This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who would like to get a good overview of the first six months of the full scale war in Ukraine that was started by Russia on the 24th of February in 2022. The author manages to tick pretty much all the boxes I would have been expecting from this book: it’s personal, while managing to stay factual, it transfers all the different ranges of emotions, while managing to also offer concise hard facts. If you’re Ukrainian and you’re reading it, you’ll be able to go through all the significant events that happened during that time and be reminded of the iconic myths that already mark this iconic era. Most importantly, I found that it portrayed Ukrainians really well. How it’s not only the military fighting Russia on the front but the entire nation uniting against this war, each person helping as much as they possibly can.
A dramatic experience makes for a dramatic perception of the future. But, as if by some divine joke, in the Ukrainian national character, unlike in the Russian one, there is no fatalism. Ukrainians almost never get depressed. They are programmed for victory, for happiness, for survival in difficult circumstances, as well as for the love of life.p. 14
Chronologically, it runs from December 2021, just before the start of the war, until mid-July 2022. This made it hit even closer to my heart, since the period before the New Year and around Orthodox Christmas was the last time I have visited Kyiv and seen my family there. It also put feelings into words that I found hard to express myself. It answered some questions that I had subconsciously been turning around in my head. What does it feel like when war starts in your country? How does it change you as a human being?
On February 24, 2022, all citizens of Ukraine found that their lifetime had been cut brutally in two, into the period “before the war” and that “during the war”. Of course, we all hope that there will be a period “after the war as well”.p. 214
Every war leaves a deep wound in the soul of a person. It remains a part of life even when the war itself has ended. I have the feeling that the war is now inside me. It is like knowing that you live with a tumour that cannot be removed. You cannot get away from the war. It has become a chronic, incurable disease. It can kill, or it can simply remain in the body and in the head, regularly reminding you of its presence, like a disease of the spine.p. 166
The book made me cry, it made me relive anger, frustration and sadness. Even before finishing it, I knew that the rating here would be easy – a solid 5/5 ★. I have highlighted so many paragraphs, passages and quotes in it, as well as having taken along other book, movie and author suggestions. It felt like it would be appealing to a broad variety of readers – those that have so far followed every single little detail of the war but also those who stopped keeping track at some point and would like to recreate a global picture. So many parts will also give a satisfying answer to those, who are still asking – “What’s the difference between Ukrainians and Russians? Don’t you share the same culture? Is Ukrainian even a different language?” After proving THAT Ukrainians and Russians are different, how the languages are extremely distinct, the author explains the main differences further as well as WHY they exist.
During World War II, there was a slogan in the Soviet Union that said, “For the Motherland, for Stalin!” The soldiers who died did so for the U.S.S.R. and for Stalin. […] Now the Russians are dying, “For the Motherland, for Putin”. Ukrainians die only for their Motherland, for Ukraine. Ukrainians don’t have a tsar to die for. […] Ukraine is a country of free people.p. 161
This review could go on and on due to my fascination with so many parts of it. Even the multiple typos I came across didn’t have enough weight this time to result in a reduction in the rating! I would suggest this book to each and everyone who is interested in Ukraine, the currently ongoing war and the people’s stories behind it. I’m really glad about having discovered the author and am looking forward to reading more of his books. To sum it all up, I will leave one last quote here:
Taken together, this is not only a chronicle of Russian aggression in Ukraine but a chronicle of how the war imposed by Russia – and Russia’s attempt to destroy Ukraine as an independent state – have contributed to the strengthening of Ukrainian national identity.p. 15
Edition: ISBN 978-1-91449-584-7
Mountain Leopard Press, 2022