'Ukrainian' writer owns up to hoax



One of Australia's most bizarre literary hoaxes finally unravelled yesterday when the author of a prize-winning novel admitted that she had lied about her identity. Helen Darville, 24, the Australian-born daughter of British immigrants, apologised to the country's Ukrainian community for her portrayal of them in her prize-winning The Hand that Signed the Paper.

The novel, about the Nazi occupation of Ukraine during the Second World War, presents Ukrainians as collaborators in the persecution of Jews.

Ms Darville published the novel under the name Helen Demidenko and claimed her father was a Ukrainian peasant who narrowly escaped being drafted into the SS. Some critics attacked the novel's portrayal of history and accused Ms Darville of anti-Semitism. She insisted she had based her account on personal family history.

Newspapers in Brisbane, where she lives, last weekend disclosed that she was not Helen Demidenko, but Helen Darville, daughter of Grace and Harry Darville, immigrants from Britain. Her mother later admitted that there was no Ukrainian ancestry in the family.

Yesterday Ms Darville released a statement through Allen & Unwin, her publishers, saying she had taken the name Demidenko "in empathy with my characters ... This was my creative world. I do not have Ukrainian ancestry."