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Daughter of Sorrow

By Valentina Gal

Philipovna: The Daughter of Sorrow is a creative non-fiction based on my mother's surviving the holodomor [the Ukrainian starvation] in the early 1930's.  It is the story of an orphan who goes to live with her aunt in a rural village in the Ukrainian countryside. The aunt swears on her dead sister's Bible that Vera Philipovna, the daughter of a cobbler and seamstress from a small village in Chercassy, Ukraine will survive no matter what might befall the family.  No one foresees the horrors that they will have to face between the fall of 1930 and the spring of 1933. In the end, out of a healthy extended family, only Philipovna, a cousin and the aunt survive. The acts of real savagery that are perpetrated on the village are unflinchingly narrated by a pre-pubescent girl, who also gives us a good grasp of the beauty and richness of the Ukrainian culture with its superstitions, customs and celebrations.


MiroLand (Memoir and Biography)


285 pages |

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Gal has written a haunting, gut-wrenching account of her mother’s life in Stalin’s Ukraine. In carefully-measured prose, she recreates the daily lives of those who suffered—and endured.

James King, Professor at McMaster University

Valentina Gal has written a remarkably, delightfully visual story… an introduction to the experience of the powerless. Her focus on the little things, the everyday concerns, doesn’t trivialize the suffering of the many, or the injustices all experienced. Valentina tells us the story from the bottom up.

Laurence DeWolfe, Senior Minister at Glenview Presbyterian Church in Toronto

This is a hard story to read, sorrowful and unrelenting in the inhumanity inflicted on the Ukrainian people. Not many survived, and it is hard to imagine how the Ukrainian people fought to survive under such extreme conditions. This book is a loving daughter’s memorial to her mother.

Historical Novel Society

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Word Awards: Christian Non-Fiction- Life Stories category (Winner)

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About the author

Valentina Gal is the blind daughter of Ukrainian immigrants who settled in Hamilton Ontario after WWII. While at McMaster University, she discovered that her city was diverse and peopled by colourful characters. Her writing and storytelling explore both her mother’s tragic history and her family’s adventures in becoming first generation Canadians.