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PN Review 276
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This interview is taken from PN Review 272, Volume 49 Number 6, July - August 2023.

in conversation with Oksana Maksymchuk
Under a Strange Shadow
Sasha Dugdale
Sasha Dugdale: Can you tell me about your childhood in Soviet Ukraine? I’m keen to hear how it felt to you growing up in the stagnating air of the late USSR, especially as the child of a dissident actor working and living in Lviv, the centre of a Ukrainian cultural revival during this period. Was there a large gap between private and public realities?

Oksana Maksymchuk: It’s fascinating how the stagnation of one culture creates the conditions for the revival or reinvention of another, isn’t it? As a child, I had a sharp sense that the inner family world was very different from the official outer world, and that the traffic between them needed to be tightly controlled. Growing up in the Soviet Union involved leading a double life, defined, from a child’s perspective, by a nightmarish economy of punitive mechanisms: my parents warned me that if we weren’t vigilant about what we said outside of our home, they could be arrested, and I would be put in an orphanage. At the same time I think they knew that you could only expect so much from a kid, and they tended to self-censor so that I wouldn’t unintentionally reveal their secrets. There were plenty of stories of such incidents – sometimes because a child had made a mistake or had been bribed, at other times because a child genuinely thought they were doing the right thing in reporting on their parents. We, the children, were often given examples from literature and Soviet hagiography, and the child who chose the State over the Family was always portrayed ...

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