Marina was born to Ukrainian parents in a refugee camp in Germany and came to the UK with her family aged one. After over 50 years as an ‘unsuccessful’ writer, her first book, A short history of tractors in Ukrainian, was published when she was 59 years old, has been translated into thirty-five languages, and has sold over a million copies worldwide since its publication in 2005.
The book deals with the history of Europe, the complexities of families, the intersection of cultures and languages and the realities of exile. The Telegraph describes it as a “marvellous dissection of the eastern European immigrant experience.”
Following the success of her debut novel she went on to write three best sellers – Two Caravans, which tells the story of immigrant strawberry pickers in Kent, We are All Made of Glue, and Various Pets Dead and Alive. Here Marina Lewycka reads an extract from her latest release, Various Pets Alive and Dead.
Through mixing her insights as an Eastern European with the perspective of someone who has spent their entire life in middle-class England, and a comic treatment of the stories she tells, Marina gives readers the chance to look differently at aspects of life in the UK. She successfully mixes social issues with entertaining fiction, due to her ‘flair for humour, pathos and real life.’
The end of the Second World War in 1945 saw the largest population movements in European history. With millions displaced during the war, Allied forces built accommodation for them in the form of displaced persons camps all across Europe. Over a million displaced people were unable to return to their home countries, due to fear of persecution or because of new governments, changes to borders, or Soviet Occupation. The United Kingdom accepted 86,000 of these displaced people as part of various labor import programmes.
When the Second World War ended in 1945 it was quickly recognised that the reconstruction of the British economy required a large influx of immigrant labour. However the call for new workers was aimed primarily at white Europeans who had dominated immigration to Britain during the century before the Second World War. In the years immediately after the war, new arrivals came from all over Europe, but also increasingly from the Caribbean and from India and Pakistan.