I am pleased to be included in a series of webinars for educators along with talented authors who have writtennovels about Holodomor. These webinars are being presented by HREC (Holodomor Research and Education Consortium). The presentation of these works assists educators in their teachings of this terrible famine and the interviews by the authors present a personal view of why and how the works are relevant. The webinars can be accessed by any who are interested at www.education.holodomor.ca/webinars90th
Ukraine 1928. Stalin has risen to power and started to implement plans that will change the country forever. Inspired by a family photo, 'The Photograph' centers on a farewell party and a family divided. There are those who will stay, and those who will leave. What happens to those who stay is written in the pages of history as the Holodomor, the Terror-Famine orchestrated by Stalin, responsible for the loss of millions of lives.
The Holodomor was one of the worst genocides in global history. In this historically accurate novel, the reader will see a family facing events on the ground level. Some members saw the impending doom, others were unprepared, undecided, or unmovable for too long. Experiencing the lives of victims and survivors during these dramatic times goes beyond the history books.
The Photograph by Kat Karpenko is a historical fiction about unity and familiar ties. It presents a family's journey after their uprooting from their homeland due to communist propaganda. Also, the novel illustrates themes such as family life, politics, corruption, and survival.
Briefly, this historical fiction focuses on Nicholai Karpenko, a Ukrainian farmer forced to leave Kiev due to the regime established by Stalin. After he was interrogated by a Russian officer, Nicholai made the necessary preparations for the journey to Canada together with his wife, Juliana, and their three children: Arkady, Vera, and Tamara. Also, the story illustrates the challenges they faced after they left Ukraine and the repercussions of Stalin's plan for collectivization.
I liked the novel's fluid writing style, and I appreciated the relevance of the themes addressed by the author for the socio-political reality described. I enjoyed the blending of history and adventure, and I empathized with the characters' inner struggles. For instance, I was intrigued by the adventures of the Karpenko family in Budapest, and the horrifying descriptions of starvation in the village left me speechless. Also, I loved that Kat Karpenko focused on those left behind in Kiev and understood Nicholai's worries because he failed to convince them to leave Ukraine.
Another positive aspect of this book was the character development. I loved the close family relationships illustrated by the author, especially Nicholai's devotion to his wife and children, always highlighted by ensuring their protection. Also, I liked the side story of Vera and Alexi. For example, I empathized with their separation and the hope of reunion, and I admired Alexi's determination in keeping his promise.
I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars because it carried me through all the emotional states, from compassion for those affected by Bolshevism to the joy of reunion. I enjoyed the parallel plots that kept me in suspense until the end, and I appreciated the historical accuracy of the facts in Ukraine during Stalin's policies. I empathized with the villagers' madness and despair caused by the famine, and the horror of death illustrated in this captivating tale shocked me. Also, The Photograph was professionally edited. I discovered three minor punctuation errors, but they did not influence my reading experience.
I recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in discovering more about the Holodomor. It is perfect for people eager to read about a fight for survival and an emotional story about loyalty and compassion. Also, The Photograph is suitable for a large audience because it has very minor profanity and no erotic content.
"Kat Karpenko is a Canadian of Ukrainian descent and she dedicates her book, The Photograph, to her grandparents. Nicholai and Juliana Karpenko had the foresight and courage to leave their prosperous farm and their beloved family members to protect their children. A lovely photograph of the extended family was taken at a farewell party in their honor. This photograph graces the beginning of the book and brings their story to life. Nicholai saw how Stalin’s authoritarian Five-Year Plan would threaten their livelihood, as his military confiscated farms, its animals, and other personal property. Under the plan, collectivization and grain quotas became more and more difficult each year. Although Nicholai tried to persuade his siblings and families to emigrate to Canada, only several agreed to consider this option. As Stalin’s directives continued, a horrific famine called the Holodomor was created. The remaining Karpenko family members’ attempts to survive during this period are remarkable, but not always successful.
This book is based on historical facts, and the author notes the characters and storyline are fictional. This account will affect every reader as she crafts realistic characters with real emotions and physical struggles during a time of unfathomable circumstances. The book is divided into three sections – the emigration of Nicholai’s family; the family who stayed, from 1929-1931; the Holodomor during 1932-1933. Her story is compelling and deeply moving. The Photograph written by Kat Karpenko is an unforgettable book. It is both heartwarming and heartrending while imparting important historical information about this terrible period of time when millions of Ukrainians died. Truly memorable."
- Deborah Lloyd for Readers’ Favorite
"The Photograph is a remarkable story of a family caught in a Bolshevik domination resulting in the Ukrainian genocide of which, I sadly confess, I had no previous knowledge. It chronicles the lives of a family divided by their decisions about how to survive the onslaught. Kat Karpenko, the granddaughter of the real Nicholai and Juliana who escaped to Canada, dedicates the book to their courage and foresight. I found her to be a skilled and evocative writer. Historically accurate and compelling to read, The Photograph will inform, amaze and move you to tears. Don’t miss it!"
- Jude Jackson,
Author of Chasing Glitter
Remarkably readable for hard history.
"A family photograph set author, Kat Karpenko, on a journey of discovery and what horror she uncovered. Her novel tells of a family dealing with circumstances leading to the Holodomor, the famine-genocide Stalin’s rule brought to Ukraine. The character, Nicholai, based on her grandfather, tries to persuade family members to leave Ukraine as he is about to do. Some are blind to the future he sees so clearly. The story of his escape with wife and family, is followed by the dire conditions for those left behind. Survivor guilt and remorse can silence first generation immigrants from countries torn by such horrors. Telling the truth of what happened nevertheless remains a duty, one Kat Karpenko, of the second generation, achieves with a remarkably readable historical tale."
