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A wartime diary by Yevgenia Belorusets

A wartime diary by Yevgenia Belorusets

A wartime diary by Yevgenia Belorusets



This diary shall be up to date each day and is copublished with Isolarii press. 

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 28 (DAY 5): THE NEW VULNERABILITY 

IT’S A SUNNY SPRING DAY that, just like the final three, ends in darkness. I sit within the darkened residence. Some lights burn, however these lights are dim and hidden. I learn the information that Mariupol is bravely resisting Russian troops, however can be largely in darkness. Russia is attacking infrastructure as deliberate, placing folks within the metropolis underneath artillery fireplace, with out electrical energy. Combating round Kyiv continues.

However my ideas are with Kharkiv. I see the pictures of residence blocks destroyed by rockets and mortar shells and know that at present Putin’s military murdered 9 folks, together with three kids, on this Russian-speaking metropolis that’s resisting occupation. Thirty-seven individuals are injured, eighty-seven residence buildings ruined. I reside in Kyiv in an identical constructing—a susceptible refuge, my very own residence, the place I at all times really feel so good. Even now! Even now!

This warfare is demonstrating a brand new degree of vulnerability to the world. Nearly all pharmacies are closed. Electrical energy, water, and heating are underneath fixed menace of failure. The injuries are getting larger. However there’s a whisper always repeating in my ear, even whether it is generally nearly silent: They maintain combating, we maintain combating—then the injuries heal quicker.

The general public areas, squares, streets within the metropolis are empty. The horizon is all of the sudden nearer, the Kyiv hills, the asphalt, the courtyards of the buildings; all the pieces appears to be invited and concerned within the warfare.

At midday I made a decision to go for a stroll: On the fifth day of the warfare, when the curfew lifted, I accompanied a German buddy, who couldn’t keep in Kyiv, to the railway depot. We had been going to take the subway first. Impressed and nearly drunk by the concept that the subway in Kyiv was working once more, we walked to the Golden Gate station. Then, on the entrance, we realized that this station may solely be used as a shelter.

(As I write this, sirens shatter the silence. It’s 2:30 within the evening and I determine to remain the place I’m and end this diary entry.)

So we needed to stroll to the railway depot. A journey of twenty-five minutes, which for me was a stroll into one other huge actuality. For the reason that starting of the warfare, I’ve not visited Shevchenko Boulevard, a large road main all the way down to the depot. We walked alongside the road and each home. Each intersection carried one thing new, a brand new language, a brand new narrative about our shared actuality. The town seemed peaceable; the solar’s rays made this picture much more jarring. We rapidly mentioned goodbye, and I strolled again alone.

I needed to cross the road so I may overlook the outdated botanical backyard. Out of the blue I noticed a pile of metallic on the aspect of the street—a shot up, deformed automotive—then a second one close by, plus a damaged promoting signal—shattered glass, metallic, and plastic on the bottom. The botanical backyard was wiped from my thoughts. What remained was the insufferable realization that this warfare, this unimaginable, illogical, prison warfare, was nonetheless occurring in spite of everything.

At about the identical time, peaceable residents of the town of Berdyansk within the south of the nation gathered in entrance of their native authorities constructing, which was occupied by Putin’s military and guarded by armed troopers. The ladies shouted on the troopers in Russian, “How are you going to look your moms within the face? You introduced warfare and slaughter to our land! Disgrace on you!” Previous folks had been additionally within the crowd, they weren’t afraid. The troopers seemed demoralized; they replied, “We got here to guard you!”

The ladies resisted. They continued to protest, “We had been by no means at risk right here. There was no menace to us right here earlier than you got here. Now, with you, due to you, we’re within the best hazard.” Then got here cursed insults, which have a really nice richness within the Ukrainian and Russian languages.

This capability of the residents of Berdyansk to battle on and on, to strategy the troopers unarmed and shout the reality of their faces, even when the town has nearly fallen into Putin’s arms, guarantees rather a lot. It’s hope itself.


I see fewer and fewer journalists in the city. Here someone is filming a line of people in front of a pharmacy that was closed for almost two days. Only a few pharmacies are still open. All photos unless noted: Yevgenia Belorusets.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27 (DAY 4): AN EXTINGUISHED CITY

NORMALLY, the various brightly lit home windows in Kyiv heat the town’s chilly February days. The lights have one thing secret, non-public, however on the identical time cozy about them. However now the town has gone out. Persons are afraid of Russian missiles and artillery fireplace. I’ve taped my home windows shut in case of shelling, in order that they gained’t shatter. I am going out on the balcony to test if my residence is darkish sufficient. I put just one lamp in every room—they hardly give any mild and are on the ground. It’s tough for me to seek out my means across the residence, however I attempt to uncover a brand new type of coziness.

