A Sky Full of Wings is a labyrinthine collection … the poems’ speaker reflects, questions and explores ancestral ties, ancestral land, family, and the spaces and places that leave the deepest impressions on one’s being. … At the heart of A Sky Full of Wings is loss. As Rychtycka’s intimate poems detail her grandparents’ and parents’ escapes from war-torn Ukraine, readers find themselves encountering a history that history textbooks of the Western variety often ignore. … Hope and fulfillment, however, conquer the loss and the perpetual sadness of losing one’s homeland. What readers find throughout the book are poems of return where a single trip reunites one with the language and a culture with which one is familiar and a part of, but has remained separated from, due to geography. A Sky Full of Wings is a powerful collection, one that possesses the grace and history of Lina Kostenko’s work, and is sure to engage readers of all backgrounds and cultures.” — Nicole Yurcaba, The Seneca Review* * *“In Rychtycka’s poetry compilation, the use of vivid sensory images brings the intimate feelings of one’s memories to life. An ode to journeys past, the poet’s trek ranging from Chicago to Kyiv is eye-opening, weaving together a snapshot of time that is sometimes torturous and haunting, at others hopeful and resplendent. ... More than anything else, the compilation uses a raw and authentic voice to highlight the limitlessness of the skies as they show that however dark a day can get, hope endures.” — Mihir Shah, US Review of Books* * *“Like the graceful birds bursting forth on its cover, the poems journey through ancestry, family and geography. From the annals of family history, stories of survival and identity, and the journeys of finding, losing and reclaiming one’s self will inspire. With a dedicated narrator, readers travel Chicago, Zagreb and even to Chornobyl. The tug of ancestral homeland enters the beauty of the Carpathians where towns bear family names and birds of good luck land on Kyiv balconies. Though loved ones may be gone, they are not out of reach, for they are only a memory away.”—Eric Hoffer Book Award* * *“Both a sojourn that connects modern-day America with family roots in another culture and an inspection of evolving values and new experiences, A Sky Full Of Wings embraces the heritage of grandparents who left everything behind to journey to America, and a mother who returns to her native land in 1990 after fleeing the old world: With Father, Mother danced the tango, fast/as gunshots once chasing her across Europe./Here, mother treads slow — pointed toes/and stiffened arms — relearning first steps/on native soil.” —D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review* * *“Although this is Ksenia Rychtycka’s first poetry collection, A Sky Full of Wingsis a masterful work, showing her mastery of the free verse genre. This book explores many important themes, including dealing with evolving family relationships, exploring Ukraine’s history and current political reality, and coming to terms with the human cycle of life and death. Ukrainian readers will definitely relate to images of their childhood, their history and their community. Other readers will be captivated by the beautiful imagery and skillful literary technique displayed in her poems.”—Myra Junyk,Knyzhka Corner Book ReviewNash Holos Ukrainian Radio* * *“With tender emotional expressions, beautiful visual metaphors, and themes that cover the whole journey of life itself, this is a chapbook that has something to offer readers at many different stages of their lives. What results is a resonant series of impactful individual moments which also build to an overall sense of history, heritage and home.” —K.C. Finn, Readers’ Favorite (Five Stars)* * *“The poems that make up A Sky Full Of Wings carry readers on a journey rich with longing and loss, with the elation born from first steps, first love and bright, new surroundings. In this haunting collection, the journeys are physical and psychological, joyful and poignant such as the revelations that come in Poem For The Child Who Doesn’t Speak:On the trampoline you are poised like a bird/…Our eyes meet/and then you rise higher than I can reach/my arms cradling only air. Heartbreaking and healing and deeply life-affirming, this collection soars.”—Laura Bernstein-Machlay,author of Travelers* * *“The poems of a true inheritor: watchful, quiet, life-stunned: heavy and alive with beauties and sorrows both present and past.”—Olena Kalytiak Davis, author of four books of poetry, including The Poem She Didn’t Write And Other Poems* * *“Like the birds that permeate her evocative poems, Ksenia Rychtycka crisscrosses the ocean from Detroit to Ukraine as she guides us through the sinuous paths of her journey from childhood to present. With a feather-light touch that reaches immeasurable depth — through stories of four generations of her family — she honors centuries of the turbulent history of her native land. Along the way, she invites us to see this earth which has molded her, feel this wind that has carried her, embrace the rain that has opened each fragile bud and washed away pain and sadness. She has opened her heart.”—Myrosia Stefaniuk, author of Dibrova Diary
