Yevgenia Belorusets is a Ukrainian writer, journalist, artist and photographer, who lives between Kyiv and Berlin. She has been documenting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from inside Kyiv since February 24. Her diary provides news on the war from a different vantage and is co-published daily in English by ISOLARII and Artforum.
Lucky Breaks, her first work of fiction, was awarded a 2020 HKW International Literature Award in Germany. The book’s Russian-born translator, Eugene Ostashevsky described it as “a book of gorgeous short stories about women in Ukraine. Many are refugees from the fighting that took place in the east of the country in 2014 and the subsequent years. They are the kind of ordinary people who don’t appear in the media as individuals, who have no voice in historical events, except as a choir of mourners. Yevgenia Belorusets gives them voices, lets them be individuals.”
Ostashevsky wrote these words on February 24, as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. He continued: “My first paper copies of Lucky Breaks came in the mail last night. I sent a photo of them to Yevgenia in Kyiv, with the words “The book is out!” She wrote back an hour later: “We are under fire!””
Belorusets recently told The Atlantic’s Gal Beckerman that she decided to stay in Kyiv, thinking that the war would not last long and writes as if “every entry should be the last”.
“My wish was always to project this vision, to show how important it is to end the war immediately. I believed that it was possible for the Russian side to end it, though I feel that’s much less true now than at the beginning. I believed that there were people there who could also not imagine that this was happening and were powerful enough to stop it.”
The following are from Belorusets’ diary entries on February 24-25:
“Day one — The Beginning: Today I woke up early in the morning to see eight unanswered calls on my cell phone. It was my parents and some friends … I felt a cold uneasiness. I called my cousin, because her beautiful voice always has a calming effect on me, brave and rational. She just said: Kyiv has been shelled. A war has broken out.
“I was in the Donbas when war with Russia broke out in 2014. But I had entered the war then, entered into a foggy, unclear zone of violence. I still remember the intense guilt I felt about being a guest in a catastrophe, a guest who was allowed to leave at will because I lived somewhere else ... Back then, I kept asking people in the Donbas how all this could start, and always got different answers.
“Later, I went out and discovered an entirely new environment, an emptiness that I had never seen here, even on the most dangerous days of the Maidan protests.
“I'm staying with my parents tonight. I've visited a bomb shelter next to the house, so I know where we'll all go when the shelling comes later.
“The war has begun. It is after midnight. I will hardly be able to fall asleep, and there is no point in enumerating what has changed forever.”
“Day Two – Air Alert: I wake up at seven in the morning to the sirens warning of air raids. My mother is convinced that Russia will not dare to shell the thousand-year-old St. Sophia Cathedral in the city. She believes that our house, which is in the immediate vicinity of the cathedral, is safe. That's why she decides not to go to the shelters. My father is sleeping.
“I think if a UNESCO monument would actually stop the Russian army from shelling, this war wouldn't have started in the first place. My head is throbbing with thoughts: Kyiv under fire, abandoned by the whole world, which is just ready to sacrifice Ukraine in the hope that it will feed and satiate the aggressor for some time.
“Kyiv is being shelled, for the first time after the Second World War.
“I am struggling with myself. I know slowly the world is waking up and starting to see that it's not just about Kyiv and Ukraine after all. It's about every house, every door, it's about every life in Europe that is threatened as of today.”
[Read the diary in full here.]