[Wywiad] “I may not save the world, but I hope to do at least a little bit of good.”

Melina Kameska is the author of the children’s fairy tale “Little Brave Bunny”. The story of the animals that decided to separate due to the imminent danger, refers to the current situation in Ukraine. Mother Rabbit and her young son set out into the unknown, and Father Rabbit remains to protect the clearing. We talk with the author about work on the coloring book.

When the war broke out, Milena Kameska decided that she had to do something. First, I got involved in the business Lublin Social Committee for Assistance to Ukrainebut later felt she wanted to do something on a larger scale.

– It culminated in the phrase “Melina, it’s not enough to save the world.” I think it had a stimulating effect. I agree that I may not spare, but I hope to do at least a little bit of good

– tell us Melina Kamesca.

This is how the brochure was created Brave Little Rabbit. The fairy tale received positive feedback from psychologists.

I want to reach all children in need and help them find themselves in the new reality…

The author convinces.

The fairy tale is available in three languages. You can download it for free as a printable coloring page. talk to Melina Kamesca.

Melina Kameska / Photo.  Private archive of M. Kamińska
Melina Kameska / Photo. Private archive of M. Kamińska

How did you decide to write a children’s book about war?

Let me start from the beginning that something broke inside of me the day Russia attacked Ukraine. Those first messages on the morning of February 24 were crippling me. For half a day I practically did nothing, in the second half I began to look for a place where I could help. This is how I found the Lublin Social Committee for Assistance to Ukraine, which was under construction at that time, and with which I am connected to this day. And I start with this, because at LSKPU they showed me how to do seemingly impossible things. On the other hand, the idea of ​​doing something on a larger scale started popping up in my head a few weeks into the war, when I saw that the situation in the place where I was helping was under control and, most importantly, that a permanent team of highly coordinated people had emerged. It climaxed when the phrase “Melina, stop, you’re not going to save the world.” I think it had a stimulating effect. I agree that I may not spare, but I hope to do at least a little bit of good.

The fate of children is especially close to me. They should never face war… They should play, learn and grow up in a completely different reality… I have seen in Facebook groups that parents ask each other for advice about talking to their children about war, ask for orders, materials and books do not receive a satisfactory answer. I don’t have my kids yet, but at the time I thought a lot about what I would say to them if I had them. I put myself in the role of both a Ukrainian and a Polish mother… Should I tell my child that we are running away from home, or someone will kill us? Should I pack my child and say nothing (in an optimistic scenario, because in this case I would be less likely to leave the child with a bag in my hand), but the child would ask why and where we are going. Let’s say we’re going on vacation, but why not Dad? And why does mom get upset when we go on vacation…and many other abstract scenarios that come to mind. All night long, when I couldn’t sleep after a whole day… I came to the conclusion that you don’t… you have to tell the truth, but in the language of a child – and that’s how “Little, Brave Bunny” was created.

The book is very attractive for children – it is a coloring book. Where did this idea come from?

– I was looking for a low-budget solution thanks to which physical copies would reach children in need. I dreamed that I would distribute a PDF copy as much as possible, and anyone with a printer and only black ink would print a few. This happens! And even more so, because some people add crayons!

I had a script written when I started thinking about pictures. To make beautiful, fairy-tale illustrations would cost me a lot at once, and two wouldn’t be practical, because even assuming everyone had color ink, they would probably print fewer copies – I said to myself. It was a great brainstorming session. I was taking it with myself. Later, the idea of ​​\u200b\u200bthe coloring work appeared, which turned out to be a bull’s-eye. Now I think it’s cool, it’s an added benefit for kids!

I get letters from people who print dozens or dozens of copies and deliver them to places where there are children. A few hours pass and these people come back to me with comments and thanks.

How was work in the book like?

