Born in Prague, Eva Maria Chapman escaped Czechoslovakia with Olga Prosikova, her Ukrainian mother, to Australia in 1950. She graduated from Adelaide University with a BA in History and English and was teacher for 7 years in Australia, France and England. She was then a psychotherapist in Europe and researcher gaining a PhD in the Medical Sociology. She changed direction again to become a businesswoman and Director in her husband’s successful energy efficiency company. In 2006 she published her memoir, ‘Sasha & Olga’ (Lothian, Melbourne) which tells the story of finding lost relatives in Ukraine and healing a 33 year rift with her father Sasha. This has sparked off her career as an author of inspiring books. While ‘Sasha & Olga’ describes where her migrant family came from, Butterflies & Demons describes where they landed. This was published by Zed books in June 2020. Her further publishing credits include her biography of Viktoria Mullova, a world famous Russian violinist, From Russia to Love, (published 2012 (JR Robson for BiteBack Books UK). Russian Roulette 2020 (10K story in Shine, Solaris 2010, UK), Dummy Dora (short story in Saying Goodbye, Dream of Things 2010, US). Her latest endeavour is a joint venture with her husband, Jake Chapman, ‘Our Love Story’.
I started writing books late in life. In my 50s, my life was very fulfilling but there was a sadness at the core. It was the broken family I had left behind in Australia. I had run away at age 20, leaving two sisters in the care of my father. My mother was seriously ill in a mental hospital. As a result, my father ousted me and refused to speak to me for 33 years. I knew that what I had to do, was to heal my birth family. I wrote to my father and said I wanted to write a book about my mother Olga, which wasn’t entirely true but felt a good excuse. With reluctance, he consented to see me. What occurred was a great miracle. I ended up writing ‘Sasha & Olga’ which describes the healing that took place.
What I discovered with my first book is that the writing of it was a very healing process. I confronted so many parts of myself which were painful but needed to be addressed. For one whole year I couldn’t write a word about my mother. I found it too painful and felt that I was betraying her. As a child I suffered at the hands of her mental illness. She would beat me mercilessly and tell me that I was the cause of all her suffering. To be able to write about this without feeling I was betraying her, was excruciatingly difficult.
I am very proud of ‘Sasha & Olga’ and it healed so much in me. The best thing was the effect it had on my father. After a very painful and bitter life, we totally healed our relationship and he died a happy man. That is one of the things I have done in my life of which I feel very proud. I had to face so many things within myself to be able to forgive him.
The second book I wrote was ‘Butterflies & Demons’. While ‘Sasha & Olga’ was about where my family had come from, B&D was about where they had landed, Adelaide South Australia. I had a vision to write this book in an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru. I saw something that had been buried deep within me; a vision of a far older race that had lived in Adelaide for 40,000 years before white man came and wiped them out. I had never even seen an Aboriginal person until the age of 12. So, I did a huge amount of research and wrote the book. That was very healing too as I had to confront my deeply held racism. Also, I connected with the healing energies of the Kaurna, the name of the Adelaide Aborigines. They were a beautiful, gentle, wise race and I felt honoured to tell their story.
I wove the story into my mother’s story and found more healing with the Kaurna grandmothers and the meta commentary that runs through the book. They were joined by Baba Yaga, from my Russian roots.
Many people started to read ‘Sasha and Olga’ and gave me amazing feedback. A large group of them came from Ukraine and Russia, having suffered similarly to me. They were so grateful that I had had the strength to write my story which threw a lot of light on their own stories.
One woman who read my book was Viktoria Mullova. She is a world, famous violinist, with a Ukrainian mother and Russian father. She was inspired by the healing that happened between my father and me. A child prodigy in Russia, she made a daring escape to the West when she was 22. She was immediately stripped of all her musical accolades and her father, a prestigious Professor, lost his job and was consigned to paint park benches for the next 10 years. Viktoria really wanted to reconnect to her father and hoped he would forgive her for escaping and abandoning him to his fate of being the father of a disgraced daughter.
We became friends and I wanted to write her story. In my research I found that her mother came from a Ukrainian village very close to that of my mother. We had so much in common. She understood so much of what made me tick. Viktoria did reconnect to her father who forgave her totally and they had a few beautiful years together before he died of cancer
My son was born when I was 30. So, when I was 60 we had a 60-30 rave as well as when I was 70 and he was 40. Jake and I gave many amazing parties and raves. It was a great way to spend our OAP years and have great fun.
So, during my 60s I became a great and successful flirt. This led me to writing my latest book ‘Sexy at 70’. The big challenge in this book was to own that I was a sexy, older woman. This was inextricably bound up with my spiritual journey to discover who I really was. At the age of 64, I found out that deep down I was a Russian Bar Girl, the kind of girl who loves picking up men in bars. Except I wasn’t young; I was a grandmother who was drawing a pension.
My mother Olga had been a sexy attractive woman, whose world had been torn apart by World War Two. At the age of 17 she had been transported from her homeland Germany as a prisoner of the Nazis. After the War she became a refugee, had me illegitimately and escaped from Czechoslovakia and we made our way to Australia. Unfortunately, she was unhappily married to my stepfather, hated Australia and spent the last 17 years of her life, severely mentally ill. So, she never fulfilled her potential of being a sexy, happy woman. So, part of my resurrection as a Russian Bar Girl was to heal something for her and in that process to own my own sexuality. My husband Jake was very encouraging and helped that process enormously.
I decided to go on Instagram, telling myself that I would publish my book if I made it to 10,000 followers. This again was a challenge – it was okay to write about my self as a sexy older woman but to show pictures of myself was another thing all together. Did I dare!!!! I did and was surprised by the positive feedback that I received.