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Ashes Interview

Ashes Interview

“The Ashes of Innocence is an autobiography which takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions throughout an incredible journey with Alexandra as she struggles to overcome the continuous challenges that face her. As Alexandra grows from infancy to adulthood, a sense of protectiveness and inspiration grows within the reader.”

An Interview with Alexandra Tesluk, author of The Ashes of Innocence: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?

Alexandra Tesluk: I was born in Hannover, Germany and came to Canada at age 2. I was brought up in Thunder Bay, Ontario and later moved to Toronto which since has been my home. My earliest influences were the “Nancy Drew Mysteries “and then I graduated to “The Hardy Boys.” To me they served as an escape and adventure to “whodunit.” The luxury of bookstores were not around then but I would visit the local library and loved reading biographies. I was always curious about other people’s lives! I remember reading “Catcher in the Rye” and it still has a prominent place in my den! Why do you write?

Alexandra Tesluk: Originally, I wrote poems and continued to do so until my early 20’s. I journaled my life starting in my late 20’s and as the years passed found this motivating. I found comfort in expressing my feelings, to me it was a healing. Later when I reflected back at my life, I knew there was a story that needed to be written. Writing “Ashes” was liberating! Briefly discuss your book The Ashes of Innocence.

Alexandra Tesluk: “Ashes” is a true story based on my life. As a Ukrainian/Polish born woman, I endured various unspeakable nightmares of the human condition. It is my story of survival, the longing for love and protection.

It is a story of my passion to find my father. I felt a complete displacement growing up without him in my life. As I entered my teens, I discovered that my father might very well be alive. I felt renewed hope that perhaps I could connect with his family unit.

My story is a cross-continental journey in human growth and wisdom. It combines accurate historical facts with authentic descriptions of Ukrainian, European and Canadian life. It is also a record of the devastating effects of WWII on the lives of countless displaced persons (DPs) around the world, especially children. Explain the title The Ashes of Innocence as it relates to the book…

Alexandra Tesluk: Picture war torn Europe….bombs exploding, fires burning…..eventually all that is left is ashes. A child is born during this period. Her father disappears….what memories she should have had of him are now part of the ashes. But the ashes don’t stop there, they continue in her new home in Canada. A child’s innocence lost forever in the ashes! In The Ashes of Innocence Forgiveness is a part of your story — Explain how you/one learns forgiveness — (?)

Alexandra Tesluk: In order to forgive one, one must start with forgiving themself. Only then was I able to forgive the perpetrators who shaped my life. Therapy was my redeeming feature as I realized I was not the cause of my exploitations. The power of prayer played a significant role in my life as a child and into adulthood. With forgiveness, I found inner peace. What does “HOPE” mean to you?

Alexandra Tesluk: Hope is very personal and different for every person. Hope is my faith.

It is my path to a better future.

Being a cancer patient made it tough for me to be hopeful at times. Hope is my belief that a positive outcome lies ahead. My way of thinking and feeling helps me find ways to live with difficult situations.

Hope grows best in a garden nourished by optimism. It shapes my way of looking and responding to this beautiful life. For The Ashes of Innocence – Did you write from memory or did you keep in diaries growing up?

Alexandra Tesluk: I wrote from memory at times and as I got older, I enjoyed journaling. When my son was born, I would journal in the hospital and for many years recorded his early childhood. I absolutely love the cover design for The Ashes of Innocence . who did this work – and what was the concept?

Alexandra Tesluk: Thank you!
The cover depicts a photograph of me taken while in the displaced persons camp in Hannover, Germany. If you look closely, it appears as if the child is behind some kind of barrier as a halo of smoke escalates from the ashes. Innocence taken away so early in this child’s life.

My publisher, Volumes in Kitchener, Ontario put the final changes to the cover. I chose the black and white effect. The poster of the book is absolutely amazing! What do you hope to achieve with The Ashes of Innocence?

Alexandra Tesluk: I struggled with the thoughts of writing this book for a long time. Should I expose my soul to the world? Did I really want to share those very deep scars that were so personal and kept hidden for such a long time? I decided yes, my story needed to be told. The labels and stigma of being a “DP” was a traumatic start growing up. The absence and search for my father played a significant role in having this memoir come together.

The non-existence of “safety nets” for women, men and children in the 1960’s who were in abusive relationships needed to be addressed. It opened doors for many that there was hope, life and love after abuse.

Did the market need another personal story such as “Ashes?” My answer is “yes” ~ we need stories of victory like “The Ashes of Innocence.” “Ashes” offers validation, inspiration and the knowledge that we are not alone in our trials and tribulations. What was the last book you read?

Alexandra Tesluk: I recently finished “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. A powerful and inspirational story of a woman suffering from Alzheimers and the impact this has on her family.

I am presently re-reading “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. What’s next?

Alexandra Tesluk: I am putting the final additions to “Hope is My Absolute, My Journey with Acute Monocytic Leukemia” which is due for release in August of this year.

A sequel to “Ashes” is in the works too and should come to fruition when I return from Europe later this summer. I am working with a gifted editor and I am quite excited about this coming together!

In addition, I have been asked to co-author an article on adoption and reunions ~ 20 years later. I wrote about adoption in “Ashes.” I share my perspective on the different stages that take place in reunions: from the “honeymoon phase”, to acceptance and recognition, and the agony of rejection. It will serve as an educational tool for many parents and children who are faced with this dilemma. Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?

Alexandra Tesluk: Travelling would be the top of my list! I have travelled the Caribbean and fell in love with Europe. Paris was the perfect city to delve into one’s heart and soul. I looked at life differently and could visualize many romantic novels born there! I enjoy decorating and seeing small projects become a work of art! I consider my two felines “a hobby” that brings many smiles to my face. And I do love cooking my ethnic dishes!