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On Books: Olya and Olena Escape the Invaders


In 2022, we’ve become all too accustomed to seeing headlines roll out day after day, describing the horrific effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, there is a new way of relating that devastating story, and from a very personal perspective: it’s a new book aimed primarily at children called Olya and Olena Escape the Invaders.

This new work of juvenile literature tells the tale of two young ballet students in Mariupol, Ukraine who must suddenly flee for their lives when the bombs begin to drop in the middle of their dance class.

The book was co-authored by Ukrainian 13-year-old Olya Illichov, in collaboration with Calgary-based author and artist Maddy Shyba. It’s just out via Uproute Books, an imprint of Alberta’s own Durvile Publications.

Co-author Maddy Shyba recently joined Grant Stovel to talk about the real-life Olya and the backstory of this inter-continental collaboration; the artwork and music brought to the project by Diana Bezukh and Volodymyr Shyba, as well as the Home in Our Hearts program:

More books from Uproute and Durvile: