Keeping your friends in your thoughts and prayers: the newest Ukrainian war poems


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War in Ukraine endures, so endures its fixation and description in Ukrainian poetry.  Here you can read new poems from Ukrainian authors of different generations, written from 24.02.2022, the day of war escalation.

UA version of this selection is available here, previous selections you can find here.

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when a rocket flies by

then you can see 

for a moment

a new gray lock in the sky

in God’s hair


more and more locks

it seems like

non-grey hair

haven’t left there 


if any rocket comes to my place

then I will also

see God Himself


though who knows

if God

then sees me


Translated by Odarka Bilokon


to come to life at 4 am in someone else’s bed

on someone else’s linen

in someone else’s walls


that even this body is not yours

I don’t know it


to look at it in the mirror

stretching cheeks, rising eyebrows —

seems like familiar features

breathe deeper

it’s all right

to carefully examine familiar fillings in teeth

swollen eyelids — but no!

that’s not me

someone is watching every move

from the frosty desert of scorched pupils —

come on, you stranger, miss!

and I’m missing

now it’s forever


now it’s forever —

to put on the body 

as if it is someone else’s coat

soaked with the smell of bonfires


and dead bodies

to rub it and wash it

with furious hatred


to weep and keep asking


take this away from me…


give me back my body!

give me back MY life!


tell me her name

whom I weep for every day

every night

and can never stop


Translated by Tanya Rodionova



The curfew ends at 6 a.m. – no entry before that, you can only exit.

Any weapons? Put your car glass down, your hands up.

And then you’re suddenly silent – there’s a child on the backseat,

sleeping, slobbery, hugging a reddish pup.


“We’re coming back from the border, where we drove our wives and daughters.”

“I’m driving to take my mother away, I teach music in Warsaw.”

“I took my kids to Hungary, people there gave me a box of coffee,

tomorrow I’m going to join the Armed Forces.”


“Sixteen hours driving, my relatives are waiting at the railway station.”

“I’ve spent thirteen hours at the border, they made me wait.”

“I drove my dear ones to the border, no clue what to do next in this situation…”

“I have to prepare a church for four families to stay.”


Did you know you can’t enter the city now for the city’s safety?

Like bread and fish from the biblical parable, the string of cars doesn’t get shorter, 

anxiety, distraction, fatigue will feed on them to satiety,

here there are, near the bags of sand, as if checking, – shining with torches.


The morning is growing gray like a nine-storey concrete panel 

building, come up to the wall and stand still – this is your final stop.

Sky, oh the early spring sky, what on earth would help you

not to look like a pile of concrete from the building that was bombed? 


After six o’clock nothing changes, an hour of duty left – and that’s all.

You come home around eight a.m., when she gets up and reads the heap

of new messages – and you ask her to lie down next to you,

to hold the walls – 

to lull you to sleep.


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko

Friendship in a wartime


In the 21st century, in Europe

friendship starts in the small hours,

simultaneously with air raid alerts.

As soon as I open my eyes I check

the cities under attack today

to quickly run the list of my friends there.

In the 21st century, in Europe, in wartime

friendship looks like keeping your friends

in you thoughts and prayers,

holding them by the hand – virtually,

what else can you do from your safety?

Sending short messages “ how are you?

how’s your cat? how’s your dog?

and your kids, have you managed

to get them to safety?”

While they, my dear brave friends,

stay locked up in the bathrooms for hours –

the safest space in the flat, they say,

according to the principle of two walls

(the first one takes the missile, the second one – debris).

Holding their cats, their dogs, their children

responding with only one word – “fine” or

“it must have hit nearby”.

And me I am holding them tightly

with my thoughts, common past memories

and those we still have to make.

Please not you, not today

Ania in Dnipro

Yulia in Odessa

Ania in Kharkiv

Luckily I have no one in Mariupol


otherwise my heart would blow up

it is not big enough

to ever contain Mariupol



when Adam gave names to the animals

names similar to cookies and sandwiches and little glasses of tea with lemon

he named all the animals who made it, who survived, who crawled out

from beyond the river

who crossed over the rickety planks put down instead of bridges destroyed by bombing

when he handed out names

a few cardboard boxes of names were left over for those

who still remained among the demolished buildings under the charred pines in the bomb shelters of their dens

there’s so much tea still left, too

maybe they’ll get out of there yet

maybe they’ll get carried out but probably not

so many names will be left forever without their animals

and where is my person who should be called Eve

my rib

flesh of my flesh?

your rib

you no longer have ribs

such grief

when you slept

Kadyrovites cut the rib out, took it to a kindergarten and raped it

after that, they killed it

look, where it was supposed to be there’s a black empty hole

so black and so empty that even a flashlight on God’s forehead won’t help

illuminate this emptiness

at least that’s what we all think

at least for now that’s how we feel ….


