Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24th February 2022, author and poet Alexander Korotko began to set down as poetry the turbulent responses at the emotional, philosophical and simply human levels evoked by the resulting war. Thus, we read in the 88 poems in this volume – completed in just less than 100 days – of the seemingly endless wail of sirens; of sheltering in cellars and tunnels; of the celebrated Ukrainian steppe, churned by tanks; the dead – “our killed, have become our Saviour Angels”; and whole poems devoted to Irpin and Mariupol as the atrocities there and elsewhere became known. Korotko is not without compassion for the Russian soldier – “Russian soldier, what did you forget in my land? We had grief enough without you.” – and the soldier’s mother when she receives his dead body as “cargo 200”. Neither does he conceal his frustration with Ukraine’s allies – “we pay the West for help with blood, but the West makes no haste to deliver.”
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For this three-language edition of War Poems, the English language translation is by Andrew Sheppard, the editor of East–West Review, the journal of the Great Britain-Russia Society. He has travelled widely in Ukraine during an association with the country extending back to 1997. The Ukrainian translation is by Olha Ilchuk. Born in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, she received her philological education in that city, moving on to Kyiv to study law. She has successfully practiced law for more than 20 years. She describes translation into Ukrainian of Alexander Korotko’s poetry and prose as “her passion”.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“If you want to know what the war is like for a flesh and blood Ukrainian, a poet of international standing who knows his native country and his people, read this book […] For all its unevennesses, Korotko’s War Poems is a masterpiece that will be read and pondered to futurity.” Patrick Miles, Calderonia