Yeva Skalietska writes in her diary, “I can’t stand the word ‘refugee.’ I never could. When Granny began referring to us as refugees, I immediately asked her to stop doing that. Inside it made me feel ashamed. I have only just understood why. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t have a home …. It’s felt unbearable ever since we fled our flat to go to the basement. My dream is that someday soon we will have our own place again.”
‘You Don’t Know What War Is’ is a diary of a twelve-year-old girl. Yeva Skalietska is Ukrainian and her life suddenly changed from a quiet peaceful one, to one of a refugee in just one week.
She lived with her grandmother, in the city of Kharkiv. It is the second largest city of Ukraine. Ten days before the war, on the 14th of February, Yeva celebrated her birthday and had no inkling of what was in store for her from 24th February.
Interestingly twelve-year-old Yeva Skalietska decided that she must write down ‘things as they happen’ in her diary. Yeva recorded what she saw and felt in her diary. It gives us a glimpse of how people’s lives go topsy-turvy because of war.
When Russian bombings became frequent, they decided to leave their home. Yeva and her granny stayed with her granny’s friend. They moved to the West, entered Hungary, and a reporter from Channel 4 (UK) recorded her interview and came to know that she had kept a diary of her life during the war. They helped Yeva and her granny to migrate to Ireland, though the journey was full of hurdles – for instance the granny did not have a passport – but good Samaritans helped them. And so did the reporters of Channel 4 who traced her story till she landed in Ireland.
Yeva later learnt that Russian bombs destroyed her home. In this era of ubiquitous mobile cameras, she even received pictures of her destroyed home. She misses her friends, her school, her city. Yet the diary does not read as a sob story.
This book is a ‘must-read’ because of the profound upheaval in Yeva’s life recorded with simple language and with maturity. It is an exceptional book because of the age of the author as well as the extreme situation of human suffering and tragedy.
The book is imaginatively produced by Bloomsbury with maps of their travel, photographs, screenshots of chats between Yeva and her friends.
Yeva Skalietska simply recorded the events as she saw in her diary, and it makes a big impact. As someone said, perhaps after Ann Frank’s Diary, this diary will go down as the one which will leave an indelible mark on the readers’ minds.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” / Read more Lulu blogs in my book ‘The Lulu Duologues’
Feature Pic Courtesy: Yura Khomitskyi on Unsplash