When the time comes for the histories of the Russo-Ukrainian War to be written, historians will find a great many of the first-person accounts of the war to have been composed by women. The prose generated by these writers reveals a tough-as-nails approach to the violence of the war; perhaps the first drafts of these accounts can be found today on Twitter, on feeds by the likes of Olesya Khromeychuk and Dr. Olha Poliukhovych. Both of these women are academics, but both provide meditations on the war that reach deep into personal experience — both their own and ours, if we read deeply enough. (I also note that the best reporting to come out of Kyiv during the early days of the war was from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet.)
The courage of these women is beyond dispute. Over the weekend Victoria Amelina, a writer who abandoned her interest in fiction at the start of the war to document war crimes and the lives of children in the war, was killed by the Russians in a Kramatorsk missile attack on a restaurant, dying in Dnipro. She is far from the only artist to be killed in the conflict. It is only fitting that you take ten minutes to read her essay “Nothing Bad Has Ever Happened,” an undated meditation published by Arrowsmith Press. She writes:
We still need to talk about the past. A lot. We can help each other mourn our dead, as Raphael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht helped me and millions of others around the world, regardless of nationality.
How can I return the favor? As a citizen of Lviv, I want to accept responsibility for the city’s past — with all its stories, beautiful and ugly, with all its guilt. As a writer what I can do is to listen to the silences rising from the city’s ground, and do my best to translate them into a tongue the living understand.
To honor her memory and return the favor Amelina bestowed on us, we should listen to those silences too.