In her first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka writes from the perspective of immigrants from Ukraine, who are already established in Britain, and describe their attitudes to Ukrainians, who wanted to immigrate there also. However, in her second novel published in 2007 under the title Strawberry Fields (in countries other then US and Canada this novel was published under the title Two Caravans) Marina Lewycka writes from the perspective of the newcomers, who were brought to Britain by the aspirations to find better life. In this novel Marina Lewycka focuses on the exploitation of labor migrants in England, vividly portraying harsh working environment, such as the strawberry field of Kent, the kitchen of a London restaurant and a battery chicken farm. As Sexton notes, the theme is serious and Lewycka , however lightly she treats it, is addressing in her novel one of the major social phenomena of the day (p.37). The characters in Strawberry Fields, Emanuel from Malawi, Tomasz from Poland and Andriy and Irina from the Ukraine, have simple human dreams – financial security, love, friends and fun.
These ordinary dreams clash with reality twice: first, the characters find it impossible to get what they want in their homelands, and therefore they move to England, as a country of opportunities, and there they find that themselves in situation where they have to live in hideous housings, merciless employers pay them poor wages and mean gang-masters endanger their lives, which dampens their dreams again. Discussion The two main characters are two young Ukrainians leaving Ukraine for England to escape poverty. Irina Blazkho is 19-year-old girl from Kyiv, the Capital of Ukraine. Irina’s father is a professor; however, due to low wages in Ukrainian education, her family’s is hardly wealthy. Irina prefers to move to England to work as a strawberry picker to the options available to her in Ukraine, like becoming a teacher or a nurse with a much lower wages. Andriy is from Ukrainian mining city Donetsk, and he is the son of a miner, who wants to escape his father's fate – hard, harmful and dangerous work in the mines for the pennies, which ended in mine collapse.
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As Andriy gloomily describes the life in Ukraine, "Ukrainians are as hard working as anybody – harder, because in the evenings after a day's work they grow vegetables, mend their cars, chop their wood. You can spend your whole life toiling in Ukraine, and still have nothing" (Lewycka, 2007). They have different views why a Ukrainian people lives in poverty, for example Irina thinks that, "Russia has been robbing Ukraine under the tsars, under communism, now under economic integration..." (Lewycka, 2007). The Strawberry Fields is infused with mournful perception of present consumerism in Eastern Europe mentioned in Lewycka’s first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, when one of the characters tells her wayward father: “Ukraina isn’t like you remember it. It’s different now. The people are different. They don’t sing anymore — only vodka songs. All they’re interested in is shopping. Western goods. Fashion. Electronics. American brand names.” (Lewycka, 2005). Though the book opens in the strawberry fields of Kent, it still reveals that first clash of dreams with reality, which made main characters of the novel to understand that in their motherland they can’t achieve living the life they wanted and to choose dubious opportunity of being migrant workers. In much more details the novel describes the clash between migrants’ dreams and the gloomy and sometimes dangerous realities of being one of them. The novel focuses on the misadventures of bunch of Ukrainian and Poland migrant workers, who came to England to do unskilled work, such as harvesting berries or gutting chickens, expecting to earn pounds sterling turn them into large piles of Ukrainian hryvnia and Polish zloty back home or to stay in Britain permanently, with a bit of luck. Besides that economic benefit the characters pursue their other dreams as well. Irina, being hopelessly na?ve, has also a bit more romantic aspirations: “to harvest fodder for her Great Ukrainian Novel along with her bushels of berries” (Schillinger, 2007). Yola, a Polish supervisor on the farm, is seeking for husband in order to take care of her disadvantaged daughter.
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