You guessed it, it’s the second part of the guest post from AC Michael!
I found this one really interesting to read actually, and I hope you guys do too 🙂
The famine (Holodomor) of 1933 forms the backbone of The Dancing Barber. It occurred when Ukraine was part of Stalin’s Soviet Union and is one of the least well known atrocities to have happened in living memory.
My grandmother was only a young girl at the time, but she frequently recalled the horrors she witnessed, always with a tear in her eye. Her family ate grass and leaves, because the Soviet soldiers had confiscated all their crops and animals. The only way they could obtain food was to work on the collective farm… their reward for a day’s toil in the fields was a small cup of grain.
When my grandmother’s father died, the Soviet soldiers wrapped his emaciated body in an old sack, tied it with rope and dragged him away. To this day, no one knows where he was laid to rest. I was told about this when I was very young, and it has haunted me ever since.
Everyone belonging to my grandmother’s generation knew how lucky they were to survive: Ukrainians are resilient people.
Life has never been easy in Ukraine. After the collective farms were closed, it wasn’t long before the turmoil of the Second World War continued the seemingly endless misery.
I believe that my grandfather’s experiences were similar, but he never spoke to me about them. He was an exceptionally talented dancer, but his career was cut short, because of the political climate of the Soviet Union in the 1930’s and the Second World War that followed.
The central theme of Ukrainians obtaining international recognition for The Great Famine (Holodomor) is factual. 7 million Ukrainians died in 1933, directly because of Stalin’s policy towards Ukraine. Despite many attempts to do so, The Great Famine has not as yet been designated as genocide, but it is only a matter of timeuntil this is changed by the weight of public opinion…
It is important to state that I have used an enormous amount of artistic license while writing The Dancing Barber. The main protagonists and antagonists have been formed from amalgams of dozens of people I met over the years. And my vivid imagination is the source of many of the hilarious and cringeworthy moments.
I have always been a fan of CBS’s Hogan’s Heroes, a television sitcom set in a WW2 German POW camp. I have also enjoyed the BBC’s ’Allo ’Allo, another WW2 sitcom, but set in a village in German-occupied France. Both these shows presented the resilient allies constantly outsmarting the Germans. I began to wonder whether such a premise would lend itself to the Holodomor… As far as I know, the Holodomor / Soviet-occupied Ukraine has never been used as the basis for a historical thriller. But rather than dwelling on the suffering of 1933, I preferred to approach the concept from thirty years later, so told the story of how a family of Ukrainians not only survived the genocide, but thrived, after rebuilding their lives in England.
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”