Andrea White: Radiant Girl

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Andrea White Radiant Girl
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    Radiant Girl
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    Историческая проза / Детскиая проза / на английском языке
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Radiant Girl: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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A girl’s 11th birthday always brings big changes to her world, but for Katya Dubko, it is truly the end of the world as she knows it. In the northern Ukraine, an area of dense forests, abundant wild life, and sparkling rivers, Katya’s little village of Yanov has been a fairytale home. Her family life is rich with ancient traditions and magical beliefs, and her father has a good job working for the government at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, a complex bigger than her whole village. Steeped in the imagery of her people, Katya believes that the station is a magical factory, and she looks for men in white robes, the angels she has heard push buttons to create electricity. When she asks her father about the station, he reassures her that it is safe: “so safe I would let you and Mama sleep there. I’d let a baby sleep there.” Yet when Katya is sent into the forest to play while her family prepares her birthday dinner, she meets Vasyl, a mysterious otherworldly boy who tells her the agonizing truth: her world will be destroyed in an explosion. What is she to believe? On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, and the Soviet government refused to acknowledge the extent of the disaster. As Katya struggles to survive in the aftermath, Vasyl reenters her life and helps her to realize that there can be no healing without truth, however difficult it may be to face. As she reconnects with her friends from before the explosion, she begins to learn more about the scientific concepts that have changed their world, and she discovers that blind patriotism like her father’s can be the undoing of a country as well as a man. With the help of friends she could have never imagined in her old life, Katya begins to understand that the things that are most important about her homeland and herself have survived the disaster. Combining the mythological truths of her ancestors with an understanding of the science behind the Chernobyl explosion, Katya finds the strength to fulfill a promise she made to herself many years before. And from her new vantage point she realizes that she is no longer the little girl in the fairy tale, she has become the author of her own story. Radiant Girl weaves history, fantasy, photographs and illustrations together to create a fictional coming of age tale that offers readers insight on surviving the powerful forces of change that rock their own lives, both from within and without.

Andrea White: другие книги автора

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Andrea White


Dedicated to Alexander Volkovicher, a wonderful father and man, and to the countless other Chernobyl victims like him.

This is a fictional story based on the true events of the 1986 Chernobyl accident. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is entirely coincidental.


Prologue, 1980


WITH HER EYES CLOSED, Vera Dubko listened to the chorus of crickets outside her window. Spring was here. How many more springs would she see?

Not many…

“Granny?” a little voice called to her from the darkness.

Granny Vera rolled over in the direction of the voice and spotted a bump in the other bed in the room, the one nearer the window. A small person was lying underneath the green knitted blanket.

Her daughter?

No, her daughter was long dead, taken from her by the famine. Stalin’s famine. How she hated that man.

“Granny!” the voice cried out, and this time she recognized it.

Katya. The daughter of her son, Ivan. Her son who was as strong as a bull and as stubborn. “Yes, donechka.”

“Tell me a story,” Katya pleaded.

Once everyone had many stories, but now her son and daughter-in-law had a car, a gas stove, and electric lights. “Have I ever told you about the day I saw our domovyk?” Granny Vera asked.

“No,” Katya replied. “Papa told me that house elves don’t exist.”

“Your Papa doesn’t know about him,” Granny Vera said.


“Did you see the elf on the mirror?” Katya said.

“Yes. My grandfather carved the figure to remind me of him,” Granny Vera said.

“What was his name?” Katya asked. Her voice was full of awe.

“We never found out his name,” Granny Vera admitted.

“What was he doing?”

When Granny Vera squeezed her eyes shut, she could remember that morning long ago as though it were yesterday. “Now at the beginning…” She began her story using the opening her grandmother had relied on to set the tone. When she spoke these words, she felt connected with her grandmother, with all her ancestors. “My mother had baked a loaf of paska, Easter bread, in the wood oven, and she set it on the kitchen counter to cool.”

“The same wooden counter in our cottage?”

“The same one,” Granny Vera said. “As it was a beautiful day, we went out to the garden to collect some greens. When we returned with our arms full of sorrel and cabbage, a boy stood in our kitchen. He had his back to us.

