The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Olga Levancuka

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Olga Levancuka

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Summary: After years (a lifetime!) of being told to be less selfish and to put other people first it was a relief to encounter someone who had other ideas - so when Olga Levancuka came to the office with some copies of her book we couldn't wait to ask her a few questions.
Date: 30 March 2012
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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After years (a lifetime!) of being told to be less selfish and to put other people first it was a relief to encounter someone who had other ideas - so when Olga Levancuka came to the office with some copies of her book we couldn't wait to ask her a few questions.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Olga Levancuka: Fascinating people, wearing beautifully and skillfully crafted 'social masks'.

At first it might be easy to stereotype them: “…a lawyer, a city boy, a secretary, a school teacher, that one must be a writer or the woman over there must be in PR, wait… and that guy in the corner nervously correcting his glasses is a scientist.”

However, if you look closer you can see beyond their social role: you discover their hobbies, their interests, what they bring to the table for others. That scientist for example, has always dreamed of doing something creative and has just started taking acting classes. That PR girl - she dreams of working on TV; that editor is really good at drawing comics; while the head nurse spends her holiday break travelling to India with a charity to build schools.

  • BB: What's most important in your life? It can be a possession, or a person - or whatever you like. Is money important?

OL: It changes as my life progresses and I go through different experiences. It used to be all about independence. Once I had earned that independence, it became all about success. Now that I've become successful, it is all about sharing love with my partner and spending time with my friends. My current partner and my close friends are truly enchanting. Who knows what's next ;)

  • BB: What prompted you to write How to be Selfish (and other uncomfortable advice)? Did you enjoy writing it? Where and how do you write?

OL: I was writing a book on relationships, and then I got derailed when I realized that it would be unfair to help people to improve their relationship before they've had a chance to 'improve' themselves.

It was very challenging to write this book as I was very busy with clients at the time and trying to manage both the clients and writing was exhausting. Towards the end, I got writer's block and took a month off. No clients, no writing. I went on a trip to Japan, and the ending just came to me while I was flying across from London to Tokyo. It was magical - almost as the book had a trip of its own!

  • BB: You've had a lot of tragedy in your life. How has it changed you? If you had known what was going to happen, how would you have felt? Would you have changed anything that was within your power?

OL: Gosh! This question has brought back memories. I am so grateful for everything that has happened to me as my life is so fascinating, it's like reading a trilogy!

And no, I wouldn't change anything. I suppose a better question would be - would I ever want to go through that again? NEVER. I still do not understand how anyone could still be here after going through so much.

Has it changed me? Yes. But surprisingly (for me first of all) my life experience has taught me to understand other people better. To see their point of view and to feel their pain. To see the depths of their true personality and to share their happiness. It's made me truly empathetic.

  • BB: Are you a very sociable person? What do you do for fun?

OL: I have my moments! For fun, I guess travelling is my favourite hobby as it keeps me on my toes, teaches me to be open minded and constantly shows me a different perspective on life. Otherwise, I am an extreme sports freak. Flying a huge kite with my friends on Hampstead Heath, climbing with my partner and annoying the hell out of my cat are on the top of my 'fun' list!

  • BB: How do you feel about people who are selfish in the greedy and grasping sense? Does it make you cross?

OL: No. Not anymore. This is something I explore in my next book, which I am working on at the moment. I also believe we as a society do a lot to support such behavior, and we do not act correctly to help them.

We treat them as enemies and we bully them in a way, instead of treating them as 'ill' people. But you'll need to wait for my next book to come out to explore it fully. I am not calling them innocent - not at all – I'm just trying to offer a different perspective and a different route to stopping greed in our lives and our society.

  • BB: Is reading important to you? What are you reading at the moment and are you enjoying it?

OL: Love reading! I spent a lot of my childhood without my parents or any guardian with me, and the books were my friends and my teachers and helped me to communicate with the outside world.

I am currently reading 3 books:

1. 'Dandy in the Underworld' by Sebastian Horsley. Loving it. Partly because I've experienced many 'social games' in Greek and English society and it helps me to see the fun and the absurdity of some of the events I went through. Most importantly, I wish I could find more humor in my life as Sebastian does.

2. 'The Social Animal' by David Brooks. Highly overrated in my opinion. Very out of date in a sense - most of the material is the old basics that I was taught in my Psychology degree. However, given that we as a society and as human beings progress and evolve very fast nowadays, it is impressive that he managed to put all this information together. I have A LOT to learn from David.

3. 'The Butterfly Fields: A Journey of Spiritual Healing and Enlightenment' by Carole Vickie Pilcher. I am re-reading it as the poems are so penetrating and emotional, it is difficult to describe in words. Very down to earth yet beautiful and charming.

  • BB: If your life had to take an entirely different direction what would you want to do?

OL: I'd be an actress. That charismatic actress who comes up on a screen and you feel a connection with her, and that you are a part of the movie. You want to be her. It's like she steals your heart for the duration of her performance and then she gently gives it back to you, filled with extra experiences, emotions and joy.

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

OL: Honestly? With some tears in my eyes right now, I'd say I wish that no child should ever have to go through what I've been through.

  • BB: What's next for Olga Levancuka?

OL: The next book is being written as we speak. I want to continue my movement on sustaining 'freedom' for any individual. Life is about freedom and enjoying it.

And a child ;)

  • BB: Thanks for talking to us, Olga. That was fascinating.

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