Interview: Yulia Gutkovich

OCA Magazine: Tell us, please, about yourself and your creative activity / work 

Yulia Gutkovich: I am a lawyer, was born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. When I was twenty-four-years old I moved to Israel, lived there for seven years and in 2011 moved to the UK where I live now. 

I work as an immigration solicitor at Redfern Legal, a boutique London law firm located at Covent Garden. Writing stories and poetry is my hobby. Recently I started publishing my first book with my best short stories. My texts are fiction based on my experience as a long-lasting migrant, a forty-years old woman, a mother and now, also as a person, who lived in complete silence for ten months. The main character of my stories is a strong, hard-working woman, looking for her place under the sun.

OCA: How did you choose your path and who is your role model in the creative space of your art?

YG: I fell ill three years ago and lost all my hearing within three weeks. I did not know what to do and how to cope with living as a deaf person. I thought my life was over and then my wise mom told me: “If you cannot travel, write about your trips; if you cannot hear, tell people what you have already heard”. Following her advice, I started to publish short memories and jokes on Facebook. I did not expect people to enjoy reading them and ask me for more. Later, one night, I could not sleep. All of a sudden, a short fiction story crossed my mind: within an hour I wrote it down and put it on my Facebook page. It was my first short story “A Province Girl”. As my stories have become well-known not only among my friends, I received an offer to present them at my personal Zoom story-telling evening. That was my first experience: I read my own stories to the audience of sixty people, who purposefully gathered to listen to me. Following the successful concert, I repeated it several times. 

The main choices in my life have been knowingly or unconsciously determined by my mother and uncle. It’s common in Russia to start planning your career at the age of fifteen or sixteen. I had two options in mind: to be an English teacher like my mom or a lawyer like my grandfather and uncle. The latter told me: “If you plan to live in Russia, go to Law School”. I was absolutely sure that I would never ever move abroad and chose that profession. Since then I have relocated twice and started a career as a lawyer from scratch three times. I have never planned to become a writer or an artist. On the other hand, I evidenced how my mother and uncle published their own books as a side-line of their main occupation. I believe both are my role models. 

OCA: Which achievements of yours would you like to emphasize?

YG: Before my deafness, I sincerely assumed that my main accomplishments are three legal qualifications in Russia, Israel and the UK. After starting to cope with my disability, I have come to a conclusion that the main achievement of mine is the ability to laugh at myself. If you ask about formal certificates in the creative area, there are just several of them: I am a finalist of Pushkin in Britain poetry competition in 2019 and a finalist of ECG short prose competition in 2020 with my story “Showstopper”. Also I took part in several stand-up shows and organised my solo story-telling evenings. 

OCA: Do you have any personal projects that you would like to talk about?

YG: I would like to translate my stories into English and publish my first book before my 42nd birthday. 

OCA: When and where have you heard about ECG for the first time?

YG: In 2020 my good friend forwarded me a link to the ECD prose competition, and it was for the first time I learned about the guild.  

OCA: Are there any new projects of ECG, in which you plan to participate?

YG: This year I would like to take part in the poetry competition. I faced a lot of changes in my life during the last months and this has led to a new wave of poems.  

OCA: What would you wish for the members of the Guild and other creative people, just starting their career?

YG: I would wish them not to be afraid of being deaf to others’ opinions, believe in themselves and believe that their text or a piece of art  will find their admirer.