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While becoming fascinated with and researching my own family history, which included learning the fate of a great uncle who was a UPA soldier in Ukraine, and his sister, my grandmother, who emigrated to Canada after witnessing the execution of her parents, I was moved to tell the story of how these traumatic events have a resonance and ripple effect through generations. That inspired me to write a story about an Alberta farmer in 1987, who loses his wife in a tragic accident that he witnesses but cannot prevent. His guilt and grief trigger the memories of his own childhood trauma in Ukraine: a horrific act he witnessed that has been buried deep in the past, and deep within his own psyche. The only way to process the death of his wife and to move through it, is to unearth this event, and come face to face with his own past. The story is set in my own Ukrainian community of Vegreville, Alberta. The feeling of the beautiful sprawling Alberta prairies, as backdrop to one man’s struggle to process his grief, and the sense that in that landscape he is surrounded by his ancestors, all those who have been loved and lost, inspired ‘They Who Surround Us’. Of special importance to me is the quality of light there and the feeling it engenders, such as Terrence Malick showed so beautifully in the magic hour photography in Days Of Heaven. The Alberta prairie is as much a character as the people themselves. The figure of one man against that backdrop can seem so small, but the comfort that is there for him is as vast and sustaining as the prairie itself. And there is a strength that is shared by all who chose to settle there.

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