On March 01, 2012, I had the great pleasure to attend the Kobzar Literary Award at the Palais Royale in Toronto with my fellow nominees Rhea Tregebov (The Knife Sharpener’s Bell), Myrna Kostash (Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium), Myrolslav Shkandry (Jews In Ukrainian Literature), and Larissa Andrusyshyn (Mammoth). It is my great honour to be the recipient of the Kobzar prize.
All the places the book has taken me, it took this long for me to bring it to a Ukrainian community. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional and overwhelming response to the book. Nor the outpouring of stories that were gifted to me. And I was again reminded how privileged I am in Canada to have the freedom to write. And how much I take it for granted.
As precious as the prize is, I will always remember the people who approached me to share the hurts and pain and pride of a community whose stories haven’t been heard. I will not forget their expression of gratitude.
Along with the award, I received a bronze statue by internationally renowned artist Leo Mol, who died in 2009 at the age of 92. It is a statue of a Kobzar. It is an exquisite work and you can almost hear the music as he leans into his instrument. Kobzars were minstrel storytellers. In the 1930s, all the Ukrainian Kobzars were invited to a music festival and executed. Kobzar was the title of Ukraine’s most famous poet, Taras Shevchenko’s, first collection. Writing from exile, he was never able to return to his beloved Ukraine.
Thank you to the Shevchenko Foundation, the Kobzar Board, Christine, Andrew, Alla and all the volunteers and attendees who made it such an extraordinary night. Diakuiu.
Here is a link to an interview with CBC’s Carmen Claussen the day before the awards: cbc.ca/books