire Royal Canadian Air Farce, while weaving through it a poignant immigrant story. The work was a collaborative effort written by playwright Diane Flacks with assistance from Luba Goy and director with Andrey Tarasiuk.

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s “Making Bombs for Hitler” is the story of a teenage girl abducted from Ukraine in 1943 and forced to work for the Nazis in Germany. It is based on true survivor stories of Ukrainian Ostarbeiters and again demonstrates Ms Skrypuch’s talent in making difficult issues of contemporary history accessible and engaging for young readers.

Barbara Sapergia’s book “Blood and Salt” has a background on which historians and researchers have been working for several decades: the internment of Ukrainians in Canada during WWI. Her central narrative is an imagined love story of a young man from Ukraine who comes to Canada to meet his sweetheart and, instead, is incarcerated in an internment camp set in Banff National Park.

Michael Mucz came to Canada as a child after WWII, and is a professor of biology at the University of Alberta. He started research for the book “Baba’s Kitchen Medicines” as a botanical project while on sabbatical in 1992. Interested in all aspects of Ukrainian pioneer life, Mr Mucz interviewed many Ukrainian Canadians on the prairies who were around 80 years old at the time. The research is interwoven with the healing traditions explained through real-life stories.

Erin Moure quirky poetical work “The Unmemntioable” (no, that is not a typo) may seem like a game she is playing with her reader, but she has just come from Ukraine after burying her mother’s ashes “in the village where her maternal family was erased by war and time”.

The shortlist for the Kobzar Literary Award was compiled by four adjudicators who have done distinguished work in the literary field: Joe Kertes, Dean of the School of Creative & Performing Arts at Humber College and an award winning novelist; Frances Itani, author of novels, poetry, children’s books and short stories and winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for her novel “Deafening”; Annabel Lyon, most recently author of “The Golden Mean”, nominated for the Giller Prize; and Olive Senior prizewinning author of 13 books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction and winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

In the ten years of the existence of the Kobzar Literary Award, under the leadership of Dr. Christine Turkewych as its program director, it has become a celebration of literature and books and is fulfilling its goal to contribute to the literary arts of Canada by providing writers with an incentive to explore Ukrainian Canadian themes. In October 27,2013 the 2014 finalists were invited to read at the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront (IFOA) - the internationally recognized forum for literary works.

Over the years, we have presented many Kobzar winners and shortlisted authors, “said IFOA director Geoffrey E. Taylor. “An event celebrating their stellar nominees seemed like a natural addition to our programming. We’re very much looking forward to it.”