Blanka Stratford shares with Conversation Crossroad listeners the story behind her discharge from the military for violating the now-repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy which served as the premise for her first novel, Years Becoming: The Novelized Memoir of a Veteran Harlot, which details downward-spiraling events that eventually led to conclusive diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, substance abuse and potential pre-schizophrenic illusions.
Born Blanka Karolina Drozdzal in Kielce, Poland, Blanka’s first tie to literary art occurred at the age of 13, when she wrote a short memoir recounting the near-death experience of her then-baby sister, Sarah, whom Blanka had witnessed plummeting out of her family’s third-story apartment window. Although the incident left her psychologically scarred and guilt-ridden for years, its subsequent narration earned her an honorary youth writing award as well as opened her eyes to the possibility of affecting people’s lives through words.
Blanka continued to write throughout her teens and early twenties, not only keeping an extensive journal of her life but also contributing regularly to local area and university newspapers. Her first experience with publishing occurred while serving as a combat photojournalist in the U.S. Army from 2002 – 2004, during which she detailed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its impact on both American and Iraqi service members and civilians. Her discharge from the military for violating the now-repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy served as the premise for her first novel, Years Becoming: The Novelized Memoir of a Veteran Harlot, which details downward-spiraling events that eventually led to conclusive diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, substance abuse and potential pre-schizophrenic illusions.
Even with such obstacles standing in the way of her ambition, Blanka continues to strive for success and is currently working on a second novel, CIRCA 2011, analyzing the lives of ten military veterans from the Vietnam War to current times and how each has struggled with identity and purpose in life. Blanka has been praised by readers and editors alike for her definitive writing style and frame of mind. U.K editor Lynton Guest, acclaimed author of The Trials of Michael Jackson, has simplified her writing to “Fu@%ing Brilliant!” Author Joya Verde described it as “Hemingwayesque” whereas other readers argued for a “Fitzgeraldinan” technique. Newspaper editor Beth Erickson wrote “her writing is flawless and possesses a clarity many older, more experienced writers never achieve.” NYC editor Beverly Swerling, author of City of Dreams, City of Glory, City of Promises and Shadowbrook, was “struck by [her] sense of drama and [her] willingness to take risks in the way [she] unfolded the different elements of [her] memoir.” Swiss art director and movie-maker Yvan Liska has placed her in the category of history’s memorable Iconic Women.
COMBAT VETERAN LAUNCHES INFORMATION CAMPAIGN TO AID OTHERS IN NEED
Observing the increase in reports on military trauma and violence, author and combat veteran Blanka Stratford sends urgent message to veterans who have left service and are struggling with mental and psychological problems. Stratford, diagnosed with PTSD in 2009, pushes for veterans to seek help immediately through the VA healthcare system as well as urges the media to carefully evaluate the way it portrays members of the Armed Forces.
Serving as a combat photojournalist from 2002 through 2004, Stratford was located in the eye of the storm during the first and most caustic years of the Iraq War. Following her discharge for voluntarily violating the DADT policy, she nevertheless continued her interest in military and veterans affairs. In 2005, an article written by her and published by news agency Canton Citizen greatly influenced the life of Vietnam War veteran Robert Barrette, who bore extensive wounds from exposure to Agent Orange. Under the guidance of local Veterans Agent Tony Andreotti, Stratford aided in the final allotment of deserved benefits to Barrette and his family prior to his demise.
A series of setbacks struck Stratford following her relocation to New York City. Unable to balance love or find work in a writing career amidst a faltering economy, she became involved in the underground world of drugs and high-class prostitution. Her first novel, “Years Becoming: The Novelized Memoir of a Veteran Harlot,” details her exploits and adventures, providing a bold new look at modern life’s struggles and pain of identity.
Stratford is currently working on a second novel, CIRCA 2011, entailing several key points to understanding the complexities of combat trauma, its effects on veterans and their friends and family members, and the long and arduous path to recovery. The structure of the novel encompasses daily life in the psych ward; interviews with veterans from the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Panama, and the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars; and anonymous personal stories that will shock the reader with the devastating truth of what happens during war and what it takes to recover.