Ukrainian Voices Drowned: Letters from Kyiv
Part I on Ukrainan War Stories
Kyiv, Ukraine. Day 58 of the war. My wife and I are Americans in Kyiv. We have been here the whole time in a flat that we own close to the center of the city. Maybe we are brave or maybe we are just stupid. We are here, still, and we are not going anywhere. I am just a Westerner who happens to be in Ukraine in the midst of a historical war on European soil. My story doesn’t really matter that much. My wife’s does, but that is for her to tell.
The problem that exists is that not enough Ukrainian stories are being told. Western voices and media dominate the landscape. Over 40 million voices are barely being heard. Whether they be those who left their families behind; suffered under the brutality of Russian attacks, torture and rape; had no military experience and joined the Territorial Defense; fought the Russians directly as soldiers; were safely tucked away in bomb shelters; lived in the Metro of any number of cities; are children who suffered some of the above; or lived in fear but suffered nothing. Due to a lack of people who are fluent in English and other languages, someone else is telling their stories for them with their own skewed Western bias.
How many publishing executives in the West are foaming at the mouth for real Ukrainian stories? How many Hollywood screenwriters see visions of large payouts for movies they will write? What about the actors, producers and directors? Will Ukrainian’s stories be stolen or twisted to reflect Western truths?
Yes, massive reconstruction is needed in Ukraine. Yes, the language of business which tends to be English will be necessary for aid, reconstruction, strategy and planning. Most important is that Ukrainian stories be told by Ukrainians. Yes, they will need help in translation and interpretation. But the stories themselves must be their own. Some will speak Russian as that is the predominant language in the East of Ukraine. The language of the enemy will be used to tell the stories of the brutality and stupidity of that same enemy. Others will be Ukrainian. English translation and interpretation will dominate in this field.
There are people here in Ukraine who are trying to help them achieve this (the author and his wife are two of them). Luckily, we have been here the whole time and so our particular view will be as those who stood with the Ukrainians and all the foreign fighters. Maybe we did not hold rifles, but we yielded our gifts up for this cause of new European freedom. Opportunists will come as well. Some Ukrainians know English and will help as well. Maybe that will be how those who know English will rise economically from the ashes of this war.
In the end, it will be the stories that will record what has happened here. Some will be personal stories and all the tragedies that befell so many families; others will be about this village or that village or city; many will be about individual military units; biographies and autobiographies of the President, mayors, generals and other leaders will be highly sought after. Who will help them write those to make sure the stories adhere to what is happening here?
I hope I am one of them and so does my wife. The important things is not to steal or take the Ukrainians’ thunder. Ethical and moral practices must be observed so that the English language versions meet the standards that are right now being upheld by these brave and powerful people. I can only hope that those who come here when this is over to help with these stories are of the highest character of writer and not just in it for the money. Don’t be misled, I am an American capitalist and know full well the profit potential. What that means is after sitting through this war in our flat in Kyiv with air raid sirens, curfews, Martial Law and all the other realities of War Zone Life, we know we must be completely professional, honest, transparent and loyal to those who have protected and accepted us in whatever direction we take in the telling of Ukrainian stories. We cannot let Ukrainian stories drown in a publishing and media world largely dominated by English. Slava Ukraina!
To be continued…