Erase the protective layer of fear: the newest Ukrainian war poems


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More and more Ukrainian poets react to the full-scale war that has been going on in Ukraine for twenty days. We present you the second selection of poems created during these days — from bomb shelters and train stations, from volunteer centres and queues for food, from relatively safe apartments and already dangerous streets.

Previous poetry selection is available in Ukrainian and in English, the Ukrainian version of this selection is available here.

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Less than one day before the war

we quarreled:

stupidly, abruptly, scathingly,

as if the anxiety wasn’t enough already,

as if both of us

took a sip of sulfuric acid.

Who would have known? Everyone knew.

Imminence acts like a nuclear fallout,

breaking the bonds between words

and transforming what was spoken

into a swelling of blood.

Through that we’ve been talking in the past weeks,

and that’s why

our purported sincerity

keeps whining like a beloved

dog who took a dose of radiation,

and deserves to be mercifully shot.

It’s easier now, for the war has started, easier,

for everything is clear now about the past life,

about the dissonance,

about the core,

about the air.


Translated by Oles Petik


I’m a battery that keeps going

even with a negative charge

barbed wire of scream in my throat 

everyone listens

but no one can hear

how the low, anxious sound

pulsates in the sky

it’s the voice of god

god unneeded by anyone

for ten whole days 

it’s been raining red stone 

it’s time to read

the manual of reincarnation:

in case of emergency,

  1. a) break the glass of calm
  2. b) erase the protective layer of fear

look, here it is

the molecular formula of love

use it, then pass it on to the children


Translated by R.B. Lemberg


in the fields the rascals

are lying around unable to pronounce



Translated by Ella Yevtushenko

Saturday, March 5


From the city ruined by the missiles

I will shout to the entire world:

This year, on the Sunday of Forgiveness,

I will not forgive everyone’s faults.


World, oh world, how mean is your abandon!

But in all this pain and all this doom

Kyiv with its golden domes is standing,

Bucha and Irpin are standing, too.


We will overcome it, we will hold on,

Clean our lands under the peaceful skies

From the bodies sent here by the balding

Bloody vampire with a piglet’s eyes. 


I’ll survive as well in this bombarding,

Standing firmly on my native land.


Russia, you will never have my pardon.

…Belarus, are you still our friend?


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko

For years it’s been going on 


The war 


The death do not exist

only wind 


Rubbles, sand

Fangs, needles

A skeleton of submarine


Soldiers’ cans

are going backwards

to the morass 


A wind of changes

bring death to nobody 






Translated by Victoria Feshchuk


even if you are a soldier and you cannot go – you can walk at least, which is great 

an infantryman has a notion of soil varieties, topography, and ranges

but there’s only water all around in the sea, and bank outlines get blurred in your imagination, and tectonic plates 

are in the inaccessible depth – there’s no reliance, your thoughts lack oxygen, you feel pressure from all directions 

There’s no reliance on hope, and there’s no reliance on fear as well 

cry out first, «Get off!» if you’re going to cut a tree 

since you’re in the woods – you’re not alone, you’re never alone on the earth, multiply by storms with wings spread 

a pilot lifts a plane, a ship comes to Dnipro rapids from a sea 

hey brother, there’s only a green dot.. online – you’re waiting for it to spark 

you and I are left on the verge – among the ground, water, and sky – nothing came true for now 


Translated by Odarka Bilokon


when spring comes and winter relents

I want to give you flowers

but first let our air defence

shoot down the enemy missiles


I want to meet you at the train station

to swim with you in the evening river

but I need to defend our population

and you have aid to deliver


when there will be summer and silence in the courtyards

I want to stroke you at dawn

but first let the orcs finish their bombards

And burn in their damn tanks, withdrawn

none will forsake their future life

none of us here frightens

for a way out of shelter to freedom we strive

kissing under the sirens


Translated by Nika Gorovska


Dear Mykola Leontovych,

you have been living with me since my childhood,

my grandpa played the violin revealing about you.

Since 2014, I’ve believed in your little swallows

more and more,

dear Mykola Leontovych.


Since 2019 and till now, I’ve even explored

your piano,

I’ve even explored your fingerprints

to write for children about you.

I was so devoted exploring you,

Mykola Leontovych,

just like my grandpa played the violin revealing about you.


Dear Mykola Leontovych,

On February 23, I was writing about you again.

I was writing for a children’s book which had to be published.

