By Margarita Khemlin (tr Melanie Moore) - Ukraine
Set in the Ukrainian SSR, The Investigator is rooted in a specific time and place. Lilia Vorobeichik’s death is given as 18 May 1952, barely 10 months before the death of Stalin, whose rule brought untold suffering to the region. The forced collectivization of the late 1920s and ensuing Holodomor, a man-made famine that claimed the lives of up to seven million Ukrainians, was swiftly followed by the brutal Nazi occupation. One of The Investigator’s most arresting features is the powerful vignettes Khemlin weaves out of the community’s recent past, often dropped almost casually into conversation. One woman witnessed the Nazis burning children alive; another remembers that during the famine people were “raking the last seeds of grain from under little children’s pillows on an order from above.” Still another speaks scornfully about the upsurge in weddings that followed the famine: people were “drinking too much out of sheer joy at being alive.
Note: Melanie Moore is a ‘distance member’ of our group. We’ve been waiting for this for ages