Ukrainian-themed books and films

Ukraine is full of history, traditions, and folklore, which I began to get familiar with after starting to Ukraine dance 25 years ago. Dance got me interested in Ukrainian culture and had me wanting to learn more. That's where books and films come in.

This is less of an extensive entertainment guide and more of a short, not-detailed list, since I read/watched some of these films/books a while ago, and to be honest, I don't necessarily remember a whole lot about them. But what I do remember is my love of them, which is why I want to share them with you.

Read on below for my very general descriptions of some of my very favourite Ukrainian-themed books, films, and TV shows.



The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu

This is the book I recommend to anyone willing to listen to me. My godmother gifted it to me, and it's become my go-to present for Ukrainians everywhere.

Valya Dudycz Lupescu touches on Ukrainian superstitions, folklore, and celebrations, all intertwined in the heartfelt story of character Nadya Lysenko. Nadya's past haunts her, and she has been secretive to her family about her life growing up in Ukraine. It's a story about family, love, and traditions, and about remembering history no matter how hard it may be.

Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

I cried within the first few pages of this book.

Under This Unbroken Sky is a heartbreaking and moving story about a family from Ukraine starting their new life in Canada. But it doesn't come easy. The climate is harsh, and not everyone wants them to succeed. It's a powerful and enthralling read that makes you that much more appreciate of our ancestors who set out for a better life years ago.

This building now covered with "Freedom is our religion" was burned during the Euromaiden Revolution.

This building now covered with "Freedom is our religion" was burned during the Euromaiden Revolution.


Winter on Fire: Ukraine's fight for freedom

Winter on Fire documents the 2013-2014 Euromaiden Revolution (Revolution of Dignity). Euromaiden started after former president Viktor Yanukovych withdrew from a Ukraine-European Union agreement, and people protested in the country's capital, Kyiv. 

Burning buildings, makeshift hospitals, thousands of protestors filling a central square. Images and videos are one thing, but hearing people's stories are another, and that's what Winter on Fire brings you. You can watch it on Netflix.

Leo Mol in Light and Shadow

Mykola Golovan's remarkable house is in Lutsk's Old City.

Mykola Golovan's remarkable house is in Lutsk's Old City.

Sculptor Leo Mol has been on my mind lately. The other week I walked past Mykola Golovan's extraordinary house in Lutsk. Golovan is a sculptor, and his home and yard are covered in stone gargoyles and people and objects. It's a beautiful sight.

Anyways, it got me thinking about Leo Mol, a Ukrainian sculptor who called Winnipeg home. Then coincidentally I saw people sharing on Facebook a documentary about Mol, which I watched the other day, and wow — what a touching story. His art perhaps saved his life (reminding me of Taras Shevchenko). It's a touching film, about art and family and history.

You can watch the film on the National Film Board of Canada's website.

Bitter Harvest

It didn't get great reviews, but there's no denying it brought attention to the Holodomor, the 1932-1933 man-made famine. The film was over the top at times, as in parts were dramatized for entertainment, but I still found it interesting, inspiring me to learn even more about the famine.

You also may recognize some artists from the soundtrack, like Rozhanytsya and Dakha Brakha who have performed in Manitoba.

Servant of the People  is set in Kyiv.

Servant of the People is set in Kyiv.


TV shows

Servant of the People (Слуга народу)

A school teacher becomes president. That's the basis of this TV show. It's witty and satirical and it has that special type of dark humour Ukrainians know so well.

I started watching it (find it on Netflix) while I lived in Kyiv, which is where it was filmed, but I'm still only a few episodes in, since it takes a lot of concentration to read the subtitles (the show is in Ukrainian/Russian). The movie Servant of the People 2 came out in 2016 and is a follow up to the show. In the movie, you'll see our singer and dancer friends from the Volyn Choir, performing one of my favourite songs, Ой служив я в пана.

Have you read or seen anything listed above, or do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on Easter celebrations in Ukraine. I'm spending Orthodox Easter (which is this weekend) in Lviv, then going to the village Tulova (where I celebrated Christmas) for a day next week for celebrations, too.

I'm thankful I get to see this holiday in multiple places. Lutsk has been beautiful, with the pedestrian street lit up and large pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs) on display at the theatre square. Last night while I was walking down the street, there was a child singing an Easter song, over and over and over, to his dad. It's a beautiful time of year, and I'm happy I get to spend it in this beautiful country.