The Outlook Review and Interview - Andrei and the Snow Walker

Reviewed by: Greg Waskul

The story of a Ukrainian family immigrating to Canada in 1900 comes to life in local writer Larry Warwaruk's new novel. 

Andrei and the Snow Walker follows the Bayda family's journey from the Ukrainian village of Zabokruky and what trascends during their new life in Batoche, Saskatchewan.

The tale of the 12-year-old boy involves everything from his dreams of becoming a great horseman to strange visions he sees from possessing an ancient Scythian cup.

The idea for the book actually came about through Coteau Books. The publishing company had been asked to find someone who could write a story about a Ukrainian family, which had descended from a famous Cossack leader.

Asking Warwaruk seemed an obvious choice as his background seemed to suit the subject.

Warwaruk had written the book The Ukrainian Wedding in 1998, published by Coteau Books, not to mention his own family background is Ukrainian.

But there's more to the story than 12-year-old Andrei and his family.

"The other aspect of the book is the involvement of the Indian Metis culture," said Warwaruk, which introduces stories of the Snow Walker. "(And) there's a local element."

The local area aspect stems from Andrei's discovery of a buffalo stone, where people used to fiind beads and gifts placed in the stone's cracks.

"I modelled this rock after (a rock) at suicide coulee," just a few kilometres west of town he said. "I spent several hours at a time just observing it (the rock)."

Three years of writing and researching went into Andrei and the Snow Walker, which included Warwaruk touring the Batoche region with guidance from a Bayda family member.

And much of the book was written while Warwaruk was writer-in-residence in the Quill Plains region, where he conducted readings and workshops with adults and in 16 schools.

"It just fit hand in glove," he said on how it helped him write as well. "It worked very successfully."

The book, which came out two weeks ago, also includes illustrations - the cover drawing of Andrei somewhat resembling a photo of Warwaruk's son at the age of 12.

Warwaruk began writing seriously "around" 1980, which was enticed by what he calls "rather a strange story."

One day during the 1970's Warwaruk was out partaking in another afternoon of his hobby of metal detecting when he stumbled upon an old Finn Hall.

At the hall he found about 100 coins from the 1920's. This sparked his interest.

"I got interested in the story of that hall," he said. "This led to research of what eventually turned into the book Red Finns on the coteau."

That 1984 novel - Warwaruk's first - was followed by Rope of Time in 1991.

Warwaruk has already completed the first draft of his next book Bone Coulee, which is in his publisher's hands and will go through a number of editing and re-writing stages before it is hoped to be released in about two years.

"Bone Coulee is set in the present day and modelled in this area (between) Rosetown and Lucky Lake," he said. "It's the story of a retired farmer who has become interested in the buffalo bone trade from 100 years ago."

The story also incorporates the current difficulties in agriculture he added.

Warwaruk had been working on the Bone Coulee previously to being asked to write Andrei and the Snow Walker.

In the next few weeks and months Warwaruk will be giving readings at bookstores and heading out on a couple of book launching tours within the province.

Warwaruk, who was born and raised in Glenavon, taught in Beechy for 22 years before being transferred to Outlook Elementary School in 1994. He retired from teaching in 1996.

Besides writing and researching for his books, Warwaruk has been spending his days as a Crop Insurance adjuster since 1997. 

Andrei and the Snow Walker is available at CJ's Java Joint.

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