About the Author

When I was a child my mother knew that I would “fly the nest” when the opportunity arose. When I told her of the idea of Among the Ukrainians she reminded me that I had already written a book about capital cities of the world.
“It was hardly a book,” I said, “more like a list.”
“Don’t knock lists,” she replied, “being concise is both useful and a skill.”
“I think it was borne of necessity,” I admitted, “I was only six at the time.”

Where—or from whom—my interest in place and people came, I don’t know, but I went on to study in the faculty of Geography and Anthropology at Oxford University.
In the winter of 1981, shortly after leaving university, I visited the Soviet Union. Riding the Trans-Siberian Railway, a journey of almost mythical proportions, I clickity-clacked my way around almost a third of the globe curious to see what lay “behind the curtain.” Without clean running water my fellow passengers and I cleaned our teeth by rinsing with vodka, and sustained body and mind with meagre rations of black bread, boiled potatoes, and more vodka.

I got a job working for one of the world’s largest energy companies in the hope that it would provide ample travel opportunities and I was not disappointed. Looking back on twenty five years I have visited more than 130 countries, and though travel is now commonplace an unusual aspect of my wanderlust is that I worked in more than 100 countries, and worked in many of them over and over again. At one stage I had four passports; one in my pocket and three being shuffled through various embassies waiting for visas.

The experience came at some personal cost. In 2005—I was Vice President for Corporate Affairs in Russia at the time—I was overwhelmed by exhaustion and took the decision to leave. I bought a run-down house in Ukraine that was sorrowed by decades of negligence, and my family and I set about breathing new life into it.

The idea that the Ukrainian people deserve to be more widely known for their contribution throughout history developed slowly, but insistently. Between plaster boarding and paying bribes to get things done, everything I read, or everyone I spoke to, gave me a snippet of a story or a nuance of the Ukrainian way of life that I felt had rarely been told before. My journey through Ukraine to understand life among the people became this book and I hope you’ll join me on my quest.

And those who helped him…

Though writing is a lonely pastime, getting a book into print is highly collaborative.

Author of 8 books, Barbara Brabec is a very competent copy-editor and working with her was a pleasure. Whilst keeping an eagle eye on the minutiae of grammar and punctuation, she offered suggestions about structural changes that improved the book considerably.

I’d like to give a special thank you to Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn. I stumbled across Larisa’s art work—a serendipitous event—whilst looking for book cover ideas. She was kind enough to let me use Pryvit (meaning welcome) for the cover and was also responsible for designing the cover. The original painting was commissioned by Vekselka Ukrainian Dancers. It depicts a Ukrainian girl in traditional dress. A circular bread and salt are placed on an embroidered cloth called a rushnyk. Each guest is invited to break a piece of bread from the loaf, and to dip it into the salt whilst bowing slightly to the host. The bread represents a warm welcome whilst the salt symbolises friendship that will never sour or be corrupted by time. If you like, it is an invitation into the book.