“With little hope in her homeland, one seeks to look elsewhere. Crossing the Border is a collection of short stories from Ukrainian writer Ksenia Rychtycka as she tells many stories surrounding Ukraine as well as the world around it, telling of characters facing events of the nation's recent history and their personal journeys. With a good dose of humor and insight into the lives of Ukrainians, Crossing the Border is a must for any international fiction collection.”—Midwest Book Review (Reviewer's Choice) * * *“The bottom line is that all the stories examine what it is to be human and that is always what makes a book compelling to me. I know little about Ukraine and its people. Author Rychtycka let me see the intimate part of Ukrainian history, culture and its community. This is an excellent collection from Rychtycka and I look forward to her future works.”—Lit AmriReader’s Favorite (Five Stars)* * *“Beautifully written and fully imagined, Ksenia Rychtycka’s stories are rich with color and setting. Though many of her characters are prisoners—of history, politics, inertia or fear—there is an undercurrent of hope and even salvation, which arrives in deftly quiet and compelling ways: a scrawny bird, a recipe contest, the toll of a distant bell. Rychtycka is a writer of astonishing compassion and honesty, a writer to be cherished and watched.”—Dorene O’Brien, award-winning author of Voices of the Lost and Found* * *“Crossing the Border is a collection of nine short stories, mostly centering on the lives of Ukrainian characters. Each story comes across as quite personal and heartfelt, and I found the author’s words to be poignant and full of emotion. Although my life could not be more different from the characters in these stories, I was able to connect with them on a personal level. Ms. Rychtycka’s writing is intelligent and touching. I was surprised to learn that this is her first book. Her style is engaging and beautifully descriptive. There’s a note of sadness to much of the book, but these are people who have been deeply affected by the ravages of war so that’s to be expected. The author has taken a terrible part of history and made it more personal by giving us glimpses through the eyes of her characters. Yet, despite the note of sadness, Ms. Rychtycka has managed to portray them as resilient and optimistic. If you enjoy reading stories about everyday people who are able to triumph over tragedy then you’ll love this book. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Rychtycka’s books in the future!”—Susan Barton, ebookreviewgal.com* * *“One of the strongest images in this anthology is Babtsia. The image of the strong and competent Ukrainian grandmother caring for the emotional and spiritual needs of future generations is skillfully portrayed by Rychtycka.”—Myra Junyk, Knyzhka Corner Book Review Nash Holos Ukrainian Radio* * *“Ksenia Rychtycka weaves her characters with dignity, compassion and strength in Crossing the Border. Blending history and ethnicity, each story delivers universal human emotions with an amazing voice. The reader is captivated, anticipating each turn of the page.”—Susan Noe Harmon, author, Under the Weeping Willowwww.snharmon.com
40 DaysThe last time Luba saw her husband alive, he joked about the color of his suits in the same way he joked about his enemies — laughing, always laughing, as if a boisterous chuckle could fell death threats by the very audacity of its sound. Luba had wanted him to wear the dark suit for his campaign trip to the communist-oriented South, where support for a political prisoner-and-poet-turned-politician seemed about as absurd as buying vegetables from the contaminated zone north of Kyiv."A presidential candidate has to look distinguished," Luba told Roman. "You've got to convince them a former dissident can be a good president too.""I'll wear the tan suit," Roman answered, waving away her words with a grin. "I'm not ready for the coffin yet."And then Roman grabbed Luba close, lifted her by her waist and swung her around in circles until she fell laughing against his chest, Roman's fingers stroking her hair long after the laughter subsided.* * *Today is her husband’s funeral. Six days after he refused his wife's request to dress in black, Luba has no choice but to remove another dark suit from the closet, iron it so carefully that the pleats stiffen, as crisp as the tone in her voice when she answers the phone, and Oles, Luba's stepson and Roman's son, tells her that the police investigation into Roman’s death will take weeks at the very least. "The rumor is they want the investigation to look solid," Oles says."Brakes going out on a brand-new Toyota?" Luba asks. "They can’t claim it was an accident. Everyone knows the roads were dry that night.""I told him this campaign was a crazy idea," Oles says. "All those years when I was growing up, he was in the labor camps, and now he’ll miss his grandson’s childhood too.""He couldn't just sit idly by," Luba says.Oles doesn’t respond, but Luba knows what he’s thinking: She should havetalked to Roman. As if anyone could have prevented Roman from campaigning, even if she’d agreed to try. "Oles,” Luba's voice trembles. "You know that no one could have stopped him." But Oles is hanging up the phone, telling her he has to go, and he’ll call her later. Before she can say anything else, the line goes dead.