Zĕna Kōan and the Shadow of Lady Liberty

Being Remembered and Forgotten

Fame and Death Over Coffee

aleXander hirka
7 min readApr 6, 2021


Wait, wait. Stop! Look!—I said loudly as she raised her arms and coffee cup in excitement.

With the napkin she still held in that hand, and the outstretched fingers of her other hand above her head, she was casting a fascinating long shadow across the courtyard floor of the cafe—seeming to be holding a torch and wearing a spiked crown.

Hah!—she laughed aloud—I look like Lady Liberty.

Regarding the Upcoming Novel by Zĕna Kōan

I was having tea with author Zĕna Kōan [“Shoegum Gumption”] at the Smak Cmak Cafe on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Smak (Cмак in cyrillic) translates to “Taste”.
This neighborhood—where she has lived most of her life and I used to visit regularly for its vibrant nightlife—still retains these small enclaves dipped in the Ukrainian culture that thrived here in the 1950s and 1960s.
We were sitting outdoors enjoying a favorite dessert—kutia (honey-drenched wheat and poppyseed pudding) and coffee.

Here’s to the end of the pandemic—Zĕna was saying—when I had interrupted her to point out the shadow.

It looks like I am going to make it after all, she then went on to say, and they won’t be able to drive that dramatic nail—“died from COVID-19”—into my obituary. Alas, quite a few famous people will forever have that stigmatic honorary medal hanging over their legacies. Celebrity dies of celebrity virus.

Prior to this Zĕna and I had not talked for over a year—since January 2020—when we had run into each other at Joe’s Pizza. At that time she had delightedly recounted to me that someone had written quite an extensive review of her nonexistant meta-mystery book, “No Chaser”.
Fictional review of fictional writer’s fictional book, she said and we enjoyed a good laugh.

And then there was the pandemic.
Other than an occasional check-in on social media we were out of touch.

But a couple of weeks ago I ran into Zĕna at the Javits Convention Center where we were both getting our vaccination shots. She told me she was working…



aleXander hirka

Writer, visual artist, philosopher, autodidact, curmudgeon. More than half of what i do is make believe. https://alexanderhirka.nyc