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A monumental, deeply penetrating document of life in Kyiv during the first forty-one days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
The young artist and writer Yevgenia Belorusets was in her hometown of Kyiv when Putin’s “special military operation” against Ukraine began on the morning of February 24, 2022. With the shelling of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, and Kherson, the war with Russia had clearly, irreversibly begun: “I thought, this has been allowed to happen, it is a crime against everything human, against a great common space where we live and hope for a future.” With power and clarity, the War Diary of Yevgenia Belorusets documents the long beginning of the devastation and its effects on the ordinary residents of Ukraine; what it feels like to interact with the strangers who suddenly become your “countrymen”; the struggle to make sense of a good mood on a spring day; the new danger of a routine coffee run. First published in the German newspaper Der Spiegel and then translated and released each day on the site ISOLARII (and on Artforum), the War Diary had an immediate impact worldwide: it was translated by an anonymous collective of writers on Weibo; read live by Margaret Atwood on International Women’s Day; adapted for an episode of This American Life on NPR; and brought to the 2022 Venice Biennale by President Zelensky as part of the pavilion “This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom.”
About the Author
Yevgenia Belorusets is a Ukrainian writer, artist, and photographer who lives between Kyiv and Berlin. She is the author of the “unsettling and illuminating” (Washington Post) collection of stories Lucky Breaks and the cycle of lectures Modern Animal (ISOLARII). Her photographic work has been shown in the Ukrainian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and 2022. She is a member of the Hudrada curatorial collective and cofounder of Prostory, a journal for literature, art, and politics.
Greg Nissan is a poet and translator living in New York, and the author of The City Is Lush With / Obstructed Views.
How do you remain an artist at such a moment of terror? One answer might come in the form of Belorusets’s war diary which she began publishing as the invasion started and which has gained the appreciation of writers like Margaret Atwood and Miranda July. Through this act of documentation, in words and photographs, she is processing the total collapse of her world and keeping alive her openness, her powers of observation.
— Gal Beckerman - The Atlantic
Belorusets said the practice of photographing her day has been helpful in fighting the fog of war. That at the end of the day she'll start to write, and look at her collection of pictures from the day, and suddenly, things will come back to her—things she'd completely forgotten. . . . And if taking pictures helps remembering the un-rememberable, the writing helps believing the unbelievable.
— Andrew Limbong - NPR
The surreal circumstances Belorusets depicts, both in her writing and in the accompanying color photographs, set against the drama of war are quietly disturbing. A compelling portrait of a nation under siege as well as the inspiring resilience of ordinary Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian artist and writer began keeping an online diary the day Russia began shelling her hometown of Kyiv, but it quickly took on a global life after its translation by an anonymous collective and a live reading by Margaret Atwood on International Women’s Day. In book form, these collected entries bring home the mix of fear, banality, helplessness and incredulity Beloruset experienced in the war’s first 41 days.
— The Globe and Mail
War Diary mounts an unrelenting assault on civilized comforts.
— John Domini - Brooklyn Rail
In War Diary, no veil of fiction stands between the reader and the nightmare of life under military assault.
— Ben Shull - Wall Street Journal
The big emotional takeaway from War Diary is a sense of abandonment. Belorusets can’t believe that the world is watching these atrocities, right out on Ukraine’s streets, and not stepping in more forcefully. Russia’s troops, to her, seem more like terrorists than soldiers.
— Dwight Garner - The New York Times