THE STORY OF UKRAINE:
AN ANTHEM OF GLORY AND FREEDOM
Co-authored by Ukrainian national Olena Kharchenko and Michael Sampson, New York Times Bestselling Author and Fulbright Scholar to Ukraine.
Illustrations are by Ukranian refugee Polina Doroshenko.
Ukraine is rich with history and resources, culture and people, but most of all, in spirit!
• An Exclusive Interview with Michael, Olena, and Polina! •
OLENA: I had a happy childhood growing up in Ukraine. Yes, some parts of the book are based on my early memories, like the sunflower and wheat field. I saw those often when we drove from the city to the countryside to visit my grandmother. And, of course, the traditional food and national clothes that we described in this book bring back many memories :-) Even though Ukraine only officially became independent when I was in high school, I always considered myself Ukrainian first and a citizen of the larger country second. This is like many Americans — when they answer where they’re from, they name their state first and then their country.
MICHAEL: I was serving as a Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine when the war drove us out to Poland. While attending peace rallies in Warsaw, I heard people singing the Ukrainian National Anthem, and I was struck by the passion and love the people singing had for Ukraine. In 2004, I wrote a book for Candlewick, I Pledge Allegiance, about the American flag that remains in print almost 20 years later, so I thought we could do a similar book about Ukraine. Writing it with you was an inspiring experience, as we started the book by sharing Ukrainian history and geography, moved to the national anthem and then concluded with more about Ukraine and her amazing people.
OLENA: As we were writing the book, I saw an opportunity to correct the propaganda that was being used to justify the war against Ukraine by telling the truth about my country. I do wish the book was written during happier times. My hope is that this book will bring new information about Ukraine and Ukrainian culture, history and traditions around the world, and I pray that this book will continue to inspire people to support Ukraine as we defend our country and freedom. I love that the book is written in two languages; it will help Ukrainian children practice their English while reading about familiar facts.
MICHAEL: The title says it best — The Story of Ukraine: An Anthem of Glory and Freedom. I believe we have told the story of Ukraine … from its brave people to its beautiful countryside, nature and cities. We use the anthem’s words to show Ukraine’s struggle through the centuries to remain free and rule their land. I also love Polina’s art, which captures Ukraine’s culture and history through foods, clothing, pottery, national symbols and historical figures.
OLENA: Michael had shared that it was very important a Ukrainian illustrate this book and asked me to recommend someone. I went to a bookstore in Dnipro and came across a game you had illustrated. The art was amazing! I looked at your website and profiles online and fell in love with your work. I recommended you and two others to Michael. He fell in love with a dog you had painted and said to me, “She’s the one!” We recommended you to the publisher and they agreed — you are the perfect artist for this book!
POLINA: On the first page of the book, you meet a boy and girl who serve as “guides,” leading the reader through the history and culture of Ukraine. I often use contour shapes (black &white) to show “past” heroes, and the graphics connects them all. I use a lot of contour-simple graphics because, for me, it seems like a page from a history book. On one spread in the book, I show a modern family discovering traditions and reading a story about their ancestors as they sit under a family tree linking the different generations. I feel like the spirit of Ukraine inspired me as the illustrations came together to draw emotional pictures of my country and her brave people.
ABOUT THE BOOK’S CREATORS:
Olena Kharchenko is from Dnipro, Ukraine. She is a graduate of Oles Honchar Dnipro National University. She lives in the USA with her husband and daughter. She is actively volunteering in different projects trying to help Ukraine to resist Russian aggression since 2014. Olena hopes that this book will help people around the world to learn more about her motherland.
Michael Sampson, a Fulbright Scholar to Ukraine, is the New York Times best-selling author of more than 40 books for children. His books include Armadillo Antics, Ten Little Squirrels, and Chicka, Chicka, 1, 2, 3. He was the longtime writing partner of Bill Martin Jr, with works illustrated by the legendary Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert. Michael has a PhD in Reading, and has served as Dean to the College of Education at four universities, most recently St. John’s University in New York.
Polina Doroshenko is a Ukrainian artist and illustrator, living and working in Kyiv. She graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Kyiv, and currently teaches at the Department of Graphic Arts of NAOMA. Polina’s illustrations were awarded the White Rawens Award, and were among the finalists of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (2022). Polina has a 4-year-old daughter who is an inspiration in her art.