Wise Words Wednesday


Camel from Kyzylkum by Lara Gelya

Camel from Kyzylkum is a memoir about immigration, family, and the late twentieth century. It touches on themes of hope, struggles, and loss, and shares the inspiration for reaching again and again for a better life. A compelling testament to people’s choices over time, it focuses on freedom and self-determination, no matter how much work and risk are involved.

Travel from Ukraine to the Kyzylkum Desert of Uzbekistan, from the Soviet Union to Austria, then Italy, and eventually America, all while following Lara’s journey to find her truth and her future. Through it all, family, friends, and work shape her life, and a lengthy professional career leads to her eventual retirement on the shores of sunny Florida. 

A story as rich in history and personal memories as Lara Gelya’s Camel from Kyzylkum is challenging to describe or quantify in a way that genuinely lends the memoir the dignity it deserves.

Gelya’s reminiscences delves deeply into her life, both before and after her journey to the United States. From her birth, to living and working for twenty years in the Kyzylkum Desert of Uzbekistan, to her various homes and places of employment after immigrating, to her eventual retirement the reader is mesmerized and astounded by her life. It is a chronicle of audacity, grit, unbounded determination and unrelenting drive.

I was amazed and bemused as to how someone with such optimism and initiative could come from a relatively ordinary younger life—even one lived under a Communist dictatorship. Perhaps her pluck and determination are because of those repressive circumstances, not despite them. Without these attributes, Gelya would not have been able to endure the obstacles she incurred in her later life.

Camel from Kyzylkum was written during the early stages of the pandemic, giving rise to one more impediment to living a more normal life.

As I read the account of her homeland, Ukraine, which was once a part of the USSR but is now independent, I couldn’t help but wonder how the current news of Ukraine affects Gelya. I’m sure it is deeply felt because you can tell from reading that she feels everything profoundly.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. My review is voluntary, and all opinions are my own.