Hanna Solodka, 68

(Via an interpreter). I have been in Australia three and a half years. All that time I have been in Bendigo. I am a writer; I write stories and poems. It’s difficult for me to say how much I have been published because many of my stories and poems became part of collections. I write on a range of themes; social problems, love – of course – and some philosophy.

It’s very hard to explain why I became a writer – it’s not a deliberate decision or a deliberately wanted process. I can only think of it as sitting down somewhere and there’s a noise and you feel something, and whether the noise is pleasant or unpleasant you write it down. It’s whatever you feel at any given moment that sort of involves your feelings, you put it down on paper.

We came here as refugees because there’s war in the Ukraine. As soon as we arrived we contacted the Red Cross and they are the first organization that supported us. The Red Cross recommended us to contact Multicultural Services, I think they put us in touch automatically. Multicultural Services has been a great help. We get assistance with food and occasionally with medications and with language classes. There’s a war going on in my country. I happen to be from the region which is involved in that conflict. The shooting is continuous; it’s heavy artillery shooting. My house has been demolished. You hear the explosions all the time, it’s very hard. But for true belonging you need equality and I don’t feel that equality because I am in the position of someone asking for help and asking for charity; at home conditions are very hard.

It’s complicated to talk about what I love about Ukraine. It’s my country, that’s why I love it. It’s the country where I was born, it is a very beautiful country and its people are very nice. Above everything else in Australia it’s the people that I like. In some ways, they’re similar to Ukrainians: they’re kind, they’re hospitable, they’re always looking out for ways to help a person who needs help, they’re friendly and responsive. It’s those qualities that make me feel at home.

Editor’s note:

Hanna was recently awarded a medal by the Writer’s Union of Ukraine for her latest work which she wrote since being in Australia. The medal is only awarded once every four years. Hanna kindly consented for us to share a translation of one of her poems:

The world is changing, life will not stay as it was,
The stream dries up, the volcano goes silent,
But in spring, the snowdrop blossoms all the same,
Amongst constant misfortunes, pain and wounds

On earth it is anxious and unstable and unquiet
And yet from the nest a baby bird takes flight
And the child’s smile shines up like the sun,
And the young man takes his girl down the aisle.

This is because love is everywhere.
And the world dozes in her palms
Everyone nourishes a hope for happiness in his heart
Filling up with breath bottomless ether.