Crossing the Border

Fiction - Short Story/Novela
134 Pages
Reviewed on 08/16/2015
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Author Biography

Ksenia Rychtycka was born in Chicago and raised in Hamtramck, Michigan. Her short stories and poems have appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Literary Bohemian, Wisconsin Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and other literary journals and anthologies. Ksenia worked as an editor in Kyiv, Ukraine, from 1996-2000, an experience which inspired several stories in her collection Crossing The Border. The book was selected as a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Short Story - Fiction category.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite

Crossing the Border is a collection of short stories by Ksenia Rychtycka. The title of this collection itself presents myriad moments in life with nine stories set in Ukraine and reaching to the United States and Greece. Love, disillusionment, tragedy, strength and perseverance are highlighted through an ensemble of relatable characters and themes such as family, politics and self-discovery.

Through Rychtycka’s deft prose, the intense emotions that are inevitably felt in the narrative are keenly and clearly portrayed, making the reading engaging. That said, some stories outweigh others and I do have my personal favorites. One of them is ‘Babtsia,’ a story about Lina, who’d arrived from America to visit her grandmother in Ukraine. They bond through old memories, a moving moment that reminds me of my own late grandmother.

Readers will relate to Rychtycka’s unflinchingly honest yet sensitive portrayal of sentiments. The collective points of view and the good sense of place left me satisfied. Several characters had stayed with me long after I was done. Some felt carefully polished over a long period of time, as they had a certain level of peculiarity indicating that. This is no surprise though, as Rychtycka herself mentioned in her acknowledgement that “this book has been years in the making.”

The bottom line is that all the stories examine what it is to be human and that is always what makes a book compelling to me. I know little about Ukraine and its people. Author Rychtycka let me see the intimate part of the Ukrainian history, culture and its community. This is an excellent collection from Rychtycka and I look forward to her future works.


This is the first book I received through the First Reads Giveaway from Goodreads! What an amazing introduction to a wonderful program! The stories crossed geographical borders, but also cultural and emotional ones. The dialog was spare but so eloquent that it catches your breath and steals your heart. You feel the pain of the characters, their joy and disenchantment and you want to reach out, hold them and engage in conversation. The descriptions of the settings draw you in as though you are intimately part of the story. This was an awesome introduction to the work of Ksenia Rychtycka. If you haven’t read any of her work, you owe it to yourself to do so. You’ll find yourself revisiting the stories long after you’ve put the book aside. Savor these stories as you would a fine wine!

Dorene O'Brien

I have long been a fan of Rychtycka's writing, which is precise, subtle and powerful. Though many of the stories in this collection are related in setting, time and events, each one is peopled with unique, compelling characters you will remember long after you've read about them. This collection of stories demonstrates a writer at her peak. Don't miss it!

Vera Sirota

How to summarize Ksenia Rychtycka's writing style? Think Ukrainian Jhumpa Lahiri. Gringa Junot Diaz. Gentile Gary Shteyngart. Get your hands on this book and devour the tales of culture, loss, hope, and freedom. You will be so glad that you did!

Natalia Erehnah

The stories in "Crossing the Border" offer a glimpse into the lives of various Ukrainians in the years leading up to and immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. I enjoyed reading about the spectrum experiences of Ukrainians who made divergent choices at the end of WWII: those who fled to America, those who stayed and sheltered a fierce nationalist pride, and those who gently assimilated into changing environments.

Drawing on her experiences growing up in Detroit's Ukrainian-American community, and years living in Ukraine during times in which the stories in "Crossing the Border" take place, the author weaves realistic, heart-touching stories: Vera returns home and is reunited with her cousin, Sefko after a 47 year separation, and each strives to explain and understand choices made; Luba is burying a husband who died under suspicious circumstances; Lesia leaves an unfaithful husband in Ukraine to work in America, and engages in her own affair. Each character comes alive, drawing the reader in to his or her struggles, sadness, and joy.