The sirens that warn of air strikes wail with an extended sign, considerably paying homage to the playful sounds that elephants use to speak. In Kyiv, the wailing of sirens can be a type of communication, however the message is at all times the identical: Disguise, disguise nicely!

When daybreak got here, for some cause I made a decision to wash my residence. I believed: proper now it’s important to stick with the plans, to the same old routines. From the surface, my residence is sort of black, with its empty, darkish home windows greeting all the opposite flats within the metropolis, that are additionally empty and darkish.

The darkness is horrifying, however on the identical time I sense that the town has determined to defend itself. On official Telegram channels, I examine so-called “diversionary teams,” Russian models shifting into Kyiv as a vanguard. Like terrorists. Their purpose is to destabilize the town, perform assaults on politicians, and finally take Kyiv. One such group seems to have shot on the automotive of two ladies who had determined to flee the town with their kids this morning. The ladies and their kids died.

My ideas develop into as darkish because the home windows of my residence. Whereas cleansing, I believed that once I write this diary, I ought to make a joke about housekeeping throughout warfare. My tip can be: “Cleanliness is a should in a darkish room with taped home windows—when you had been going to do it earlier and are nearly crying now, go forward and mop your residence anyway. True, you’ll not see something. And the residence could not get a lot cleaner, however following procedures and implementing plans is extra essential.”

The fourth day of the warfare is over. Half the town is combating towards the normalization of violence that’s knocking on each door. Struggle additionally checks us to see if we now have even a contact of compassion for these despatched right here to homicide. For the reason that warfare started, sixteen kids have been killed throughout the nation. In my city, 9 “civilians” (I hate that phrase increasingly) have died thus far and forty-seven have been injured, together with three kids.

The destruction of the small city of Shchastye, “Happiness,” in northeastern Ukraine started with {an electrical} station being shelled. In some unspecified time in the future it was destroyed, the sunshine went out, the water, the heating. In misery, folks, particularly aged residents, went exterior to get water or meals. Then the troopers attacked, with artillery and rockets. A bus with fleeing folks was fired upon. No journalists work on this space in the mean time, nobody counts the injured, the lifeless. Who will describe what Putin has achieved to the Donbas because the starting of the warfare, since his operation to “Shield of the Folks of Donbas from Ukrainian Fascists”?

By occupying these territories and waging info warfare, Putin has managed to isolate this area from the world. Human rights organizations haven’t been capable of freely function there since 2014, and now the Russian military is as soon as once more exhibiting how little it values the lives of its folks.

From the information I be taught that within the settlement of Ivankiv in Kyiv Oblast, the Regional Historical past Museum was destroyed. In it had been the works of Maria Primachenko, one of the vital well-known twentieth century artists in Ukraine. A joint exhibition of my pictures and her portray had been deliberate for the autumn, which is a superb honor for me. I’m positive that, by some means, someplace, this exhibition will happen.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 26 (DAY 3)

My first evening within the shelter. The Telegram channels of the Kyiv authorities warn that it is going to be a heavy evening and that the Russian army will assault the town. However right here within the bunker it’s just about empty. Many are attempting to remain at house, in hope that nothing will occur. As of Saturday evening, there’s an nearly thirty-hour curfew within the metropolis. It in all probability gained’t be potential to depart the room on Sunday.

Our small bunker is positioned within the heart of Kyiv, not removed from the Golden Gate. It’s one and a half flooring deep underground, to be exact—a community of corridors and corridors. They’re clear, snug, and heat. I like this place as a result of it gives shelter for greater than 100 folks. There may be ingesting water, everybody brings one thing, there’s additionally sufficient meals. Everybody who can’t stand the sirens and the thunder of the artillery and rocket fireplace is allowed to come back right here. There are additionally some households who’re right here more often than not.

On the darkish entrance to our basement, I see the silhouettes of residents scurrying previous one another. You possibly can overhear their occasional, petty arguments.

Two older shadows cross by two youthful ones:

“Good night!” “However the night is just not good!” the youthful ones protest. “We want you a great night anyway,” the older ones say in a triumphant tone, “as a result of we imply nicely. And we’ll proceed to want it, to you and to the others!” The shadows disappear into the depths of the cellar.

I orient myself within the current as a result of the times supply little construction. In some unspecified time in the future I visited my dad and mom, each of them are usually not prepared to depart Kyiv. They need to keep right here till the second of “our victory,” as they are saying.

My father is a translator, he interprets German poetry into Russian. Due to his translations of Paul Celan, I fell in love with this poet once I was nonetheless a scholar. For years, because the Maidan Revolution, he has printed his translations nearly solely in Ukraine.

