A vile act of treachery has bitter repercussions for two sworn brothers who have built a new community on the Ukrainian steppes during the early days of the Kozak state. A broken man swears vengeance on his persecutor and commits his descendants to the unrelenting pursuit of revenge on his foe’s family.
Fierce enmity still divides the families of Zhmailo and Hromyka many generations later. It enmeshes the innocent Daryna, the sensitive daughter of a wealthy and arrogant Zhmailo descendant who wants her married off. Against the odds, she is introduced to a well-travelled stranger and locks eyes with the alluring Roman. Both Daryna and Roman are smitten instantly but then realise they are from two warring tribes.
The strength of their love is balanced by an obligation to their parents that propels star-crossed Daryna and Roman and their people towards confrontation.
True love awakens Daryna’s courage and shows Roman that forgiveness is possible, and like two streams they wash over the obstacles blocking their union. But their honourable emotions only inflame the jealousy of Daryna’s vicious father. Succumbing to an almost vampiric rage, he plots a twisted punishment for the lovers.
"The Living Grave" is a gothic folk tale from 1889 that reimagines life on the steppes of Ukraine centuries ago. It describes a romantic union that defies and suffers from barbarism and implacable hatreds, mirroring the nationalistic struggle experienced by the author Liudmyla Starytska-Cherniakhivska.