Uršuľa Kovalyk is a poet, fiction writer, playwright and social worker. She was born in 1969 in Košice, eastern Slovakia and currently lives in the capital, Bratislava. She has worked for a women's non-profit focusing on women's rights and currently works for the NGO Against the Current, which helps homeless people. Kovalyk is the director of the Theatre With No Home, which features homeless and disabled actors. She has published plays, short stories and novels, and was shortlisted for the Anasoft Litera 2014 for Krasojazdkyña (The Equestrienne).
I lived several lives in the brief instant before my feet touched the ground. The music stopped. I landed on the hard surface like an accomplished equestrienne. The equestrienne bowed. The audience applauded.
It is 1984 in a small town in the east of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Karolína is growing up. It is not easy. Her mother has too many boyfriends and her grandmother carries a knife. In an attempt to escape she joins a riding school on the edge of town. There she befriends Romana, a girl with one leg shorter than the other and Matilda, a rider and trainer who helps the two girls overcome their physical limitations. Together they form a successful trick riding team. Soon the town doesn't seem so small anymore as Karolína explores Pink Floyd and smoking, and discovers her knack for seeing deep into others' souls.
The Equestrienne is a poetic and caustically funny coming-of-age novel about the will of one young girl to realise her dreams; it is a celebration of friendship between women and also a bitter acknowledgement that greed and the desire for power can threaten any relationship.
Praise for The Equestrienne:
'This little book – it is only 80 pages long – packs a punch beyond its size [...] Karolína’s life, as she says at the very end, peaked at a time you’re not supposed to have anything good to say about, yet Kovalyk does not glorify the simpler times of communism. Her riotous, funny and painful parable is of a country and a girl in the throes of a revolution, of order turned upside-down.' - Marta Dziurosz reviews The Equestrienne for the European Literature Network
'An arresting tale of equestrian daring and a young girl's coming of age set during the final years of communist rule in former Czechoslovakia.' - Lucy Popescu