"Sitting here after midnight, I am unable to put down this fascinating historical novel, The Photograph, by Kat Karpenko. It is based on a true story of a close family in Ukraine during Stalin’s reign of terror. The family tale is told so compellingly, and at the same time, I was surprised to learn a great deal about the changing political climate that led to the little known genocide by the Russians that killed so many people by execution, starvation and incarceration that ultimately tore apart and decimated so many families.
I was amazed how flawlessly the author wove historical information into this fascinating novel, as though the reader, like the characters, was slowly beginning to understand what was going on politically and how it would impact dramatically on their own lives with disastrous and deadly outcomes.
The novel is also timely for it echoes the current uncertain situation in the US with the growing political upheavals, along with the initial denial of many people of the seriousness of the illnesses and fatalities caused by the pandemic that is wreaking havoc on personal lives and future prospects. In order to survive these dangerous times and protect their families people must make difficult choices.
The story is a sad one, but it lifts you up and inspires through the family’s courage and determination. I found myself very involved with the characters and their unfolding personalities. Each faced the dangers in their own way.
This author keeps you engaged on a personal level and at the same time seamlessly enlightens and informs — that is truly a skill. This book had me from the start to the finish. I highly recommend it."
- C.C. Brondwin
Kat Karpenko is pictured here in her Ukrainian blouse with the traditional Easter eggs known as pysanky.
In the scenic seaside town of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada, Laura discovers love letters, dated 1918, in the closet of her grandmother’s house. She is driven by visitations from the resident spirit to write the story of the lovers, Emma and Andrew. Caught in the turbulent WW1 era, they were brought together in Halifax during the disastrous aftermath of the largest man-made explosion in history before Hiroshima. As turmoil threatens Laura’s failing marriage, and a new love emerges, hauntings become more ominous. The question she still needs to answer is - why is the ghost dominating her life? When mysteries unravel, discoveries lead to an illumination of the past, a transformation of her present and a future with a new twist.GET IT ON AMAZON
"It is such a welcome gift when you find a novel that enchants and excites on so many levels as Emma's Ghost does. This novel delivers all the elements of an intriguing personal mystery, along with a genuine supernatural thriller, while adding a tender love story that spans generations and lifts your spirits as it gently unfolds. But there is even more for the reader, Emma's Ghost adds genuine 'edge of your seat' suspense by weaving in the true happenings of the historic Halifax Explosion during World War I and the life changing effects it has on the characters as they struggle to cope with the city's utter devastation. Emma's Ghost gives you a front row seat on the action in a page-turner that kept me spellbound from beginning to end. Now, I'm eagerly awaiting Kat Karpenko's next novel. Please, hurry up."
- Lorraine J
"The star of this beautifully researched romance is the city of Halifax and her citizens’ response to the 1917 explosion. Parallel “forbidden” romances in two eras move the narrative along, but the way Karpenko brings history to life was impressive in a first novel, and causes me to eagerly await what treasures she will uncover next."
- Sarah T
"Shocking sadness of Halifax water front disaster, enormous loss of life and property shapes intriguing personal life events. Lovely characters manuvering through life events post tragedy. All the stuff for a exciting read. Five thumbs up!"
- Amazon Customer
"The best aspect of this novel in two parts is hard to pin down. Is it the clever way there are two stories wound into one? The unusual style of telling a partial story for the first half of the book then changing to a chapter per POV (most of the time) to launch a second story, the older history, interspersed with how it matches the (sort-of) present day tale? You'd think it would be daunting, but it's woven together so seamlessly that it's easy to follow."
- Shelby R
"The story unfolds like opening a time capsule generations later. The devastating tragedies of 1918 in Halifax, Nova Scotia steer the lives of a family in 1985. The characters are strong, smart and beautiful but cannot escape the poignant events of their time.
A good read - hard to put down - and written with sensitivity, humor and love for the maritime provinces."
"This was an easy to read, hard to put down romantic story of a modern day woman’s destiny unfolding as she discovers a parallel life of a young woman who lived a century earlier. Plenty of spicy forbidden romance, war time adventure, and the mystery of the supernatural all combined to make this one very nice read. Well done! I will be watching for more."
- Suzanne E
"Lovers in a dangerous time, to quote lyrics from one of my favorite songs -- that's the theme of Emma's Ghost, and the novel develops some poignant and often tragic scenes into a powerful story. I'm not usually big on ghost stories, but this ghost didn't take over the story, but rather was deployed to catalyze a lot of believable drama. Well done, Ms. Karpenko, for your debut novel. What's next?"
- P.J. Reece, Author
Born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Kat has returned after spending most of her life in Nova Scotia where she worked in the Office of External Affairs at Dalhousie University until 2002. Now retired, she spends winters in Mazatlán, Mexico pursuing a writing career that was on hold while employed at the university. Previously involved in journalism and technical writing she has resumed her love of creative writing with short stories and has published her first ebook on amazon called “Emma’s Ghost” which originally started as a short story. See her Facebook author’s page to see more details about this historical romance/mystery which takes place in Mahone Bay and Halifax, Nova Scotia: https://www.facebook.com/authorkatkarpenko/
Kat brings her interest in history into her writing as well as observations of living in a different culture. She is grateful to her writing group in Mazatlán for their encouragement, critiques and inspiring writing skills.