Mark Wansa

The Linden and the Oak: An Epic Novel

(1 customer review)


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Carpatho-Rusyns finally have their first epic novel.
And it is written by an American of Rusyn descent!

This is a book you’ll want to have and will not be able to put down. It is a tale of farmers, lovers, and soldiers. From their humble backwater village in the remote Carpathian Rus’ region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vasyl Rusynko and his brothers, alongside the young sisters Paraska and Yevka Senchak, are caught up in the great tidal currents that marked the dawn and early decades of the twentieth century: World War I, Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution, and the ight from Old Europe to New America.

Through the novel’s memorable characters, the reader is swept up in epic and content-spanning events which form the backdrop to a haunting and moving love story that bear witness to the resilience of the human spirit.

“Wansa is a great story-teller. I was particularly impressed by his ability to convey the psychology of village life. Purely and simply an outstanding piece of literature.”     – Professor Paul Robert Magocsi

“Authentic, lyrical, and historically accurate … Rich in imagery and steeped in the traditions of folklore … A remarkable achievement.”     – Professor Elaine Rusinko

Additional information

Weight 1.9 lbs
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 1.4 in




Page Count


Year Published

1 review for The Linden and the Oak: An Epic Novel

  1. Ken Duda

    2009. Author Mark Wansa.
    Rusyn village life and political impacts in the early 20th century

    The writing is fine, and well composed. The fictional work is presented as a steadily developing series of direct follow-on chapters, instead of having multiple parallel storylines interwoven among chapters as is sometimes done by many authors.

    Author Wansa, whose ancestors originated in the region discussed, gives a wide sweeping view of Rusyn village life, households, birth, death, marriage, holidays, superstitions, subsistence agriculture, language and common phrases, church rituals and influences, taverns, transportation, WWI impacts, and migration experiences aboard a ship en route to America as well as immigration arrival procedures. Rusyn phrases are often included, along with English translations. Forced Magyarization is also discussed. The story is set in time from a little before WWI to a little after. The attempt at Rusyn statehood as well as the catastrophic Russian upheaval during and after the overthrow of the Tsar are woven into the tale.

    The story primarily revolves around interactions of the Rusynko and Senchak families. Characters are reasonably well developed, focusing initially on Vasyl, a fellow who went to America and then returned after four years to find Yevka, the village girl he wanted, had been arranged to marry his brother a year earlier. That brother later left Yevka to travel to the U.S. and never contacted her again for many years. As WWI progressed, Vasyl is conscripted and endures the war on the front lines with others, then returns to his war-ravaged village to again encounter his childhood heartthrob. The latter part of the book shifts focus to this girl, Yevka, who was abandoned by her husband, and who then eventually migrates to the U.S., where traumatic surprises await her.

    Given the place and times, it’s not an entirely jovial story. Bad things happened during that period of history, and these were included in this fictional work. They perhaps even provide an overarching theme, though certainly not all was dark. The beauty of the landscape, daily routines, family gatherings, and close interactions of villagers dependent on one another are described in a manner that one gradually absorbs and becomes a part of as the tale progresses. The clopping sound of horses hooves slowly pulling a creaky old wagon become quite natural.

    It’s fiction, but very well-researched regarding the local traditional content, typical life experiences, and customs. This is attested by the eminent Rusyn expert Professor Paul Robert Magocsi of the University of Toronto, who stated “Wansa is a great story-teller. I was particularly impressed by his ability to convey the psychology of village life. Purely and simply an outstanding piece of literature.” Associate Professor Elaine Rusinko of the University of Maryland adds “Authentic, lyrical, and historically accurate…Rich in imagery and steeped in the traditions of folklore.” One certainly does obtain a deep feeling of the pace, problems, and subtle characteristics of life then. A color regional location map is included depicting the Eastern Front from 1914 to 1918. The story concludes prior to WWII, which yet again decimated the region as hostile forces trampled back and forth, and after which oppressive communism was inflicted on the population for decades.

    I recommend this book for anyone who desires a 529-page immersion experience in the lives of a stateless people responding to the dominant central European political and military issues of the early 20th century. The storyline leaves the reader wondering what happened later to the key characters.

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