* * *Luba's been to many funerals in her life, but her husband's funeral at St. Nicholas Cathedral in the center of Kyiv seems more like a gathering of the masses than the typical affair. As the black hearse weaves its way past city blocks filled shoulder to shoulder with people, Luba stares out the window. She takes in the wide concrete buildings, the chestnut trees that have unexpectedly burst into bloom a few weeks early and all the wood barriers closing off the streets near the Cathedral. Buses are lined up, bumpers touching, parked erratically on the edges of the cracked sidewalks, and Luba can see by the signs in their windows that people came from all parts of the country."You see, darling," Luba whispers to herself. "They've all come to pay their respects." Next to her in the hearse, Luba’s older sister, Marusia, who’d taken the overnight express train from Lviv and arrived only a few hours earlier, pats Luba’s hand. "There wasn’t an empty seat on the train last night," Marusia says. "Not even one."Inside the immense Cathedral whose ceilings rise high to the sky, Luba feels the hot breath of friends and strangers against her neck. Their eyes look deeply into hers as if seeking some sort of solace or perhaps even a promise of retribution. Luba turns away from the questions mirrored in their faces, the awkward shrugs and the sympathetic nods and unexpectedly finds herself face to face with the president of her country. He is hardly taller than herself as he holds out his hand, mouthing sympathies, sweating noticeably in the stifling heat. Even through her black veil, Luba can sense the looks of disapproval cast his way. The looks around her are shrill with accusation, but Luba accepts the president’s condolences just as she accepts condolences from the leaders of all the other political parties — the graying men and the outspoken women — many of whom Roman had adamantly opposed.Murder is the first word out of Oles’ mouth once the funeral is over, and they are back at the apartment where Roman and Luba lived. There are about 20 people who have come over, bearing plates of kanapky, chicken and an assortment of beet and potato salads. It’s traditional during pomynky to share stories about the person who’s left them behind, but this time there’s no room for any happy memories to shake away the somber mood."It’smurder,Itellyou."Olesbangshisfistonthetable,hisdarkhairfallingoverhiseyes."Andtheorderhadtocomefrom the top," he says, searing the room full of people with a look of fury.Silence falls around the table with some of the guests nodding their heads in assent. In the past, Luba was always surprised how her stepson bore no resemblance to his father. While Roman was short and wiry, his son looms well over six feet tall and is as stocky as Roman was slender. But today, his grief is so outspoken that Luba can’t help being reminded of his father. Roman’s passion, once ignited, swept through obstacles in his path like a runaway elephant, oblivious to any attempts to stop the onslaught."Did you notice how they tried to keep the people away?" Marusia asks. "The police formed a human chain and wouldn’t even let the old babusias in. "It’s too crowded; we have to keep the order,’ was all they’d say.""It's nothing to do with order," Oles says, rising from his chair. The edge of his hand accidentally sweeps a plate of food onto the floor. And even though he’s had little to drink, Oles stumbles, eyes blurring and falls onto the red and white kilim covering the hardwood floor. In the 20 years she’s been married to Roman, Luba has never seen her stepson lose his composure, but when she rushes to Oles’ side and murmurs words of reassurance, he pushes her away with a look of confusion. The two of them stop and stare at one another; two people who have lost the one man binding them to one another, and for a second amid hesitation, their eyes lock. Then Oles looks away, and Luba steps back, her hands shaking at her sides.* * *When Luba was born, her parents named her after the Ukrainian word for love. Lubov. Moya Luba. Lubochka. Every letter Roman had ever written Luba started out with a different variation of her name. Luba sits in their bedroom and sifts through the stack she's collected over the past 20 years. While Oles is calling daily press conferences, Luba can do nothing more than walk through the apartment, waiting for a breath of warm air against her ear (hadn’t he always whispered to her, even in the middle of the night when he thought she was asleep?) or the sound of footsteps in an empty room — anything to convince her she hasn’t been completely left behind. Three weeks since they've buried Roman, and there's been no word from the police about the investigation. Luba knows this only because Marusia has been staying with her and fielding all the phone calls. The newspapers keep piling up on the kitchen table, but Luba barely glances at the headlines. She already knows all the conjectures and theories about Roman's death. From the communists who've hung on to their seats in the parliament to the current president whose fast dance with corruption is no longer a state secret, Roman's death appears to have paved the way for easy victory in next year's elections. "They might argue about who's behind it," Luba tells her sister. "But no one believes it was an accident."As Roman's widow, Luba is on the hot list for interviews. So far, she's turned down every single one of them and has instead focused on Roman's love letters that fill an entire drawer in her dresser. Luba's kept them all, the short notes that start off with a poem and end with a pencil drawing; the long letters that cover every square inch of paper, words crawling up margins in disarray. Once, on the back of a theatre program, Roman had even drawn a sketch of the Saint Sophia Cathedral, complete with the kiosk booth in front, where the two of them had gawked at images