– The book was written in the evening and at night, because we both work with Magda, who made beautiful drawings. In addition, we have other classes, I tried to visit the cultural center in Lublin several times a week, where LSKPU is temporarily located. And when it came to creating from start to finish, I first created an outline of what I wanted to convey, all in my old notebook, because I preferred writing traditionally rather than on a computer (although these subsequent rewriting of scribbles weren’t the most fun, especially And that my note-taking system made sense on average [śmiech]). I divided the book into parts, gave each a title, and then described it in a maximum of two sentences. I don’t want to bore readers with this, but the general point was that I wanted to assign a symbolic meaning to each part and then create stories for it. In the next step, I moved on to creating heroes. At first, they were just animals – mom, dad and their baby. Rabbits did not appear until a later stage. Later I began to look for an illustrator, because the book is not just a text. I really wanted warm and atmospheric illustrations that would compliment what I wanted to convey. I asked a question to several groups on Facebook if someone would be willing to contribute to my project. I’ve had so many requests, so far people have asked me if they can still help. This is how I got to know Magda, who believed in my idea and made beautiful illustrations in full charity at a fast pace. We exchanged a few messages on Facebook and then made an appointment in the evening for a phone call. What Magda did exceeded my expectations. I was delighted when she showed me the first picture. I knew then that this was what I was looking for. Although I did feel guilty when I wrote to her at night or left her to make important decisions and then asked for corrections. At the same time, I was working on the script all the time, because I wanted to smuggle in as many symbols, emotions, and, contrary to appearances, the warmth that was meant to emanate from this story.

Then the magic happens. I have the impression that it took a long time, because a lot was going on, but in fact, in a few days, wonderful people psychologically and linguistically checked the text, then others prepared translations, others checked them, others helped me with technical issues. I must also mention a whole group of invaluable people who answered my questions from start to finish regarding, inter alia, the differences in the traditions of our country.

What was the most difficult thing you faced in the process of writing the book?

– I can’t say that something was difficult. This does not mean that this book was easy to write. It was a great challenge for me. Every now and then, of course, there were some small and big problems, but in fact every time it turned out that I knew someone or that someone knew someone for whom this problem was a trivial matter. It’s a great lesson for me that I’ve learned that I don’t always have to do everything myself. Initially, I was planning to pay for illustrations, translation, and other things. Turns out I don’t have to, because most of these people are self-proclaimed, I just mentioned what I need.

Who is the book for?

– I wrote a book for children from Ukraine so that they can get acquainted with the feelings of the main character and better understand the new reality. The book is also dedicated to the mother of the child who is identified with the main character. On the one hand, it will help her talk to her child, and on the other hand, it will help her calm down, feel welcome in a foreign country, and give her the sense of security that she needs so much now.

It is also ideal for Polish children who also want to know what is going on, why foreigners are suddenly living in their homes, and who also speak a different language. They also wonder why the parents began to act a little differently, because even if they shop more and then take them somewhere, most importantly, sooner or later the child will hear about the fact that there is a war, regardless of whether it will be at school or on a screen TV. I believe that every parent should have such a conversation with their children, and they leave the rule in your hands. I think it can be read easily for a child of 3 years or more, because the words were chosen in such a way that the child (depending on the level of development) could extract his own words from them.

What did you prepare the book for?

– It’s a story about rabbits who decide to separate because of imminent danger. Mom and the little bunny set off into the unknown, and Dad remains to watch the clearing. A story about hope, love, friendship, openness and longing in the shadow of war. The book also tells in a subtle way, among other things, about the fact that not all Russians are evil, and not all are with war. I don’t want to reveal much. I heartily encourage all those who are curious about the future of rabbits to read the fairy tale and share their thoughts.

The book is available for free download in three languages.

– The fairy tale is available in three languages: Polish, Ukrainian and English. For sure it will be published this week in Russian too, since I received many letters asking for translation. If necessary, we will also translate into other languages.

Your book received positive feedback from psychologists.

My priority was the safety of the children. I wanted to be sure that the words and illustrations wouldn’t hurt any child, so the fairy tale was consulted with psychologists. I am very happy that the fairy tale has now been very favorably received by psychologists and educators. Recently, I got a message from someone that my book should be read in middle grades.

Your dream is to reach as many young readers as possible. How can I download a book?

– I would like the fairy tale to reach all children in need, so I strongly encourage you to share this post. The link to the fairy tale is available on my Facebook and Instagram profiles. Facebook: Milena Kamińska, IG: milenakaminska 2. Within 3 days of posting it on my personal page and Facebook groups, more than 1,000 people shared the book. I know he has arrived in Australia. I’m convinced this is just the beginning, because I still have a lot of ideas and energy.

I have also been contacted by many organizations from Poland and Ukraine as well as many ordinary people with ideas to combine our activities. We are in the talks stage. I have also been contacted by several bookstores that have supplied the bookshops with books on their own. I can really replace it for a long time. Finally, I have to say I have a few questions about why the book doesn’t have a happy ending and a lot more about when the second part of the story will be. I would, but I can’t promise anything… If someone tells me how and when this true story will end… I’ll tell them when the second part is coming – the part with a good ending fairy tale.

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