Leaf Writers' Magazine Interview

1 Aug 2010

The day of my twenty-first birthday I flew to Ukraine on a travel grant which allowed me to work with orphans outside Chernobyl Zone 1. (Zone 1 is still inaccessible to civilians, but these orphans lived in the zone nearest to it, and were riddled with diseases and malformations caused by the toxic radiation.) As I was on a bus heading to Kiev for the weekend, an old man boarded with three large bags of apples. He had been picking for his family, having to traverse nearly an hour each way. I have travelled in many countries across four continents, and yet, I have never quite experienced anything like what I did in Ukraine. Exhaustion and sadness seem to permeate the air; yet there is also hope and love. Hard work is a staple for most that live outside of the cities.


I have always found the gift of fruit akin to the gift of life; it is the gift of friendship and nourishment. The man simply gave us these apples because we smiled. It is the type of moment that steals the breath. Poems seem best at encapsulating such moments, as poems themselves are brief, but can say so much.


I wrote “Ukraine” hours after meeting the old man while watching the apple sit on the desk next to my bed. I usually write at night, as I did then. The morning and evening hours—closest to the subconscious—seem to be the most creatively fertile. The poem was never edited, or changed from its original form; though I usually do edit my poems, “Ukraine” simply said what it needed to say the first time. Sometimes, seemingly rare, writers are offered these little blessings: apples and poems.





there is an old soviet train

running through communities

of communist orchards


and the family planters

remain towns away

bussing each day

to plough and tow

   the potato

   the seed


and today a man

who remembers more

than the beatles’ song

back in the ussr


turns to us

   the ukrainian

   the two americans


and hands

us each an apple


from the garden

where he plucked three

bags this afternoon


and he compliments our smiles

                                 our laughter

the look of better days


under wrinkled eyes

          old russian tongue



© Julie Bolitho. “Ukraine,” Poem. Leaf Writers’ Magazine. Poem and author interview. Leaf Books Press: Spring/Summer 2010, pgs. 34 & 35.













Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Pushcart Nomination

November 25, 2019

Best American Essays 2018

November 11, 2019

Please reload

You Might Also Like:

© Julie Bolitho 2018