Translated by R.B. Lemberg


now my home is a memory

I return after wandering through war

bare-handed women


and knead dough

for flavored bread

children come

with their parents

that have not yet been fired on in Bucha

at a distance of five meters

and who are not yet breathing through a tube

in the 17th hospital

for their lungs

have not yet been shot through

and their pelvic bones

have not yet been crushed

you find yourself there too from time to time

I can capture your smell

and I can feel your glances

diving into my pupils

in my memories a tap does not drip

blood does not drip

the vibrating alert of my phone does not cry

until the battery death

because the call is answered

I take a shower and no screams

are flowing from the showerhead

in my memories sandbags seal my ears

soft mats shutter my eyes

an all-round defense from reality

in my memories there is no war


I don’t want a home of memories

I want a healing fire


Translated by Pavlo Matyusha and Olena Jennings


We no longer have old things

fireworks of wreckage fly over our cities

fireworks of wreckage become cranes

bird from a shirt

bird from a shoe

sing about the new

free world


Translated by R.B. Lemberg

what do women bring into evacuation?


a handkerchief with the image

of the sea ​​coast

and lighthouse (to remember the stolen house)


a lipstick shade heartbreaker

although the heart was broken

while leaving Kyiv


a notebook in which it is written

about the course of events

starting from the eighth day

of the endless February 24th


lace lingerie

warm socks

two liters of water


a favorite dog

hate to the enemy

anxiety and fear


Translated by Victoria Feshchuk


Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women put on their lipstick,

why they tie up pretty little bows

on little boxes

with their nerves

on little chests

with their pandor-ishness.

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women

do hair removal,

take care of gel polish,

and scrape off 

the smallest 

burned spot

on the stove with their nails.

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women put on

lacy lingerie,

and then get down on their knees

to polish 

the deepest

corners of a toilet bowl

so that

you could

eat off it.

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women

smoke and smile

wearing expensive


get ready for another’s religious holidays

according to all rules

and stick to

ceremonies and rituals.

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women


go on vacation alone

with a whole pack of kids,

and they also wipe off,


each spot

on the glass, mirror,

tiles, floor.

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women

talk with relatives

on the phone for hours,

listen to the president

and other politicians

in the shower,

move furniture  

(how lovely nothing’s built-in!!!)

hang paintings,

put photos in little frames.

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women

feed kids to the fullest

let them eat extra sweets

remake the bed

change towels in time

(even dish towels).

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women

keep patience,

burn of lust

for strangers

want to have babies,

put things together


share everyday life

with their mothers-in-law

aren’t jealous

of their old rivals.

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

why women

give up on their careers

while their babies

are teething,


these babies

will eat an apple

very soon

or tear

the enemy’s throat.

Since the war has started,

I know for sure

that women

wake up early

and do all these things

to be able

once again

to stop 

doing these things,

and instead, get enough sleep.


Translated by Odarka Bilokon

(a fragment from the poem “through the centr. parts)




the missile lied down in the botanical garden – 

are they forcing peace on bandera-trees? (+)


has anyone ever written         рÖссия

with the umlaut? it’s even more wicked          isn’t it?




kids used to        play


many games cossacks-and-bandits

the war of the worlds        and no one plays now



the tip-toeing cold


when you went out – I foolishly scared you

with a growing whistle       like

it’s a missile       lack of sleep fit of passion – 


fucking lame excuses


now I bear this shamexplosion

in my chest among the paths the stairs      the ovary

of peace of war


had withered away      earlier


sorry      still shining      with maturing

still – up        no games

children       in embraces


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko

they say a habit is formed in 21 days

and that is unfortunately true

what I never wanted to get used to

becomes everyday life

I got used to waking up from a siren

in two seconds

cutting off gas

shutting windows and doors

going to the hallway

not listening attentively

to the noise of aircrafts

not thinking that one day

it will be theirs

I got used to not going out

without my backpack

and to keeping the map of shelters in my head

during the walk

21 times I got lost in time

I lost count of hours

and days

for 21 days I have been getting used

and today 

Mariupol happened

and I don’t know how to get used 

to this emptiness


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko

/ bombardment /

I sniffed a flower

detonated on face


Translated by Yurii Lishchuk

* * *

in this poem I would like to replace

a word “war” to many other words

which are waiting to be pronounced 


to a word “rain”

which is deeply compressed into the cloud

like a sound in the chest


or a trace on the road

deep and fresh like a wound

where are hidden from the wind

little insects and people


to a word “tree”

which can not get rid of its shadow

so its treat it like a home on his own


to a “gleam”

which first falls on a face

and after a moment disappears again


to a word “love” 

which is stuck in a throat

sharp hard to pronounce


only to one word

which is not letting one’s heart

to be deaf


i would give it to the ground

let it grows in grass in flowers

in forests in rivers in mountains

higher and higher to the sky

like the air grows in the chest

in the inbreath


let this poem

release my body


Translated by Victoria Feshchuk


beloved body of border.  beyond it, an alien sorcery drums with a draining heart


the ethics

of death and emergence; the heat

of language without meaning, that

pushes the pus of cause out of things, as if around a wedged bullet.


intimacy, drowned in us, ahead of us, bows

to the dead


 Translated by R.B. Lemberg