war poetry

We take a shortcut from love to hatred: the newest Ukrainian war poems


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The war endures, so endures retelling the war in the poetry of different authors: debuted and professionals, veterans and civil people, volunteers and relocated people, witnesses and distanced people. We collect poetry from them for our new publication of lines-experiences.

Read the original version here.


It’s easier now that the war has finally started.

Kateryna Kalytko, 

‘Less than 24 hours before the start of the war’


Once upon a time, between love and hatred,

We had some houses standing and a forest growing.

Now, the forest is in splinters, and the houses burnt.

Now, we take a shortcut from love to hatred.

Everything is so bright and clear that some failed to squint

And had to lie down, blinded, in the orchards, at the outskirts of our cities.

While those who endured have their lips glued together, as if with honey.

All they can say are the words of love and hatred.


we are the messengers of flat Earth, our only dictionary

is the dictionary of antonyms.

Apologies to those of you who expected a more nuanced approach, who arrived here

to snap some colour photos. 

You will waste your efforts, just like we wasted

our wreaths of hopes, our years of gathering stones, our talks

behind long tables on brightly lit stages.

Sorry. Here is our X-ray. It shows 

flesh and bones. That’s all we have.


Translated by Iryna Shuvalova



Air-raid sirens across the country

It feels like everyone is brought out

For execution

But only one person gets targeted

Usually the one at the edge

This time not you; all clear


Translated by Anatoly Kudryavitski



how to survive what has already happened


and at every moment

pulls irresistibly towards itself

come closer




yet you evade it

hide your hands behind your back

turning away your face

as if not recognizing


but as soon as it looms in the distance


something pulls on 

the umbilical cord

dragging you into this tinted yellow flow 

which remembers with its every bubble 


the calm and colorless waters


deprived of the strength to flounder

you grow faint from pain


because now again you’re well

able to see them all so clearly 

that only a muted line

separates the two pleas


yours – of not-being-born

theirs – of not-dying 


Translated from the Ukrainian by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky


Just a storm

Silly storm


I’ll be there

Right in your


I will put

Ice to your


I will bring

Bread in my



I will put

Out all the fire

I will play

Making you smile

I will draw

Llamas in woods

I will heal

A hundred wounds





Translated by Oleksandr Korzh

the world goes around tied hands

how to forgive the snow its whiteness

that was stolen from the fabric tied up around the wrists


the time is whole and solid 

baked like a pie

cut it – and it will bleed


silence is the song of the tortured

impossible to discern


the world goes round like a scratched vinyl

with circular trenches full of bodies

and craters over which stumbles the needle of attention 


carbonized remains of poetry 

are waiting for burial


the crow

mother grown black

bends down from crying


Translated by Ella Yevtushenko

The Green Corridor


A bird flew through the green corridor

carrying a few foreign words in its beak

a few twigs for a new nest

The seven-year-old girl calmed the cat:

Keep quiet, my kitty, eat what you can;

we’ll be back in a week

…Somebody bit through the bag with onions

the cat’s silence is terrifying

The eastern banshee asks the western one: How do you feed yourself?

You have coffee-shops and street music there

and children sleep in pyjamas –

and we have

an explosion. Another explosion. (And the third, later)

Three were trying to flee but no one succeeded –

an enemy soldier tore earrings

out of her dead ears.

Madonna with her head bandaged

feeds her son from a bottle

The milk has dried up, but she’s alive

At the fire, the ghost of a dog sniffs

human bones

the dog’s name is Anubis

the owners couldn’t take it with them

I wear somebody else’s prickly dress

I close my eyes with the stumps of my hands

I don’t want to see

the green corridor

turning red


Translated by Anatoly Kudryavitski



a bombed-out school —

a triumph of Russian weaponry

at least the students were evacuated

before the shelling began


nobody would have survived

in the geography classroom

a ripped up map of the world

hangs down in shreds

textbooks helplessly

thrown on the floor:

ancient literature with singed spines

modern history with a ripped-out heart


Translated by R.B. Lemberg

L #47


Here are the quiet cities, to the cages of which they carry you over,

along with your memory and debts,

tearing you away from crowds of friends and stacks of books

and soothing you with words,

so trivial that it’s even disgusting.

