“Come on, the (book) was on top of all the Polish book rankings since the translation came out – and not only the rankings of translated literature. Of course I expected some nomination,” Zabuzko says proudly.  “But with Angelus you never know until the very end of the award ceremony.”

Her book, “Museum of Abandoned Secrets,” won the Angelus prize on Oct. 19. Over 800 pages in hardcover, it spins a love story, tangled up with decades of Ukrainian history, a little everyday magic and a pinch of reality of modern-day Ukraine.

The photos from the award ceremony in Wroclaw betray a grinning, exhilarated Zabuzhko, the second Ukrainian writer to win the honor, a statue of an angel, since the award was launched eight years ago. The first ever Angelus was given to Ukrainian Yuriy Andrukhovych in 2006.


Angelus awards Central and Eastern European authors whose books are translated into Polish over a given year. Her award-winning novel was published in Ukraine in 2009.

The Ukrainian version of the Museum of Abandoned Secrets came out in 2009.

“This prize is a kind of an Eastern Booker and is also a bridge between the European and the post-Soviet culture,” Zabuzhko explains. She swiftly adds that the award is apolitical, proved by the fact that her book tells the story of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which operated in western Ukraine and killed many Poles during World War II.

Had it not been for Zabuzhko’s novel, the prize would have probably gone to Polish writer Szczepan Twardoch for his  “Morphium,” which she described as “a great novel.” Seven novels in total were short listed for the competition.

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“But again – Ukraine wins,” she smiles.

Andrzej Zawada, one of the jury members of Angelus, said that the books of Zabuzhko and  Twardoch have a lot in common. “I mean not the problems, but a common vision of certain problems. The writers start their story in the past, during World War II and finish with modern life and a modern outlook on the nation, history, patriotism, and at the same time – love and human solidarity,” Ukrainska Pravda website quoted  Zawada as saying during the award ceremony.


On top of a pretty trophy, the author wins €35,000 in cash for her achievement.  “It is not such a great load of money, of course, but I already have plans about what to do with it,” Zabuzhko laughs.

Zabuzhko plans to inject the cash into Komora, a publishing company that she established with her husband this year.  The writer presides over the supervisory board of this new company, and says that her plans usually crash against a lack of funds.

“Now I can just say that I give the money (away),” she smirks. “These €35,000 translate into about half a dozen published books.”

Aged 53, the former Fulbright Fellow at Harvard University has published five novels and seven books of poetry to date, as well as a number of academic works. Her fiction has been translated into 15 languages, including English. She has won multiple literary awards in Ukraine, but Angelus is her second international award after the 1997 Global Commitment Foundation Poetry Prize.

Zabuzhko says that the “Museum of Abandoned Secrets” is her strongest work yet. The book is already translated into five languages and the sixth, in Croatian, is coming out shortly.  The English version came out in October 2012 and is currently one of top 100 best-seller fiction books on the U.K. Amazon’s Kindle and printed book store.


The Kindle version of this book sells on Amazon for $6.99, while a paperback goes for $ 8.97. In Kyiv, the book is available in hardcover at the Ye chain of bookstores for Hr 120.

Kyiv Post staff writer Daryna Shevchenko can be reached at [email protected].

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