АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Iryna Kovalenko
18 July 2022
Nataliia Vasylieva is the editor-in-chief and founder of the Kharkiv publishing house Vidkryttia (Discovery), which was initially called “Litera V (V-letter)”. However, they decided to change the name because of the occupiers’ symbolism. Before the full-scale invasion, the publishing house arranged the publication of a novel about resettlers. The war brought about changes, and all team members became resettlers themselves. Read more about the work of the publishing house during the war.
I am a librarian and a manager of book publishing by training. I have been working in the literary field for more than ten years. I began as a book layout designer. I am a self-taught person. The idea of starting something of my own came to me in 2019. I worked in a publishing house as a book layout designer, and I realized that I could do more than that. At the same time, I worked as a literary editor. People turned to me for layout, editing, and further publication of the book. And then, I realized that I was managing the whole process by myself. I was afraid of this step because I am a creative person. Budgets, taxes, calculations are not my things.
We planned to launch the publishing house in February 2020. Unfortunately, we started at no proper time! In March, we were overwhelmed by the coronavirus. I have already waited at my part-time job. We outwaited quarantine, and since February 2021, everything started. We published the first book “Oreliia”. This is a novel about the history of the village Yakovlivka in the Kharkiv region when people fled their homes from collectivization. The story immediately fascinated me in 2018 when we met with the author Olga Khalepa.
“Vidkryttia” is focused on young (not meaning by age) Ukrainian authors. Well-known publishing houses more often started to refuse such because it is a considerable risk. It’s quite a difficult thing to promote an unknown author. With beginners, a special kind of work is required. And the main thing here is a risk. You don’t know whether the reader will buy such a book because readers are oriented towards translated literature. That is why we responded to such a challenge. I promote cool people, and every time I should beat for them in the chest.
When starting a business, you need to invest. I didn’t have my own money. I borrowed money from my husband. We recovered this amount in one year. We published the book in July 2021. In September, we made several presentations, and in October, there was the peak of Covid-19. Everyone was sitting at home, and no one was buying anything. Last May, there was a threat of russian invasion. Nobody bought anything either. The publishing industry is very dependent on external factors, so it wasn’t easy.
I was the core of the publishing house. Olga Chystiakova also started with me. She is my companion in the local history project. She taught me how to manage a budget and calculate money. But, I remained alone in the literary field. But in half a year, we had a publishing editor, Oleksandra Lomaka.
The publishing house initially was called “Litera V (V-Letter)”. There were rumors that a law banning the symbols of the occupiers could be passed. But I had a desire to change the name even without the law. If a person sees covers with the letter V, this person would feel disgusted once and for all. And I don’t want my high-quality Ukrainian books to cause disgust. These letters are already making me sick. So what can be said about the readers?
I thought about the name for a couple of weeks and looked for associations. So I found a new name for the publishing house – “Vidkryttia (Discovering)”. We discover Ukrainian authors and quality books. This is our position. While we read translated books, we hear the voices of other authors, but we do not hear the voices of our people.
On February 24, we woke up to explosions. The psychology of war was clear to me immediately. Nothing good will happen. Only blood, pain, death, violence, and looting. We had no chance to stay in the city. At first, we went to the village Koziivka, Kharkiv region, but we were afraid of occupation because of my position. Nataliia Melnyk, who works as an administrator of the Literary Competition of Mutual Readings, where I am the organizer, invited us to Ivano-Frankivsk. At the end of March, she helped us with housing.
All members of the team left Kharkiv in the first days. Oleksandra Lomaka also ended up in Ivano-Frankivsk. Olga Viktorivna is in the Netherlands, and I don’t know if she is going to return. Our content manager Kateryna lived 52 days in the Kharkiv metro. Due to the cold, she fell ill with pneumonia. Oleksandra took her to her place because treatment was necessary.
Somehow, it happened that almost the entire team left the city at once and moved to Ivano-Frankivsk. That is why our office now is a bench in Shevchenko’s Park.
The novel “The Lot’s wife” by Olena Prostsevichene was one of the winners at the Literary Competition of Mutual Readings I organize. This is a story about Zoia, who went to Vuhlehirsk, to the very heart of the war, to take away her old mother. One of the first sentences of the story captivated me. And I realized – this is it. According to the terms of the competition, we can offer the author to publish the book regardless of his winning place. Therefore, in August of last year, we started to work on that book.
In the middle of February, I gave the novel to Oleksandra Lomaka for final reading. And the war began. The editor read a book under shelling. I said, “You don’t have to read it.” She replied, “No, I have to. Now I feel everything on my own skin”.
For the first time last May, I read a novel about a person with survivor syndrome. It hurt me that people were going through this. There is a moment in the book when a projectile hits a high-rise building. Residents of the damaged basement began to run to another shelter. And two boys without parents came. The older one lied to the younger one that they would come soon. But they will not come. When the shelling decreased, the children came out of the basement and saw their parents. The elder one closed his mother’s eyes.
After reading it for the first time, I had a dream that our house was being shelled from Grads. At that time, russians were already arriving in Kholodna Gora (Kharkiv area). And the local residents repelled the attacks. And here I woke up. In peaceful Kharkiv, in complete silence. Who would have thought that this would be true?
The fourth time, during the layout, I read and cried. Now I remember again and cry. I read this story, already having my own experience that wasn’t like this but still. And I understood that even in such circumstances, it is possible to remain human. War doesn’t ask when to come. And it happens, so something else happens in the background of hostilities. For example, job loss and complex surgery. But you must stay afloat.
“This is an encouraging book about a war that is still happening. We do not hide that it will be painful to realize the tragedy that every war leaves behind. That people will cry while reading. But these will be tears of catharsis. Yes, dark times are real. But we can remain human beings. It is possible to survive even under bad circumstances”.
Not every person wants to have “The Lot’s wife” in their library. This is normal because not everyone is ready to read about a traumatic experience. That’s why I decided to create a Library Replenishment Fund for libraries affected by the war. For example, you can buy a book for a specific institution or simply support an initiative, and we will send it at our own discretion.
How should I live, a publisher, how am I going to return to Kharkiv? I don’t know. Sales stopped. Even after our victory, it won’t be easy. However, in August, I plan to return to Kharkiv with my child, so my son can start first grade.
Publishing books is my incurable disease. I will continue doing this. After “The Lot’s wife,” there will be “After the last dot”, a collection of my short stories. Therefore, only publish and publish even more.
Reading is therapy. Someone is relaxing with a book, reliving someone else’s experience or their own. It is worth reading during the war. But only those things that could find a way to your heart. And in any case, don’t force yourself.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Olha Verkalets | Translation: Iryna Kovalenko