They say, you will overwinter and then we will see,

maybe you will overspring as well,

and oversummer somehow,

and then autumn will come,

and you will refuse to go anywhere else,

staying here with us,

trying streets and squares on

for your rickety walk

like a festive clothes,


you will go to work, sleepless and unconscious,

you will fearfully look around

to every stranger voice and movement.

That’s the way it is going to be. No options, definitely.

Anyway, you are not the first.


Here are the quiet women, whose gentle hands embrace you as if you were

a reward or a trophy, which is always scarce,

they waste thousands of lullabies

and hundreds of passionate prayers on you,

but if, being under their wing,

you don’t change a bit,

and you become overgrown with pain and experience, like trees with moss,

and become sensitive like an antenna,

and become covered with cracks like glass that was hit hard one fears just to touch it,

then they start loving you hopelessly and humbly,

just for the silence of your sleep and your presence.


Here are the men. They’ve taken the bullet for you since you were a child,

they teach you to love and stand your ground,

they lead you, dissecting storms,

lead through thorns and smoke,

thanking the high and tired heavens for you.

Ever since you can remember, they’ve always been there.

And you learn all the worst from them yourself.


Here are the quiet cemeteries — all that remain after our restlessness.

Tall grass, sagged busts and erased names,

and one can barely hear the living telling about their lives to the dead,

such nonsense is told that the dead become afraid.


Translated by Yulia Didokha

where you swung into the sky in the swirling of stars and of waters

where you were talked into birth by your most ancient elder 

where you’ll stand over your heart and yourself jumpstart its rotation

there it will be — your love’s kernel  


where you will stand faithfully, clenching your teeth into paleness

and the stifling collapse of the ceiling you’ll prop with your shoulder 

like a blanket above those before you with you after you will remain here

at last you will see your love’s kernel


with the creak of the slab from below you’ll emerge in the flame of your anger

when moving your mouth, the earth with the groan of the beast will declare

light once-kindled is endless

now put all your faith in

everything that remained from your love in the kernel


under the sunlight you’ll find there are hands for the body —

wounded fingers covered in cuts,

for your thirst there are lakes, melting mud and ice cracking

and you, in the middle of pain, have strained yourself fully

having vanquished the horde once again

once again born here


Translated by R.B. Lemberg



They’ve mined me

And now I’m mined

Everyone around me is mined

Heaven and earth are mined

The whole life is mined


High up the cold tree

A large black branch creaks 

And falls down with a grin

The way birds of prey take off

A planetary rumble ensues


Carefully, so I don’t explode,

I take a deep breath

And turn to stone

Or just become a pebble


Can you hear the bursting rind?

Another branch creaks

Golden spells flare up

And suddenly everything vanishes

Only a few riders in a distance

Whisper something fearfully


Translated by Anatoly Kudriavitsky


the tree splits the lantern light in half

making a radiant track to my feet

the train arrives in a few minutes

and I still don’t know where to go

my mother said in her dying hours

home is where you are waited for

so I’m riding a toy train

along the light rails to her


Translated by Yulia Didokha



“Szukam pokoju”, –

requests a girl in Poland

in a real estate rental chat.


And facebook translates:

“Looking for peace”.


Translated by Victoria Feshchuk

A prayer of love and hatred:



give our warriors

the eye of a falcon – to each one

the wings of a hawk – to each one

the strength of a lion

and the speed of a tiger


so that bullets, shards, rockets and bombs will bypass them 

so that none of them will get wounded

so that they’ll go, go, go,

chopping up the enemy

and sweeping those ghouls from our land


so poetically and earnestly every day prays my granny


and I with her now, with the very same words.


Translated by R.B. Lemberg