Welcome to the second installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages. Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists. And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU. We are thrilled to continue this new author-centric series with the inspirational Oxana Lapchuk, author of The Journalist: A Holocaust Story.
"It Started with a Dream"
My book journey started ten years ago on May 5, 2010 when I dreamed that I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. The baby was chunky and laughed profusely. While I knew I wouldn’t be having a baby, I did know that God was speaking to me in a different way; instead, he was telling me that I'd bring something new into the world. To me, that meant it was finally time to write a book about the story that meant the most to me: my father’s holocaust experiences.
Now, this happened right around the time that I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Thanks to the dream, I had newfound confidence that I would beat it and that my book-baby would become a reality. I needed to focus on it, not the cancer. I had surgery shortly after the dream, cutting out the need for chemo or radiation and giving me inspiration to get to work. But when I focused my attention toward the book, I found that there were many challenges to getting it written.
First and foremost, my father had died 20 years earlier. I had to recall my conversations with him about his experiences and dig through his records and documents (he was a journalist) to try to piece it all together. I found some old photos that shed some light on his timeline and was able to get a clearer picture.
But I knew it wasn’t enough. I would have to go to the actual concentration camps to get further clarification.
In 2018, a friend of mine connected me to a German teacher who focused on the Holocaust. I spoke to her about my father’s history in Buchenwald and working in the underground tunnels of the Dora-Mittlebau complex. She helped me locate someone at the Buchenwald Memorial who was able to gather even more documents about his personal information while he was at the camps. I made arrangements with her to pick us up at the train station in Nordhausen, Germany and to take us to the underground tunnels in Dora-Mittlebau.
They only opened the tunnels in 2006 so we were able to take a tour and see for ourselves the horrible working conditions that the prisoners had to endure. Then she drove us to Buchenwald—about an hour away. We met with the head of the Memorial Archives and she had all the documents ready for me. We spent an hour going over everything, and I realized that some of my information was not accurate. So I had to make some revisions as to my father’s timeline while in the different camps.
The most amazing experience for me was when they took me to the actual spot where my father slept in the barracks in the “Little Camp.” It was block 63. I stood on that grassy spot where there was once a building. It was as if I was walking in his footsteps and reliving some of his experiences. I couldn’t believe it.
When I went back to the states, I immediately started rewriting to make it as accurate as possible. At the time I was thinking I might self-publish it, but I wasn’t young anymore and didn’t have the time or the finances to go through that whole process. I had been a member of the Florida Writers Association and found out they were having a conference in October 2018 near my city. So, I went.
At the conference, I made an appointment to meet with Lawrence Knorr of Sunbury Press, Inc. To my surprise, he was actually interested in publishing it! And one year later, my book (and my father's story) was published.
Some amazing things have happened since it got published. I was able to reconnect with friends that I hadn’t been in touch with for 45 years. I was able to reconnect with an old roommate. But the most amazing connection was with a woman whose father is in several chapters of the book.
His name was Stefan, and he was arrested along with my father and spent some time with him in two of the camps. They were in Buchenwald together and my father’s prisoner number was 25362 (adds up to 18) which in the Hebrew means “life” and her father’s number was 25363. She lives in Idaho and had done a lot of research about her father and had also been trying to locate my father as well.
When she found my book on the internet, she was amazed and told me the book filled in a lot of gaps for her. Her father had died in 1998, and before the war was studying to be a priest in Lviv, Ukraine. Our fathers never reconnected after the war once they moved to the states.
Writing and researching this book has been an amazing journey and has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’ll even be doing an event at the local holocaust center here in my town in the fall, and the local paper has written an article about me and the book. My old alma mater even has two of my books in their libraries!
I’m excited about where else the wind will take this book, especially if it can get out to those who need it. One of the reasons for writing it was to give hope to many people out there who are facing challenging situations. I believe they’ll find help in the principles my father practiced that enabled him to overcome and triumph in the midst of his adverse circumstances.
About the Author
Oxana Lapchuk was born in New York, New York the same year her father emigrated to the United States. A lifelong student of Ukrainian history and culture, she has worked as an interpreter in Ukraine and Israel and now lives in Florida. This is her first book.
Praise for The Journalist: A Holocaust Story