A Ukrainian’s Story
Behind the Translation
When a person translates eleven of your books, you really get to know them. Of the dozens of translators, we’ve worked with over the years, each brought their own unique talent and perspective to the work. From Bangkok to Rio, Singapore to Kabul, our translators touch every corner of the world. Some may do the work professionally; others may do it entirely out of love for their culture and language. At Children Bilingual Books, we shy away from using agencies. More important is for our translators to catch the essence of the storyline and its characters.
Regardless, we know it’s a sacrifice of time and effort. And, in some cases, we know this can come at a most inopportune time in one’s life.
The Story Behind Our Ukrainian Translation
On the night of 23rd of February 2022, tensions escalated quickly in Ukraine. Russian forces were massing on their eastern boarders and Ukrainians listened intensely to their news outlets for instructions.
“That night wasn’t peaceful,” began Olha Kholmetska of Kyiv. “The following morning, Ukraine woke up from the explosions.” That was the nightmare that became real. The worst fear that came true. Nobody believed that the invasion was going to happen, but almost everyone had their emergency bags ready, just in case.”
Hours into the morning, Russia employed ground forces to launch a strike on the northern front from Belarus towards Olha’s home city of Kyiv.
“There was no time to think of what to do,” said Kholmetska. “The first step was to get out of the capital because Kyiv was the number one aim to attack.” Olha climbed into a little Skoda Fabia
Sedan with four other people, six cats and one guinea pig and hit the road. “It was the longest traffic jam I have ever been to (at least for that moment).”
The only thing certain, was the feeling of uncertainty. “After we reached the destination at our friend’s house, the anxiety was growing. No one knew what was coming next. Only one thing was clear: the war had begun,” exclaimed Kholmetska.
Chaos enveloped the country. President Zelenskyy enacted martial law and a general mobilization.
“The following morning was arguably even worse,” said Kholmetska. “It was decided that all the women and the children have to leave Ukraine. “This was the moment I got in the car with just my backpack without knowing if I would ever see my family again. It was the most devastating moment of my life.”
Like many single Ukrainian women, Olha’s life was turned on its head. At this time, the world could only look upon the invasion in shock and horror.
“And after a twenty-hour ride in the car and four-day line to the border, we finally got to Poland and from there to the Czech Republic to my friend’s house.” Prague would become Olha’s new home until she was allowed to return home.
In the U.S., implications of the war started to settle in. In the beginning, leaders tip-toed around the idea of aiding a country engaged in combat with Russia. However, soon the support started to pour in. Most Americans would go on to supported Ukraine while condemning Russia. At Children Bilingual Books, headquartered in the midst of a large Ukrainian community in Renton, Washington, made it a priority to publish their dual-text series in Ukrainian. Work began the first week of March to find a resource for the translation. Social media brought us to a woman who said she knew a woman in Prague fluent in English and Ukrainian. We soon met via email and began our vetting process to find Olha as our first choice for the translation.
Olha (Olga) Kholmetska is a 32-year-old graduate of Dragonanov National Pedagogical University in Kyiv. She holds a master’s in Philology and taught French in Public school before fleeing to the Czech Republic. The choice of a translator could not have been better. Olha quickly translated the first five books over the next month. The books were published in April 2022 and released on print-audio with Library Ideas two months later.
“It is hard to describe the feeling of complete unknownness and fear of losing loved ones. But all the people that I met during my trip and then my stay abroad surrounded me with so much kindness, love and support that I have managed to cope with all the anxiety and fear.”
By the end of the summer, Ukrainian forces were able to push back the Russians away from Kyiv. Olha made plans to move back and pick up the piece of her life.
“The moment it was safe enough to come back to Kyiv I bought the ticket, and I returned home.
One of the most important things was to get back to my work. I was so grateful to see my students again. And the most positive and interesting experience of the year was working on the translation and then audio recording for the Advance Books LLC (a.k.a. Children Bilingual Books).”
Olha translated six more books to complete the series from late September to early November. In December, she went into a Kyiv recording studio between bombing reports and narrated one of her translated books in both English and Ukrainian. It was a pitch perfect narration. The audio-eBook was then scheduled to release mid-January through OverDrive for libraries and schools across the U.S.
“The war is not over yet, despite all the danger, difficulties, blackouts, cold weather, and missile attacks, people continue working. Because there’s no time to be afraid. We’re all fighting for our future, everyone in their place.”