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This morning, the Russian Federation has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine following an announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin to start “a special military operation”. Explosions rocked multiple Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, with President Zelensky declaring the state of emergency.

The international community won’t forget this day easily. Violence has prevailed over diplomacy & Putin has shown the West & his own citizens that history can be cancelled and rewritten to protect the title of Russia’s lifelong dictator and aggressor.

But while Putin may claim his own version of Ukrainian history and blame Lenin for drawing the country’s borders, Ukraine’s vibrant artistic community has so far contributed to debunking Putin’s misread history & reacting to the dictator’s military aggression to Ukraine.

We picked 2 Ukrainian contemporary poets Natalka Bilotserkivets & Serhiy Zhadan whose work reflects, among other things, on the country’s past and present respectively.

  • Bilotserkivets’ poem entitled “We’ll die, not in Paris –“ focuses on Ukraine’s complex of provincialism and the making of a national and individual identity in the face of hundreds of years of Russian colonial policies.
  • Instead Zhadan, who is also a civil activist and Ukraine’s most known counterculture writer, describes in his poem “They buried their son last winter” the raw tragedy of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war in Ukraine’s Donbas.

Both poets are members of PEN Ukraine, an organisation promoting freedom of expression & humanist values through culture and literature. Maksym Sytnikov of PEN Ukraine told us: “Ukrainian society is strong and united as never before. We see how intellectuals from different (sometimes even opposite) sides unanimously condemned Putin’s imperial ambitions. The creative community in Ukraine profess European values & accept only European future for Ukraine. Many of them are ready to take arms to protect this future. All internal political disputes in Ukraine have now receded into the background.”

Sources: PEN Ukraine (pics & info),  Poetry Foundation and Calvert Journal