I have been waiting for a book portrays contemporary Ukrainian experiences for a long time. I was not disappointed. I highly recommend this book, and consider it a must read for immigrants and the children of immigrants who wish to understand the the plight and choices of Ukrainian people in recent history.

I'll end with a passage from the story, "The Artist."

"Maybe it's not like we dreamed it, but this is how our lives are now. This is how Ukraine is now."

"How do you do it, Nadia?" Valerij asked. "It seems so easy for you. You never let go of your dreams."

"Maybe it's not as bad as you think,"she said. "If you're real lucky, you find someone to grab on to, and they you just keep on going."


'd intended to read Crossing the Border in an afternoon, curled up in a big comfy chair with a pot of tea nearby, but then decided I really didn't want to rush through such good stories. The stories are written so that, within the first few paragraphs of the start of each one, I felt I knew the characters, only to realize by the time the story ended, how much more had been revealed. I thoroughly enjoyed the Ukrainian flavor running through each tale--it gave me a glimpse into another country and its culture, and left me wanting to know more. I would definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading more by this author. She has an effortless, easy style that's warm and insightful, from the heart.


What I most appreciate about Crossing the Border is the author's ability to enmesh her reader so completely in the lives of her characters: women and men, youth and elder. You know you're in the presence of a powerful storyteller when, for a few hours, you forget where you are and what's going on in your own life--and that's exactly what Ksenia Rychtycka does here. Her turn of phrase and rich descriptions, as well as her pitch-perfect, engaging dialogue, make these stories seem effortless. One of the things I love about reading short fiction is its ability to offer little glimpses into the lives of strangers--and, when it's at its best, turning those strangers into friends. These stories definitely delivered. Thanks!

Midwest Book Review

“With little hope in her homeland, one seeks to look elsewhere. Crossing the Border is a collection of short stories from Ukrainian writer Ksenia Rychtycka as she tells many stories surrounding Ukraine as well the world around it, telling of characters facing events of the nation's recent history and their personal journeys. With a good dose of humor and insight into the lives of Ukrainians, Crossing the Border is a must for any international fiction collection.”

Robert Germaux

I enjoyed Ksenia Rychtycka's "Crossing the Border" on a number of levels. As an author myself, I appreciated her writing style, concise and to the point, along with her wonderful descriptive phrases, as evidenced in "The Bell Tower," when a rumor wasn't repeated aloud but "was something that was spoken of quietly in whispers that snaked through the town."

The nine stories in this collection drew me into a place and a world with which I wasn't familiar: Ukraine in the years preceding and following the fall of the Soviet Union. What makes these tales so fascinating is the fact that Rychtycka gives us a glimpse into the world not simply by recounting historical events, but by introducing us to a number of well-drawn characters whose lives, one way or another, have been impacted by those events. I also appreciated the symmetry of the color orange. In "Homecoming," the first story in the book, Vera picks up a burnt orange pebble at the end as she leaves her old home behind, while in "Orange in Bloom," the final story, orange is the "new color," one that symbolizes a beginning.

I recommend "Crossing the Border" to anyone who enjoys "slice of life" stories that entertain while also educating the reader, a feat few authors seem to manage anymore.

Susan Barton

Crossing the Border is a collection of nine short stories, mostly centering on the lives of Ukrainian characters. Each story comes across as quite personal and heartfelt, and I found the author’s words to be poignant and full of emotion.

Although my life could not be more different from the characters in these stories, I was able to connect with them on a personal level. Ms. Rychtycka’s writing is intelligent and touching. I was surprised to learn that this is her first book. Her style is engaging and beautifully descriptive.

There’s a note of sadness to much of the book, but these are people who have been deeply affected by the ravages of war so that’s to be expected. The author has taken a terrible part of history and made it more personal by giving us glimpses through the eyes of her characters. Yet, despite the note of sadness, Ms. Rychtycka has managed to portray them as resilient and optimistic.

If you enjoy reading stories about everyday people who are able to triumph over tragedy then you’ll love this book. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Rychtycka books in the future!