Vladislav KitikA seagull, all fluffed up, sits at the edge of the pier, chest against the wind. A sharp explosion over the bay interrupts its contemplation of the gray water, and it spreads its wings.Seagulls don’t know what war is. But after sixteen days, the gulls have managed to overcome their confusion and learn not to fly too far when the sky shakes with land-mine explosions or cannon fire, not to hide when they hear the howl of sirens.The seagulls fly over Odesa’s streets, which are usually crowded and noisy. A rare pedestrian leaves footprints on the untouched snow. In silence, the famous Potemkin Stairs climb the slope, buried in bags filled with sand. They hide the monument to the city’s founder—Odesa’s bronze soul—from the malice of artillery. But the seagulls love the sand.

The street bristles with anti-tank devices. Will they be able to protect us against modern missiles? Of course not. But there is something hoodlumish, cocky, in these six-pointed crosses known as hedgehogs. Such hedgehogs stood here in 1941, and now time has jumped off the footboard of the past.

The gull circles over the houses and flies once again to the sea.

Elena Andreychykova

……..I will speak as a witness. To how scary it is when air-raid sirens wail in the early morning on an ordinary Thursday. How I kept smiling while packing frantically, trying to signal to my son that I was not worried. How a warehouse exploded and burned before our eyes, less than two hundred feet away. How we spent a night surrounded by jam jars in a root cellar in Odesa…..

Vladislava Ilinskaya

After a week spent in a stupor, I walked out into Odesa’s streets to see anti-tank fortifications, barricades made of sandbags blocking the avenues. Boutiques and restaurants boarded up. People with guns on the streets. I’m writing this in a taxi. We were just stopped at a checkpoint, we were searched. It’s frightening how quickly I’ve gotten used to this life.

Our people are amazing: never before have I seen such solidarity and care among neighbors.

A strange feeling: as if I haven’t lived before this moment. As if some kind of shell has burst, a carapace that prevented me from breathing in deeply. I don’t know what I did before the war. I’ve never been so aware of being needed, of being involved in reality.


Eugene Demenok

…..I cannot write anything. I don’t have the stamina, desire, or time for it now.

Ganna Kostenko

A few days ago, I decided to listen to Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto. I wanted to clutch it in my hands like a branch, so that I wouldn’t slip into the sticky mud of hostility toward everything Russian. Rachmaninoff is innocent—he has nothing to do with Putin’s crimes. Just as Goethe was innocent of Hitler’s madness.

Yesterday, during an air raid, I hid in a bathroom, and I understood with clarity that I don’t want to sink into hate. I have made a choice for myself, and I am trying to stick to it. Hate is the language of my enemies. It is their source of strength. How else to explain the bombardments of kindergartens, maternity wards, hospitals?…

Victoria Koritnyanskaya

What is life in wartime? It is hard for me to choose the right word—I suppose life has narrowed to some very mundane actions: watching the news, buying groceries, cooking simple food, washing the dishes. I try to read books and even to continue writing an article about the artists of Odesa in wartime, but … here’s a thought: What is it all for, if tomorrow I—and Odesa—may not exist? War steals the pleasure from writing.

Despite it all, I am convinced: We will get through this. Because white snowdrops and violets are blooming in all the front gardens, because pigeons are cooing on my windowsill, because we are strong.

I am not sure about literature right now, whether anyone needs it … The Russian language in which I write is no longer trendy. I think sooner or later every writer in Odesa will face the question of whether to write in Russian, only for Odesa, or to write for the whole of Ukraine, in Ukrainian. What choice will I make?

Vadim Landa

As for writing: I am unable to read anything except the news—so don’t ask me about my writing. My attitude toward the Russian language has not changed. No, I don’t speak the language of the occupiers of my country. It is they who stole my language.

Marina Linda

In these two weeks my life has changed entirely: the world I knew has become as fragile as shortbread. But people who might have been weak have become as strong as steel. I myself have felt for many days like a kind of iron frame on which the whole house hangs, on which my frightened children, my cats, and everything I know is hanging right now, including my own clarity of mind.

Nail Muratov

In times of war, writing goes badly. What can you do? Your mind refuses to make sense of what’s happening.

Some people have left, and those who remain have banded together. My ninety-two-year-old mother returned a couple of days ago from the store, and in her bag were several cans of preserves, given to her by women she didn’t know.

Taya Naidenko

The Russian invasion showed what a source of strife regular words can be. Some fearmongers, including those from other countries, accuse me of naivete: “After the war they could ban speaking Russian in Ukraine!” But I remind them: saying what you think in the Russian language is banned only in Putin’s Russia.

Anna Streminskaya

People are volunteering everywhere, assembling sandbags on the seashore. “You’re an Odesite,” the song goes, “and that means that neither grief nor misfortune is scary for you!”

I’ve written several poems about the war. A poet should be a vibrating string that responds to everything happening around us. I am following what my poet friends are writing, and the level of their poetry has risen—the language has become very precise, strong.

There are no words nor justifications for what the Russian Army is doing in Ukraine—in Kharkiv, in Mariupol’, in other cities. Still, the task of poetry is to find words even when there are none.