It didn’t take long for Asya Shmaryan’s love of reading to turn into a lifelong love of writing.
Like many avid readers, Asya developed an interest in the power of words from an early age, living in a small village in Europe’s Ukraine.
She started putting her hand to poetry at the age of 16, and quickly began imagining stories she could share with the world.
But life got in the way, and she went to medical school at her parent’s encouragement.
While she enjoyed it, she felt more drawn to accounting, and made a stable career out of it for some time.
Challenges with Chernobyl
But in the midst of all this, she and her family found themselves within a stone’s throw of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, in which a nuclear reactor exploded, releasing harmful radioactive material into the environment.
Two years later Asya, her parents, and her six-year-old son made the difficult decision to move out of Europe and finally headed to Australia to settle there.
Asya didn’t know a lot of English, so she found it difficult to find work as an accountant in Australia.
Life became harder when her father died in 1984.
Then, much later, Asya had a cancer scare in 2006, which made her realise life was short.
The pull of writing came back after this experience, and she decided it was time to pen a novel.
Her efforts resulted in the publication of The Crow’s Cry and The Crow’s Cry 2, two fast-paced detective stories based on a short story her mum had shared with her at a young age.
The books, which carry the pen name of Anastasia Shmaryan, have since been translated into Russian.
She also wrote Tale of “Jeannette”, set during the Great Depression, where a group of unemployed young people turn into reckless sailors on the ship “Jeannette”.
The road back to writing
While Asya enjoyed various volunteering opportunities over the years, including work as an interpreter at the 2000 Olympic Games, writing has always been her number one passion.
“Accounting made me money and offered stability, but poetry and fiction helps me express my feelings,” she says.
“After the possibility of throat cancer, I began to reassess my life and realised I had a second chance to do what I loved to do – which was to write.”
After publishing The Crow’s Cry, Asya had the chance to travel to the US and study writing at a prestigious film school.
One of her scripts came fifth in a French writing competition, and since then she has had other success publishing Transit Passenger – a book about her life and the journey of building a life in Australia with her son.
She recently also released The Usurped, the second book in the series.
Finding purpose in local volunteering
But Asya went through another difficult patch when her mother passed away in 2014.
“I felt depressed, which is something musicians and writers often struggle with,” she says.
“Centrelink sent me to see a psychologist, who helped me understand I have a gift and can be helpful to the community.
“So I re-considered my life and decided to start volunteering locally.
“I applied to visit South Eastern Community Connect and organised a meeting with Kate Melhopt and Sue Ohanian, which resulted in me starting in an assistant teacher role with the Thursday computer classes at Eastlakes.
“I’ve made mistakes along the way, but Kate – and Julie Gray – gave me the chance to learn and prove myself.
“I’ve been assisting John with the classes for four years now, and it’s an important part of my week.”
A valuable opportunity
Asya enjoys helping people learn and seeing them progress in their understanding of computers.
Her week, which also includes lots of writing time and volunteer work with the local library, as well as an Anglicare store, now has much more structure and purpose.
“I feel like I’m doing what I need to do and life feels richer and more rewarding,” Asya says.
Interested in volunteering with SECC? Email us or call the office on (02) 8338 8506.