Five Stalks of Grain by Adrian Lysenko and illustrated by Ivanka Theodosia Galadza
Paperback – University of Calgary Press – Nov 2022 – 148 pages
A powerful and haunting graphic novel that tells a story of tragedy and survival during the Holodomor, the terror-famine that claimed millions of lives in Soviet Ukraine.
In 1932, as famine rages across Ukraine, the Soviet government calls for the harshest punishment for those who keep for themselves even five stalks of grain. When their mother is accused of hoarding and summarily killed, Nadia and Taras must leave their home on a desperate quest for survival.
Attempting to navigate a closed country, to stay together, and to stay alive, Nadia and Taras must face secret police, soldiers, and fellow citizens forced to abandon charity and sometimes even humanity in the face of impossible hunger. Unsure who to trust and unable to find refuge, they search for somewhere, anywhere, where they can be safe.
Historical fiction at its finest, Five Stalks of Grain is powerfully written and beautifully illustrated, drawing on Ukrainian artistic traditions to tell a story of loss, grief, and hardship with delicate strength. It is a record of a time of profound suffering and a reckoning with the human cost of a tragedy shaped by politics and policy.