“My mother called out, ‘Oh, my!’

“I was too startled to say anything. I just watched as this boy, a little smaller than me, whisked away the loaf of bread.”

“Was the domovyk a thief?” Katya asked.

“Noooo,” Granny Vera said. “When he got hungry, sometimes, he took some bread. But he left our valuables alone.”

“He only ate bread?”

“As far as we could tell,” Granny Vera said. She dropped her voice. She tried to make it low and convincing as the boy’s had been. “There’s going to be a thunderstorm tonight,’ the domovyk warned us.

“Maybe so, but leave us some of our bread,” my mother scolded him. She started for the domovyk, but before she could catch him, he jumped out the open window with the loaf under his arm. When we stuck our heads out, all we saw were the cows grazing, the dog on his chain and a neighbor riding by in his horse-drawn cart.”

“What did he look like?”

“He was dressed like a young boy, in brown pants and an embroidered shirt. At first, when we came into the room, I thought he was a villager, but then he turned, and I saw his profile. His blue eye was a little too round, almost like an owl’s. His blond hair was low on his forehead, and there was much hair on the back of his hands. I knew he wasn’t human.”

“Was there a storm that night?” Katya asked.

“The worst,” Granny Vera shuddered, thinking of the thunder and how the very earth had shaken—as though the lightning was going to split the world in two. “Mama was angry about the loss of the bread, but Papa was grateful for the warning. He was able to get the animals, which were our livelihood, safely sheltered.”

“I want the domovyk to come see me, too, Granny,” Katya said. “Now. Tonight.”

“He doesn’t come where he’s not welcome,” Granny Vera said, and her words hurt her. She would never forget when her son, Ivan, a boy of about seven and full of the patriotic talk fed to him by his schoolteacher, informed her that her creatures were superstitious myths. He had said, “Mama, for my country to make progress, we must forget the old ways.” He had gazed squarely into her eyes before adding, “We must denounce them.” Had Ivan been threatening her? In the old days, children were encouraged to tell the authorities about anyone, even parents, who weren’t loyal to the Communist Party.

“Did I tell you about seeing the wood sprite?” Katya asked.

“You did,” Granny Vera said.

“He looked just like a tall reed, but he didn’t fool me. I spotted his face and his tiny little hands,” Katya said.

“You didn’t tell your father, did you?” Granny Vera said.

“You told me not to.”

“Your father makes a good living.” Granny Vera sighed. “We should be grateful. Now go to sleep.”

“If you see a domovyk, will you tell me?” Katya asked.

“I will,” Granny Vera said.

“You didn’t finish the story,” Katya said.

“What?” Granny Vera had already dropped back off into a dream about her wedding and the brown crockery plate that her new mother-in-law had given her. It had little glazed rabbits around the rim. “To symbolize our land, our hearts,” Polina Dubko had said.

“You know what you always say,” Katya reminded her.

Granny Vera did remember. “And so it shall be until the end of the world.”

“Remember, Granny, how I used to get so sad when you said that?” Katya said.

Granny Vera laughed softly. “You would howl and scream, ‘But the world’s not going to end, is it, Granny?’” Her granddaughter’s breathing was even now. When there was no response, she said, “Good night, child.”

As Granny Vera snuggled back down under the covers to listen to the night’s song, she whispered a prayer, “Gospody, father, she’s so young. Let her remember me. My stories. Let them come alive for her.”



YANOV, 1986



Chapter One


WHEN I ARRIVED HOME FROM SCHOOL ON MY BIKE, I found my mother waiting on our front step. Our cottage was a three-room house made out of sturdy wood and painted white. Its bright blue shutters made our home look happy, almost grinning.

“Katya!” my mother called to me. She was a big-boned woman with cinnamon freckles on her shoulders. Her brown hair had reddish highlights that matched my own fiery red hair.

Every year, Mama spent thousands of hours sewing clothes for the wives of the men who ran the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station nearby. Although she wore thick glasses, she had a deep tan from working in our garden, and that kept her looking young. “How was your day?”

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