Creative Writing

The Couple in the Woods: Fragments of a Memoir

Intergenerational trauma is an emerging field of study for genocide scholars in the 21st century, as the atrocities from the past century have begun to influence the lives of second and third generation survivors.The Couple in the Woods’ is a creative non-fiction piece, published in Sydney in a book called Kindling (Vol. II). It is written from the perspective of second and third generation relatives of a survivor of the Ukrainian Holodomor. These relatives have a connection to the genocide, but struggle to understand what it was like to experience it first-hand. The fairy tale style of the title, ‘The Couple in the Woods’, demonstrates the difficulty faced by these generations in picturing these stories as real events, as they are so far removed from what they experience in their daily lives; often fairy tales are the closest thing they have to relate them to. The story highlights the research and discussions that take place as they try to piece together a narrative using the memories of their relatives and the information from history books, neither of which can provide a thorough account of the experience of genocide. ‘The Couple in the Woods’ is based on a story passed down by my grandmother and her children about an experience with cannibalism during the Holodomor in Ukraine. The existence of cannibalism is an aspect of the genocide that continues to be under-researched due to the taboo surrounding cannibalism and the unwillingness of survivors to discuss their experiences with it.

Originally published in Scheuerer, H, Bandte, K, Cole, RJ, and K Emmerton (Eds.) 2015, Kindling: A Writer’s Edit Anthology Vol. II, Sydney: Writer’s Edit.

Presented at the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) Conference 2019 in Phnom Penh.