He took half in protests again then, I keep in mind calling him from Berlin and discovering out that he was standing with the demonstrators on the parliament constructing. Then I heard an explosion; fortunately he wasn’t damage. Now he’s in Kyiv. He feels fairly weak after an extended chilly and can’t go to the shelter. Perhaps he doesn’t need to both. Every single day I see how he continues to work on his translations. Regardless of the rocket assaults, regardless of the hazard, or perhaps due to it.


The smiling woman with the shopping bags in the park said: “We will win.”

As I write, it happens to me that in the course of the day I noticed many smiling folks. For instance, a girl who was sitting within the park on a bench subsequent to 2 large purchasing luggage. She spoke to me in an absurdly joyful voice, saying that she was ready for her nephew to assist her carry the luggage house. “I’m so joyful to have you ever standing subsequent to me now, speaking to me. When there are two of us, I’m much less afraid of the artillery.”

She used to work as a museum information at St. Sophia Cathedral, she mentioned, now she’s a pensioner. She is satisfied, she mentioned, that Ukraine will defeat the Russian invaders. “Once I take into consideration the frescoes of St. Sophia, I imagine that Ukraine shall be protected by the entire world.” She smiled, tears standing in her eyes. ”We shall be victorious,” she mentioned. I didn’t know if she was crying extra or laughing extra, however I felt her braveness and admired her.

Is at present solely the third day of the warfare? Mariupol: fifty-eight civilians wounded. Kyiv: thirty-five folks, together with two kids. That is removed from a whole record. It feels unusual to seek out myself on this broad, unarmed, nearly delicate class: “civilians.” For warfare, a class of individuals is created who reside “exterior the sport.” They’re shelled; they should endure the shelling; they’re injured, however they don’t appear to have the ability to give an enough response to it.

I don’t imagine this to be the case. There’s something hidden within the smiles that I noticed a number of instances at present. A secret weapon, a sinister one. I have to attempt to sleep ultimately and attain my residence within the morning. Having breakfast in your individual kitchen—that will be an unlimited pleasure!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25 (DAY 2), NIGHT: TENSE SILENCE

The evening has all of the sudden develop into silent. Simply an hour in the past, round midnight, sirens could possibly be heard, then distant thunder, maybe rocket or artillery hits. And now—a tense silence.

We must be within the shelter by now, however I’ve already been there twice at present. My dad and mom are drained and I’m staying within the residence with them for the evening. The thought was which you could relaxation up right here, if solely a bit of bit. We’re prepared to depart the residence on a minute’s discover and take shelter within the basement of the home.

I discover it tough to gather my ideas. Completely different experiences of at present crumble into the feeling of many days, kind of the identical, standing gray one subsequent to the opposite. The house within the metropolis is altering. The stroll from my home to the closest grocery retailer, which normally took not more than ten minutes, stretches out, the space turning into an extended trek.

The truth that the shop was open in any respect was a miracle. I purchased apples, greens, and buckwheat—however once I returned to the realm an hour later, I noticed the disillusioned faces of two ladies now standing in entrance of a closed door. Somebody mentioned there was one other grocery retailer 500 meters away, down the identical road. However it wasn’t excellent news for the 2 ladies—500 meters on foot? The sirens are wailing, and fewer and fewer individuals are within the streets.


Everyone in Kyiv is trying to stay alert and do everything they can to protect themselves and others. Here our neighbors get a pink balloon from a tree.

Time can be altering. On the best way again from the grocery retailer, I discovered {that a} kindergarten close to the town of Sumy, within the north-east of the nation, was shelled at present. A kindergarten and a shelter. Seventeen kids injured, two critically. I finished and leaned towards a wall of a home. The day all of the sudden turned infinitely lengthy. Can this warfare be endured yet one more minute? Why doesn’t the world put an finish to this taking place?

It was a spring day, the sunspots performed on the partitions of the homes and the white partitions of the St. Sophia Cathedral. The sirens wailed once more—the sign to go to the bunker. An excellent buddy of mine, the artist Nikita Kadan, had misplaced his bank card and the 2 of us walked the streets to discover a working ATM.

One journalist had a backpack with him, with all the pieces he would possibly want within the coming days. We noticed some passers-by and reporters standing in entrance of one of many large accommodations with their cameras, reporting. The second day of the warfare, because it seems, is a step already taken in a repeating sequence.

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Within the night I realized {that a} city within the Luhansk area had been 80 % destroyed by the Russian military, an exquisite little city that was in Ukrainian-controlled territory. It was known as Shchastye, which means “Happiness.” The husband of a buddy, who was already protected, managed to flee. He left city and not using a toothbrush, socks, or a suitcase.

A automotive picked him up on the street. He advised my buddy that as he drove alongside, he noticed the corpses of individuals mendacity subsequent to their homes, doorways, and the small cellars the place many Ukrainians retailer potatoes for the winter. So these had been “the folks of the Donbas” that Putin claimed he was saving from “genocide.”

