Award-winning historical fiction!
Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger is a Ukrainian-American who transplanted to Austria.
Born in 1969, she grew up in the culture-rich neighborhood of "Nordeast" Minneapolis and started her writing career with short stories, travel narratives, and worked as a journalist and managing magazine editor, before jumping the desk and pursuing her own writing and traveling.
Her books tackle David-vs.-Goliath themes with strong women battling for the Underdogs against a system, be it political, geographical, or industrial. Sometimes all three. "I enjoy discovering the good, the bad, and the ugly in my characters when they come into conflict," she says. "And all of my stories have been inspired by injustices I've discovered along my travels."
The RESCHEN VALLEY series is based on the South Tyrolean-Italian conflict during the interwar period and was inspired by her travels to the Reschen Lake reservoir.
Her collection of short stories, which "reads like a novel", SOUVENIRS FROM KYIV won the silver medal in the IPPY Book Awards 2020 and features six stories inspired by true accounts from WW2 Ukraine. THE WOMAN AT THE GATES is what she identifies as her magnum opus and is based on her family in WW2 Ukraine.
THE GIRL FROM THE MOUNTAINS was inspired by an anecdote about a Nazi family from Austria.
The DIPLOMAT'S WIFE trilogy (2023) follows Kitty Larsson, a U.S. senator's daughter who marries an Austrian diplomat before the Anschluss, only to discover that his family is not what she thought they were. Part spy-thriller, part political-thriller, the series promises a wild romp as Kitty navigates the events of WW2 with her moral compass in hand.
And in 2024, Chrystyna's first middle-grade historical fiction novel will be published by Scholastic. Set in 2014 Sevastopol, SWIMMING WITH SPIES is about 12-year-old Sofiya who is forced to wrestle with her Ukrainian identity as Russians swarm her peninsula and annex it. When they threaten to seize the dolphins in her father's care, she races against time to save them from a brutal fate.
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With her heart in her mouth, Kitty let herself into her husband’s private study. She knew where he kept the papers that might save her dearest friend from the Nazis. She just had to steal them…
Vienna, 1937. When beautiful American Kitty becomes engaged to Austrian diplomat Edgar, she finds herself thrown into a very different world in Europe, and soon longs for home. But when the woman designing her wedding dress, Judith, takes Kitty under her wing, she sees the city of Vienna in a new light – a city of culture and music that she can explore with her new friend.
But when the Nazis come, the fact that Judith is Jewish means she is no longer safe. Kitty knows that as a diplomat’s wife she can steal the papers that will allow her closest friend to escape to safety, but will it mean betraying the love of her life?
Except that Edgar has grown distant and secretive since she joined him in Europe and, when war breaks out, Kitty wonders which side her husband is really on. And, as she prepares to betray him, Kitty begins to fear that she doesn’t really know the man she married at all.
Facing an impossible choice between her dearest friend and the man she loves, Kitty knows she must be brave, and do the right thing, no matter the personal cost…
An absolutely heartbreaking, powerful and gripping story about finding love, resilience and friendship in the midst of the darkness of World War 2. Perfect for fans of The Nightingale, My Name is Eva and All the Light We Cannot See.
The American Wife
Heart-wrenching and unputdownable World War 2 fiction (The Diplomat's Wife Book 1)
Book Excerpt or Article
From Chapter 1
It was turbulence that bounced Kitty awake. Her neighbor was a man in an expensive suit and Fedora. He held the morning edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, which he had folded back. He had barely muttered a greeting back to her when she boarded her connecting flight, and had kept to himself. The headline screamed attention.
JAPAN’S STARTLING MOVE…
The rest was hidden by the fold. To hell with protocol. She wanted to read the article.
“Good morning,” Kitty said brightly.
The Fedora bobbed once, a flash of a thin-lipped smile, before her seatmate made a point of hiding behind his paper. She wrinkled her nose and looked around. Bored, she reached for her pocketbook and withdrew the telegram Nils had sent her late last week. It had come on the heels of Kitty’s last fight with her mother.
I could arrange an escape from your latest fiasco. If you’re serious about becoming a Foreign Service officer, it wouldn’t hurt to come out and network. Say the word and I’ll arrange it.
Kitty had said the word. Immediately. The ticket and the itinerary were delivered to the Larsson mansion the very next morning.
Then Claudette found out about it.
“I’ll join you in Japan,” her mother said in a decisive tone. “We could go right after I correct my students’ exams.”
To Kitty’s relief, the Senator came to the rescue, suggesting Claudette wait until he’d returned from a policy meeting in D.C. They could visit her art historian colleagues in Kyoto before joining Kitty in Tokyo for the cherry blossom festival. Her mother acquiesced, adding, “I’m just so glad that Nils is no longer in Berlin socializing with Nazis…”
When the pilot announced that they could now see Tokyo city, Kitty lifted her shade and peeked out. Hundreds of sunrise-pink trees lined the city’s parks and boulevards.
