cover image Ukraine, War, Love: A Donetsk Diary

Ukraine, War, Love: A Donetsk Diary

Olena Stiazhkina, trans. from the Russian by Anne O. Fisher. Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, $19.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-0-674-29170-6

Journalist Stiazhkina (Cecil the Lion Had to Die) provides a harrowing account of Russia’s 2014 takeover of the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Beginning soon after separatists occupied Donetsk’s municipal buildings in early March, Stiazhkina shares stories about how the city’s residents were affected by the invasion. Her profile subjects include an elderly, pro-Russian railway engineer who suffered a heart attack after he found himself in the crossfire of sparring Russian insurgent groups and a photographer who learned from a passing reference at a press conference that his wife, a doctor, had been killed while caring for Ukrainian soldiers. Recounting her own experience of the occupation, Stiazhkina discusses learning to distinguish the sound of mortars from anti-aircraft missiles, making contingency plans with her sister in case they needed to flee Donetsk, and comforting her nine-year-old son during long missile barrages. Stiazhkina balances a clear-eyed assessment of her country’s leadership (“Generals steal, civil servants take their cuts from city budgets and... politicians tell lies”) with her faith in Ukrainian civilians, “the friends and strangers who—today, and tomorrow, and always—will... rescue, and build, and cook, and forgive, and give, and heal, and defend.” Filled with gut-wrenching anecdotes and rousing prose, this is an alarming look at the human toll of Russia’s ongoing attacks on Ukraine. (Dec.)

Correction: A previous version of this review incorrectly identified the book’s source language as Ukrainian.