I am from Ukraine. I always feel like I have to say I’m from Ukraine, to explain the accent and the weird name, but the main reason I bring it up all the time is that I think it sounds cool. Not as mundane as Russia and not as obscure as, say, Turkmenistan, Ukraine in my mind is the perfect former Eastern Bloc country to be from, socially. Lucky for me, I’m actually from there, so I don’t have to start a conversation with a lie.


I was born in Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, the Soviet Union’s equivalent of Florida. My mom’s side of the family lived there. My dad came from the banks of Dnyepr, the Cossack country. My parents met when they were students in Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city. That’s where they settled permanently when I was two or three years old. That’s where I grew up.


Soviet Union dissolved when I was 14. I started smoking and drinking at about the same time. That was our 2012. I wrote a book about it once. I might write it again one day.


Back then we didn’t really care, though. I mean, I didn’t start drinking because the world as I knew it had ended. It was simply a coincidence that I was of proper age at the time. To us, Soviet Union was the childhood we were growing out of, and Ukraine the independent country was the adolescence. We, ourselves, were changing so much, that the external changes seemed trivial. Can any revolution beat puberty?


I was about 16 when I decided to be a writer. I had written a couple of stories before then, including the beginning and the crew list for a space travel novel when I was 12, but it wasn’t until 16 that I actually thought, Hey, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Having set this course for myself, I graduated from school, enrolled in college majoring in Hotel Management and wrote nothing for the next four years.


In December of 1996 somebody who knew that English had always been my easiest subject, told me about one of the student summer work programs. In May of 1997 I was vacuuming rooms and changing sheets at George Williams College resort in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. I went back home at the end of the season, but I was hooked. The next year I wrapped up my degree, packed my bags and went to work at a place in North Carolina. While there, I remembered the plan I had set for myself back when I was 16, and it occurred to me that I could still make it happen. I started writing stories in English and have been here, writing them, ever since.


I will make it happen.