On February 24, the war has started,

dear Mykola Leontovych,

then I’ve spoken to you,


when do we have to listen to Shchedryk

if not now,


when do we have to be charitable

if not now?


I wish a little swallow would fly this February.


Dear Mykola Leontovych,

send it to every home.


We all are ready to hear it.


Translated by Odarka Bilokon


the boy is dreaming of armored vehicles

the father is exhausted

he’s sleeping like a log

only the cat is on the watch near the window

listening to the engines roaring


March 5, 2022


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko


the face of the fear is waking up at night

and seeing red through the windows;

rolling out like tumbleweed

leaving home that refused to be your home


the body of fear is to squat down

while your thought can’t find where to escape:

either to «do to me whatever you wish»

or to «save me»


no body no face:

you are a baroque gate of a cathedral

which you are praying for more than for yourself


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko


they will never get

on Charon’s boat


and never pay

their passage:

because their mouths

are full of rottenness

and their eyes

are full of fungus and mud


even if

they had a coin,

Charon himself

would refuse it

with disgust


he’d drown them in the Styx,

if he could

he’d feed them to Cerberus,

if he could



both the noxious waters

and the fierce beast

refuse them with disgust

as well


everyone of their kind is doomed to

eternal damnation

eternal wandering

and eternal oblivion


that are already starting


in this world

inside of torn

and abandoned



in which

even hemlock

will never put down its roots


Translated by Yulia Didokha

When I look at the enemy battle bus

On the Ukrainian wartime television,

I get surprised that Putin’s still with us,

While he is being damned with great precision.


This army’s like from an absurd sci-fi

From Kin-dza-dza, the old satiric movie,

The only thing that is theirs are the “eyes,

in which I saw a peaceful desire moving”.


Where this horde comes, the water becomes poisoned,

Their shit is all around, right where they sleep.

They’ll be forgotten after we destroy them,

And now they’re selling ammo just to eat.


Before the war we used to count sheep

Till morning, when we couldn’t fall asleep.

And now, when we want to forget our woes,

We count the fresh dead bodies of our foes.


Right now I see your corpses from my house. 

Am I ashamed or sad? I wouldn’t say…

But I am pretty sure, my little brothers,

That you drank all the nuclear bombs away.


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko



my five years old daughter and I are running

downstairs from the fourth floor

and it gets funny for a moment:

our legs are dangling in the air,

we don’t actually touch anything but

each other,





you start shirking

air-raid alerts

like a high-schooler.



who is stirring

in the dark house

in front of your dark house

the house


your dark hair

has sturred?



the contents of a backpack:

for whatever reason

escaping from the shells

I took

my poetry collection

«the contents of a man’s pocket»



a refugee’s game

is unfair —

he’s hiding

eight words

from different


in his sleeves.


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko


the red sea overflows its shores

neither the one in Africa,

nor the one poured by God


but the one singing war songs between the ribs

flowing with channels and rivers 

flooding small villages and small villagers

flooding everything

until nothing remains


shamans bow their backs in a sacrificial gesture

women offer their babies to them and weep

in the red sea, babies and tears disappear

it’s not a sacrifice for salvation, it’s just the need


the earth disappears and so do its fruits

the paper disappears

and so do the words

the man disappears

the man disappears with no sound


and the sea between the ribs cannot disappear

there is nowhere to


it will remain

for something just has to remain


Translated by Tanya Rodionova

day 1

to grab your cat in time

to hold on to a news feed

all the way long


day 2

right after the alert

boys are afraid of a new invasion

girls keep silence 


day 3

after a curfew 

no pads are left

war does not have a woman’s face


day 4

from a siren to siren 

you have time to clean the floor 

it will get covered or get dry


day 5

now you are afraid to wash your head for long

to stay naked and soaped

under a threat of an air raid 


day 6

to hear no fear on my mom’s side

to show no fear to her

to talk three times a day


day 7

to sleep in a tracksuit

to sleep under any circumstances 

to sleep


day 8

news about rape cases

in kherson were not confirmed 

they promise the next negotiation


day 9

the girl from kharkiv whom I know says

the ordinary thing is to be unable to save

a human next to you 


day 10

my friend is charmed

looking at a riffle of a local guard

you cannot get to kyiv now


day 11

my other friend almost a sister

is out of contact for more than a week

our wrath is not enough 


day 12

my friend says it’s hard to tell

when everything’s over as the war is still going on


pauses for sleep are insecure


Translated by Odarka Bilokon