“Like clouds of cotton candy,” Kitty said to the window. She laughed softly. Sam would point out the alliteration and her love affair with flowers, then try to make a haiku out of it.
The view disappeared as the airplane descended toward the airport, and the man next to her muttered something.
“Pardon?” Kitty asked brightly.
He indicated his copy of the newspaper. “All that pink cotton candy can’t cushion the sound of sabers rattling.”
She beamed, not quite sure what he meant, but appreciating his alliteration right back at her. This was her chance. “Would you mind lending me the—”
But he was already packing the newspaper into his briefcase. As the plane bumped and rolled onto the tarmac, he rubbed the side of his mouth with his index finger. “You might want to wipe that off.”
Kitty dropped her head and snatched the compact mirror from her pocketbook. There was a dried white crust alongside her mouth. Her makeup was also a mess. She could hear Claudette exclaiming: Tu finiras par me tuer, Kitty!
Cheeks searing, she found a tissue and tidied up, the man already at the exit before she finally gathered her things to disembark. It was a muggy spring day, and she was about to descend the passenger staircase when Kitty pulled up. There was something electric in the air, as if there were thousands of taut strings humming above her. Everything appeared to be familiar: the smiling stewardess at the bottom of the stairway, the streaming passengers bumping luggage and chatting excitedly on their way into the airport, the pilot lounging against the cockpit door. Kitty was blocking the way for the rest of the passengers.
“Did you forget something?” the stewardess behind her asked. She was holding a parasol. “Is this yours?”
It wasn’t hers, and Kitty wasn’t forgetting anything. She had the sensation that she’d reached a life-changing portal and if she moved on, there would be no way back. But there were passengers squirming behind her, waiting to get off. So she took the steps and joined the current of tourists.
On the other side of Customs, Kitty spotted a quaint brown and red limousine parked alongside the curb, its headlights the size and shape of half watermelons. A Japanese man was holding a sign with Larsson written on it. He was dressed in burgundy livery with Imperial Hotel embroidered above the pocket in gold thread. The closely shorn hair beneath the cap gleamed white against his brown skin.
“Miss Larsson?” He peered up at her when she approached. “I take you to Imperial Hotel.”
“Thank you very much.”
The Imperial Hotel, Kitty had learned from her parents, was where many dignitaries stayed. Meanwhile, as a new embassy was being allocated in the city, the American diplomats were operating and living from the hotel.
“You’re going to find a pretty international atmosphere,” her dad had promised. “With recent political developments, Japan’s attracting a host of junkets. Everyone is playing the country like a chessboard.”
Exactly the kind of thing Kitty was attracted to: intrigue and politics. And there seemed to be plenty of both, judging by the number of military trucks peppering the wide boulevards, with policemen standing guard outside every important-looking building.
“Is there trouble?” Kitty asked the driver, but he squinted at her through the rearview mirror and just flashed her a wide smile.
“Almost there, Miss Larsson.”
Just then, he turned into the drive of the Imperial Hotel and parked beneath the portico. To her left, a long, rectangular fountain rippled where water lilies floated, cracked open like eggshells. The driver removed her bags from the trunk and she followed him inside. Broad burgundy-and-gold carpeted steps led them to the sunken lobby.
After he’d lugged her bags to the front desk, Kitty gave him a few American dollars before smiling at the young man behind the desk as he politely welcomed her to Tokyo in impeccable English. “You have a couple of messages, Miss Larsson.”
He handed her two envelopes. The first contained a thick card and Kitty recognized Nils’s handwriting. Her brother would meet her at breakfast the next morning and urged her to “sleep it off.” She smirked. The second message was a telegram from her parents. They would be landing in Kyoto that day and would see her in Tokyo before the end of the following week.
Still looking for a newspaper—English, French, German, or Russian, any of them would do—Kitty found only a stack of brochures with illustrations of smiling tourists strolling beneath cherry trees, Mount Fuji in the background and the program for the 1937 festival.
She turned around. Opposite the lobby was a long area. Lounge chairs were set between towering pillars below a temple-like roof. Glass clinked from somewhere among them, which had to be the bar. Someone would likely have left an issue lying behind, and she would finally understand what the heck had happened in Japan since she had left Minnesota.
The clerk called to her, the room key in his hand. Just before she turned to go, another military truck sped past the hotel entrance. The clerk had also seen it. His gaze scraped over her before he ducked his head.
“There appears to be trouble in the city,” Kitty said.
His expression dissolved into a patronizing smile. “Everything is quite well, Miss Larsson. Many tourists. It’s the sakura season. Extra precautions to keep our visitors safe.”
Again, he bent over the pile of receipts. When the phone rang, his eyes betrayed relief.
Kitty instructed the porter to take her bags to her room, told him she would follow later and headed towards the lounge.
Safe? she thought. Safe from what?
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Teri M Brown