You might remember from one of my earlier posts that I’m trying to read and review as many books as possible about Eastern Europe before the end of the year. You might also remember that one of the nine books I grabbed a few weeks ago during one of my weekend library visits happened to be An Orange Revolution: A Personal Journey Through Ukrainian History by Askold Krushnelnycky. Last evening over a few pints of India pale ale at one of my favorite neighborhood watering holes I wrapped up reading Krushnelnycky’s book. Moments after I finished An Orange Revolution and was about to begin reading the other book I’d brought with me, one of the lounge’s patrons asked me what I was reading. Thinking it was better to politely converse with her as opposed to bellowing at her from across the noisy room, I walked over to the table she was sharing with a friend and gave her what I hoped was a short but comprehensive answer to her question.
I told her that just book’s title and cover advertised, it told the story of Ukraine’s recent “Orange Revolution” from the perspective of a British-born journalist who happened to be the son of Ukrainian émigré parents. I told her I liked it because the author included a significant amount of not only Ukrainian history but also his family’s own history. I felt the inclusion of this information helped the reader understand the nation’s recent political developments in a larger historical context. After hearing my answer we briefly chatted about other books, exchanged a few pleasantries and then I left her to enjoy her evening with her friend. (Although about a half hour later I watched her take out a set of keys, throw them at her friend and yell “we’re through!”. Bummer I said to myself. It looked like they were having a nice time up to that point.)
With Ukraine having one of Europe’s largest populations as well as blessed with rich soil, valuable raw materials and strategically located on the doorsteps of Russia, Eastern Europe and the Black Sea (not to mention a world leader in aerospace) sadly the nation is practically unknown to most Americans. While the Orange Revolution of 2004-20o5 might have grabbed a few headlines here in the States (who could forget opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko’s dioxin disfigured face or Yulia Tymoshenko’s beautifully braided golden hair) we need all the help we can get when it comes to learning about Ukraine. Fortunately, An Orange Revolution serves that purpose quite nicely. It’s highly informative, but still readable. Being a member of Ukraine’s large diaspora and therefore conversant in both Russian and Ukrainian, Krushnelnycky is able to spend ample time in the field interviewing locals and getting the whole story. This also gives him that wonderful insider’s/outsider’s perspective that other successful writers have employed when writing about their experiences in foreign countries. writers like Hooman Majd, Suketu Mehta, Saul Bellow and Lesley Hazleton. For these reasons and probably others, it’s very easy for me to recommend this book.