Helena Paneyko’s newly published collection of stories and poems is a testament to the curiosity that guides her life.
From illustrative anecdotes of drizzly afternoons in Ireland to a story told from the point of view of a wooden clog, the pieces provide snapshots of an inquisitive mind and diverse experiences.
Titled “Half & Half,” the collection includes some stories in her native Spanish, too.
“My life has been so varied and so fulfilling,” said Paneyko, who first came to Jefferson County more than two decades ago and still is eager to discover more.
“There is so much I still want to experience, visit and learn,” she said.
“Understanding other cultures and celebrating the differences is key to world peace.”
Being a self-published author adds to the eclectic life Paneyko leads: She’s a trained veterinarian; she was a newspaper columnist and congresswoman in her home country of Venezuela; she’s worked on an organic farm in Ireland, she taught Spanish at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California; she teaches through her program, The Voice of Spanish; she’s walked the Camino de Santiago; and she’s now a grandmother.
Writing is something that Paneyko has done all her life.
It’s something that comes “out of my guts,” she said.
“I was just writing because I love to write,” she said of the stories and poems in “Half & Half.”
She never planned on publishing any of her works, but was inspired by close friends to do so, she said.
Some of her English stories are lighthearted and fun, and demonstrate Paneyko’s fascination with words.
“Butterflies” is about flies who grow colorful wings after landing on a stick of butter, and includes other wordplay, like “Go and spread. Not the butter, but a message of peace, and of enlightenment.”
“It is fascinating how we can play with the words in any language, Paneyko said.
Other stories are darker in tone. “The Venezuelan Porcupine” offers a visceral nightmare evoked by her home country’s current dictatorship, which came about after her childhood in “the golden days” of Venezuela.
“If you’re forced to do something you don’t like, you will always have a cloud,” Paneyko said.
That’s why she’s always followed her passion. When she was 6 or 7 years old, she told her parents she wanted to be a veterinarian.
“That was not something girls did at that time,” she said. “It was a man’s world.”
At about the age of 19, she began to study at school. “We were six girls in 600 [male] students in the first year,” she said. She began to write an animal column for a newspaper, and served five years in the Venezuelan congress.
“I lived in a paradise,” she said of her early years there.
“And now I live in a paradise as well,” she said of Jefferson County.
Many years ago, Paneyko attended a church sermon in Port Hadlock.
“The pastor said something that has stayed in my head all the time,” she said. “Life is a continuation of transmission and transition.”
Paneyko’s life has been one of transition, and her book stories represent transmission, she said.
“It’s my time to translate what I have learned to help others,” she said. “I want to inspire others to write, to express themselves, to be a role model of going from dreaming to doing, to give them self-confidence.”