Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Book Review--Roses in Kiev by Anna Lucas

Most missionaries aren’t Elisabeth Elliot or Gracia Burnham. This shows in many ways, but especially in their inability to write their memoirs in an engaging way. You’ve read a few of them, I’m sure, while trying to be gracious, especially if you know the writer. Unfortunately, what was lifechanging for them sounds tedious to you, or you’re troubled at their patronizing attitude toward the local population, or they sound so super-spiritual you feel like you can’t relate.

So I am happy to introduce you to Roses in Kiev—Rigors and Romance in the Life of a Young English Teacher, by Anna Lucas.

Anna and I have met online but not in person, but we connect with each other's writing. We have a lot in common, as we are both wives, moms, and writers. We've both traveled to other countries. We both have blogs about our lives--she's at Prairie Pines & Posies.

In 1993, Anna moved to Kiev to teach Bible and English. Both before and after this experience, she traveled and worked in various points around the world. This book is about her life in Kiev, written over 25 years later, drawing from notes and diaries.

I enjoyed this book very much. Here’s why:

1.       Not only does Anna convey her life in Kiev, but we also go along on an inner journey of hardships and growth. In addition, there’s a delightful and unusual romance, complete with a few surprising moments that had me laughing out loud. The story is well-paced and well-told.

2.       Ukraine has been in the news for the past year, and this story is especially interesting in that context. She tells of the hardships of life soon after the fall of Communism, and you feel the frustration and desperation of the cold winter, the lack of consumer goods, and the unbelievable challenges in simple things like moving into an apartment or fixing appliances. You think about their lives today and wonder if the Ukrainians are ever going to catch a break.
Anna includes many details such as the weird juxtaposition of moving into an apartment with beautiful wood furniture, built-in glass-fronted cupboards, and even a chandelier, far nicer than anything she’d grown up with in a large family, and then venturing out to shop for groceries when even the basics like eggs were scarce and hard to find.

3.       The author has the greatest respect for her Ukrainian Christian colleagues. She recognizes what they endured under Communism and their incredible faith and courage. I could tell that their stories mattered to the author. She did not consider herself superior, or like she had the right to tell them how to live.

4.       Anna may have been a courageous missionary in a faraway land, but she is utterly, completely relatable in her narrative. Young and scatterbrained and uncertain, she navigates sickness, exhaustion, cold, relationship challenges, and loneliness. She works unbelievably hard to learn the Russian language and carry out her responsibilities, but life in Kiev works against any sort of efficiency, progress is slow, and her hard work isn’t often seen or appreciated.
Eventually, a highly unusual romance appears, but all is not smooth or rosy. I felt for her about every bit of it—the waiting, the uncertainty, the expectations of how things ought to be, the disquieting opinions of others, the wondering what God was up to.
Then there was the moment when Anna thought her young man was going to propose, but he asked a very different question instead. It would be unfair to give away that part of the story, but I will say I don’t often scream and laugh when I read books, but I did then.

5.       Missionaries can be very spiritual, and I am easily intimidated. I confess I started reading Roses in Kiev with a bit of hesitation, not only because it’s a missionary memoir but because Anna is part of a denomination similar to the Holiness church at the high school and college that Paul attended. Those folks are very nice but they were always far more earnest, sure, and vocal than me, with their uninhibited public prayers and their booming sermons about being saved and sanctified.
I am happy to report that I am quite sure that Anna would not intimidate me at all if we met, and we could talk as equals about our journeys of faith.
In the book, Anna shows us what she believes and how she lived it out, but she handles denominational nuances with great finesse and no pretension or superiority.

6.       Anyone who’s been on the mission field knows that often the greatest challenge is getting along with your teammates. Anna handles this subject with grace as well. We get a good sense of the differences among them and the difficulties that followed, but she doesn't say too much, and we don’t feel like she’s being cagey or intentionally mysterious. That’s a delicate line to walk, and she does it well.

You should read this book if:
--you’re interested in Ukraine, modern missions, language study, or trusting God with your future romance or any other unknowns.
--you’re thinking of writing a memoir, especially about working in another country or culture.
--you enjoy a good story.

 This book and others may be ordered from Anna Lucas at

 Sparrows and Roses Books
16270 Sarita Cir.
Peyton, CO 80831
oops! this is the wrong address! Please use this one instead:

Anna Lucas
 26303 US Hwy 83
 White River, SD 57579

(719) 332-6336
or email

This paragraph told me that
a) Anna as a young woman was a lot like me at that age.
b) Sherri the roommate might have been a teensy bit irritating, but Anna lets us draw our own conclusions on this.


  1. ear Dorcas,
    Dorcas, this is author Anna Lucas who got this surprise call this morning from a Mary Ellen somebody (for her privacy) from a certain eastern state (also for her privacy) calling me regarding a book order, since she'd seen your book review. So of course, I had to get on later in the morning and see what had been written about Roses in Kiev! I sat here crying, and squealing with laughter as I read the blow-me-out-of-the-water, kind post you wrote about my book. Then, since Jonathan was done with some phone calls or texts (while going down the road from our charming bitty cabin in Montrose, CO, on our way to AZ for cancer treatments) I read it out loud to him. And I've rarely heard him laugh so crazily as he did at the parts you picked out of the book to comment on. We are totally blown away at all your kind words, and the hilarious details you picked out to relay to readers.

    By the way, I already have about 8 book orders this morning. Because of our recent move to South Dakota and being overwhelmed with my cancer protocol, I had to close my Colorado account, and hadn't gotten around to opening my book business in South Dakota, or updating my website. However, with a bunch of orders coming in, I will try to update the website in the next day or two with my hubby's help. Otherwise, readers can send checks to Anna Lucas, 26303 US Hwy 83, White River, SD 57579.

    Prices for books are as follows:
    Roses in Kiev--$15

    Sunshine and Shadows in Kiev (the story of our first year and a half in Kiev together) currently unavailable because sold out, but hope to print more soon

    Christmas in the Carpathian Mountains $6

    Treasures in the Sawdust in Ukraine $13

    I hope to soon post a blogpost about this new tweek in our lives, or should I say twist, as what I was doing alternatively to fight my metastasized, stage 4 breast cancer did not seem to be enough, and we are heading to Oasis of Healing Clinic in Arizona.


    1. Thank you for the update! So glad you enjoyed the post, and all the best to you in your cancer journey. So sorry to hear about that.