I am a kulak’s granddaughter, so Gabriele Goldstone’s novel Red Stone, previously published under the title The Kulak’s Daughter resonated personally with me. My grandparents and my husband’s parents left Ukraine before the time in which the book is set, but reading it gave me an idea of the fate that might have awaited them had they chosen to stay in Ukraine like the family in Red Stone did. How thankful I am that they did not.
Kulak was a name given to families in Ukraine who were generally more advanced and prosperous than the Ukrainian peasants around them. They owned land and livestock and often had local peasants as employees. Katya the heroine of Red Stone is just on the brink of adolescence when everything changes for her kulak family. Her father is arrested, their land and buildings confiscated, and she and her mother and siblings sent to a labor camp.
But Katya is a survivor! She makes marks on the walls of the rat infested barracks in which her family is housed to remind herself that the horror she is experiencing is real. She is not living in a dream. As she watches her mother spiral into depression she comes up with an idea that gives her hope and leads to a kind of salvation for Katya and her siblings.
I personally connected with two of the images used in Red Stone. One is the storks which in Ukraine are said to be harbingers of luck. I took this photo of a stork the day we found my kulak grandparents’ village in Ukraine. What a lucky day for me! Unfortunately the storks who nest in an old wagon wheel on Katya’s farm in the novel Red Stone do not bring her family luck.
Katya’s father’s pride is his windmill, a symbol of what he has built with his farm and family in Ukraine. Katya takes a small stone from the windmill and it becomes her talisman as the world of her childhood collapses and she faces an uncertain future. I took this photo of a windmill in Ukraine, near my grandparents’ former village, abandoned and the last of its kind.
Red Stone is just the first book in a series being published by the Winnipeg based company Rebelight. After getting to know Katya in Red Stone I can hardly wait to read about her further adventures in Gabriele Goldstone’s next book.
Note: I was not familiar with the term ‘kulak’ till I read this book nor did I realize it would have been used to label my Mennonite ancestors. I did a little research and found that many Mennonites were referred to as kulaks because they were prosperous landowners. This term was applied to Mennonites as early as 1918, nearly a decade before my grandparents and my husband’s parents left Ukraine.
Other posts about books from Rebelight…..