Happiness not exists. I used to be there just a few years in the past and photographed streets, additionally admiring a hill that dominates the panorama. Within the metropolis folks spoke Russian and Ukrainian—I wrote about them and about their unusual and humorous home made playgrounds.

Then I go to sleep on this black evening in spite of everything.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25 (DAY 2): AIR ALERT

I get up at seven within the morning to the sirens warning of air raids. My mom is satisfied that Russia is not going to dare to shell the thousand-year-old St. Sophia Cathedral within the metropolis. She believes that our home, which is within the instant neighborhood of the cathedral, is protected. That’s why she decides to not go to the bunkers. My father is sleeping.

I believe if a UNESCO monument would really cease the Russian military from shelling, this warfare wouldn’t have began within the first place. My head is throbbing with ideas: Kyiv underneath fireplace, deserted by the entire world, which is simply able to sacrifice Ukraine within the hope that it’ll feed and satiate the aggressor for a while.

Kyiv is being shelled, for the primary time after the Second World Struggle.

I’m battling myself. I do know slowly the world is waking up and beginning to see that it’s not nearly Kyiv and Ukraine in spite of everything. It’s about each home, each door, it’s about each life in Europe that’s threatened as of at present.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24 (DAY 1): THE BEGINNING

As we speak I awakened early within the morning to see eight unanswered calls on my cellphone. It was my dad and mom and a few mates. At first I believed one thing had occurred to my household and that my mates had been making an attempt to achieve me as a result of for some cause my dad and mom had alerted them first. Then my creativeness went in one other course and I considered an accident, a harmful state of affairs within the heart of Kyiv, one thing to warn your pals about. I felt a chilly uneasiness. I known as my cousin, as a result of her stunning voice at all times has a relaxing impact on me, courageous and rational. She simply mentioned: Kyiv has been shelled. A warfare has damaged out.

Many issues have a starting. Once I take into consideration the start, I think about a line drawn very clearly by means of a white house. The attention observes the simplicity of this path of motion—one that’s positive to start someplace and finish someplace. However I’ve by no means been capable of think about the start of a warfare. Unusual. I used to be within the Donbas when warfare with Russia broke out in 2014. However I had entered the warfare then, entered right into a foggy, unclear zone of violence. I nonetheless keep in mind the extraordinary guilt I felt about being a visitor in a disaster, a visitor who was allowed to depart at will as a result of I lived some place else.

The warfare was already there, an intruder, one thing unusual, overseas and insane, which had no justification to occur in that place and at the moment. Again then, I stored asking folks within the Donbas how all this might begin, and at all times bought completely different solutions.

I believe that the start of this warfare within the Donbas was one of the vital mythologized moments for the folks of Kyiv, exactly as a result of it remained incomprehensible how such an occasion is born. At the moment, in 2014, folks in Kyiv mentioned, “Folks from Donbas, these Ukrainian Putin-sympathizers, invited the warfare to our nation.” This alleged “invitation” has for a while been thought-about an evidence for the way the completely unimaginable—warfare with Russia—all of the sudden turned potential in spite of everything.

After I completed the telephone name with my cousin, I paced round my residence for some time. My head was completely clean, I had no concept what to do now. Then my telephone rang once more. One name adopted the following, mates got here ahead with plans to flee, some known as to verify we had been nonetheless alive. I rapidly grew drained. I talked rather a lot, always repeating the phrases “the warfare.” In between, I’d look out the window and hearken to see if the explosions had been approaching. The view from the window was abnormal, however the sounds of the town had been unusually muffled—no kids yelling, no voices within the air.

Later, I went out and found a completely new surroundings, an vacancy that I had by no means seen right here, even on essentially the most harmful days of the Maidan protests.

Someday later I heard that two kids died from shelling in Kherson Oblast, within the south of the nation, and {that a} whole of fifty-seven folks died within the warfare at present. The numbers changed into one thing very concrete, as if I had already misplaced somebody myself. I felt offended on the entire world. I believed, this has been allowed to occur, it’s a crime towards all the pieces human, towards an awesome frequent house the place we reside and hope for a future.

I’m staying with my dad and mom tonight. I’ve visited a bunker subsequent to the home, so I do know the place we’ll all go when the shelling comes later.

The warfare has begun. It’s after midnight. I’ll hardly be capable of go to sleep, and there’s no level in enumerating what has modified eternally.

Yevgenia Belorusets is a photojournalist and author primarily based in Kyiv. She is the creator of Fashionable Animal (ISOLARII, 2021) and the forthcoming Fortunate Breaks (New Instructions, 2022).

ISOLARII has rereleased Fashionable Animal with 100% of earnings donated to Ukrainian charities and causes. Copies and extra info can be found right here.

This diary was initially printed in German by Der Spiegel.

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