Author: Yevgenia Belorusets
Translator: Eugene Ostashevsky
Publisher: New Directions (2022)
Out of the impoverished coal regions of Ukraine known as the Donbass, where Russian secret military intervention coexists with banditry and insurgency, the women of Yevgenia Belorusets’s captivating collection of stories emerge from the ruins of a war, still being waged on and off, ever since the 2014 Revolution of Dignity. Through a series of unexpected encounters, we are pulled into the ordinary lives of these anonymous women: a florist, a cosmetologist, card players, readers of horoscopes, the unemployed, and a witch who catches newborns with a mitt. One refugee tries unsuccessfully to leave her broken umbrella behind as if it were a sick relative; a private caregiver in a disputed zone saves her elderly charge from the angel of death; a woman sits down on International Women’s Day and can no longer stand up; a soldier decides to marry war. Belorusets threads these tales of ebullient survival with a mix of humor, verisimilitude, the undramatic, and a profound Gogolian irony. She also weaves in twenty-three photographs that, in lyrical and historical counterpoint, form their own remarkable visual narrative.
"Lucky Breaks is a book in Russian about the war in Ukraine that does not describe combat operations and that forbears to generalize in any way. The protagonists, many of whom are refugees, think of themselves as has-beens. To be, like one of them, a woman formerly from Alchevsk, in the contested Luhansk region, becomes the support structure for a new identity: an identity of which all we know is that it’s irreversible, the world will never go back to being what it was. This is the point at which the tender and terrible stories of Yevgenia Belorusets, where bogeyman tales of childhood dress in the language of Jean Genet, and the documentary dilates into the epic, become the history we all have in common."
"A daring, unsettling book about displaced women telling luminous stories to survive the darkness that surrounds them."