of saints plastered next to postcards of Soviet monuments and city vistas on the glass front of the booth. Roman was good at noticing details like that. It was something Luba would tease him about; how he'd remember what tie a certain writer wore at a dinner; what song was playing over the loudspeaker when they'd kissed for the first time on Khreshatyk Boulevard while waiting for the metro; and what promises certain politicians made only to later deny they'd ever spoken those words aloud. Roman remembered details as if they were etched in glitter across a bare table. He told Luba it had been the only way he'd been able to write his poems during his 15 years in the labor camps — he'd memorize them in his head, then recite each line over and over until someone was able to sneak him in a pen, and he'd write them down on the back of cigarette paper.Luba can hear the phone ring in the background but ignores it and instead turns to the first letter Roman had ever sent her. It's all about their first meeting, and now Luba only wants to remember; to breathe in the crisp air of that October evening and retrace the steps she'd forgotten she once took.Appropriately enough, they'd met at a poetry reading. Roman, as master of ceremonies, had stood at the lectern and jingled some coins in his pocket, then looked across the room when Luba slipped into a seat at the back. He waited until she set her purse on the floor and settled back in the chair before starting the reading. At 42, Roman had a head full of curls and a smile so wide that even Luba, who was usually nervous around strangers, had been immediately set at ease. She knew all about Roman. She knew about his wife who’d been arrested along with him and later died of pneumonia in a Siberian labor camp. She knew about his only son who was raised by his maternal grandparents and had only seen his father a handful of times during his entire childhood. Later, Roman would tell her more about Oles and the letters Oles wrote documenting his day at school or a trip to the Black Sea with his grandparents. His letters were always precise and full of detail and never once mentioned the taunting he’d endured when one or another of his teachers would make note of his family background to the class.When the poetry reading ended that night, Roman walked up to her at the fourchette, Luba's hand losing its grip on the wine glass she just lifted to her lips. He was quick, but not quick enough and caught her fingers as the glass slipped to the floor. They laughed about it later, shards of glass at their feet, fingers sticky from the red Muscat that splattered and spilled all over the white tablecloth and even on their clothes. Roman kissed Luba's hand then, bowing longer than necessary, and Luba could feel the warm touch of his lips settle on her skin with an almost easy familiarity. When she shivered, he rose immediately, releasing her hand from his grasp. They talked for the next two hours and continued their conversation while they walked downhill through the narrow, poplar-lined streets all the way to the Dnipro River. The metro had stopped running by then, and they stood at the river's edge. They talked and stared at one another, their flow of conversation finally cut short by some fishermen who arrived with the break of dawn. Roman hadn't kissed Luba again that night, but by the time he walked her to the door of her apartment building, Luba knew she was in love for the first time in her 36 years of life.
Ksenia Rychtycka is a poet and fiction writer whose Ukrainian heritage is often highlighted in her creative work. Her chapbook A SKY FULL OF WINGS won the 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award and the 2022 Best Book Award (American Book Fest) in the Poetry Chapbook category, and was shortlisted for the Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize. The book was also a da Vinci Eye winner for cover design and selected as a finalist in the 2020 New Women's Voices Chapbook competition (published by Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, most recently in The Literary Bohemian, Wordpeace, Ukrainian American Poets Respond, The Poetry Distillery and Fusion Magazine. Ksenia worked as an editor in Ukraine during the early years of the post-Soviet era, an experience which has inspired her literary work. She has backpacked through twelve countries in Europe, and after sojourns in Chicago and Kyiv, Ukraine, resides with her family in the Detroit metro area where she was raised. She has a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a minor in art history from Wayne State University. Ksenia is a copy editor at a downtown Detroit ad agency. In 2020, Ksenia was awarded a spot in the inaugural Historical Fiction Masterclass (organized by the Historical Novel Society.)
An excerpt of my poem “Cornish Cliffs and a River Near Chornobyl” (River Poems Anthology/Lilly Press) was published in this wonderful review by Danielle Blasko analyzing the ways in which literary editors put together anthologies.
Nash Holos Ukrainian Radio (Knyzhka Corner Book Review): A Sky Full of Wings by Ukrainian-American author Ksenia Rychtycka features a collection of poetry about Ukrainian immigration (starts at 14-minute mark)
My short story “Homecoming” was published in an anthology called Twenty Years After The Fall,a retrospective in poetry and prose, comprised of 33 writers,and released on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Order Twenty Years After The Fall fromAmazon