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A poem by Olga Bragina, a Kyiv poet currently safe in Poland.

May 09, 2022 IN WIP
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A poem by Olga Bragina, a Kyiv poet currently safe in Poland.


I don’t see why you must remember 1980s Kyiv

Olga Bragina


I don’t see why you must remember 1980s Kyiv

the white walls the sterile windows of the churches

the empty silence the lines of white bandages and fresh asphalt

still hot scorching underdone bitumen

why you must remember the waterless fizzy water vending machine those white celandine meringues

you’ll be forever stuck leafing through old photos here’s one of you just before your birthday

sneaking past the heroes of the revolution past the warm columns of autocracy the symbols of homeland

I don’t see why you must remember Kyiv now no one lives to love the dead or tear apart notebooks

and the cloudy Podol oil Annushka spilled

I don’t see why you must remember who lived in the house that was Emperor Nikolаi’s favourite colour

those who told tales to the caretaker and to childhood friends

they didn’t recognise or remember you after all these years

here a democratic life passes under local anaesthetic

something with no name other than why must you remember 1980s Kyiv divided into before and after

folded pages in the spine of Duke Berry’s Book of Hours

love is restless and unkind it doesn’t end or begin only the burning asphalt

the shortages of potato peelings acorns and tap water

shortages of bath salts cheerful people in the metro

I don’t see why you must remember


Edited by Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya

Translated by Mark Wingrave


Olga Bragina is a Ukrainian poet and translator. She has published five books, and her work has appeared in numerous literary journals.


Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya is a widely-published writer and translator. Originally from Moscow and now living in Sydney, she is a Board member of Moscow PEN.


Mark Wingrave is a member of PEN Melbourne. An artist and translator, he has has exhibited internationally and his translations from Russian to English have been widely published. See his website at




зачем тебе помнить Киев восьмидесятых


Ольга Брагина


зачем тебе помнить Киев восьмидесятых

белые стены церквей стерильно чистые окна

пустота молчание белый цвет бинтов первая свежесть асфальта

горячего асфальта среднепрожаренного битума

зачем тебе помнить где эта газировка без воды пирожные безе чистотела

ты застрянешь здесь навсегда будешь перебирать старые фото вот ты до рождения

пробираешься мимо героев революции теплых столпов самодержавия родимых осин

зачем тебе помнить Киев не любят мертвых не рвут тетради

мутную взвесь подольского масла Аннушка разлила

зачем тебе помнить кто жил в этом доме любимого цвета императора Николая

рассказывал сказки дворникам рассказывал сказки друзьям

детства не признавшим через столько лет никто не помнит тебя

здесь проходит демаркационная линия жизнь под местным наркозом

то чему нет названия но зачем тебе помнить Киев восьмидесятых разделять на до и после

часослов герцога Беррийского загибать страницы стачивать корешки

любовь не лжет не милосердствует не заканчивается не начинается только горячий асфальт

дефицит желудей картофельных очистков воды из крана

морской соли для ванн счастливых людей в метро

зачем тебе помнить



Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Vakulenko and his son Vitalii were detained and taken to an unknown destination by Russian occupiers in Kharkiv region. They have been out of touch since March 7.

Vakulenko’s ex-wife, Iryna Novitska, informed about this on her Facebook page on April 10.

“Something that I have been suspecting since the end of March, was confirmed yesterday. My ex-husband Volodymyr Vakulenko, an author and volunteer from Izium, was denounced and then detained together with our son Vitalii by either Russian soldiers or representatives of the occupational administration. Their fate remains unknown”, Novitska wrote.

Vakulenko lives in the village of Kapytolivka near Izium. The local police are investigating his abduction.

“Our investigation indicates that by the end of March 2022, a well-known Ukrainian writer who for a long time has been implementing volunteering activity, was illegally abducted by Russian occupiers in the village of Kapytolivka. His location is still unknown. The village of Kapytolivka remains under the occupational control of Russian troops. The locality is out of connection now”, Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office states.

In the opinion of Iryna Novitska, the occupiers took interest in her ex-husband because of his patriotic attitude and participation in the war in Donbas. Her claim is that Vakulenko has been denounced by some local residents. Volodymyr Vakulenko is known for his civic activity. During the Revolution of Dignity Volodymyr was wounded in the Marrinskyi Park in Kyiv while fighting against a titushky gang. He has been volunteering for the Ukrainian army since 2015.

Volodymyr Vakulenko was born on July 1, 1972 in Kharkiv region. He is an author of 13 books, among which there are “Monoliteracy” (2008) “You Are… Not” (2011), “The Sun’s Family” (2011), “We, the Province!” (2013). His pen name is Volodymyr Vakulenko-K. His own genre, which contains elements of postmodernism, modernism, neo-classicism, and logical absurdism, Volodymyr defines as “contrliterature”. Vakulenko is a winner of several Ukrainian and international literary prizes. His works have been translated into English, German, Belarussian, Crimean Tatar, and Esperanto languages.

Poetry Mesa
Three Centuries of Ukrainian Poetry: 
From Kobzars to Rock Stars
Readings & Conversation on Zoom ~ A Fundraiser 
Monday, 25 April     5:00 PM CDT   Register at:
Benefit for World Central Kitchen’sWork For Ukrainian Refugees
3 extraordinary contemporary poets: Iryna Shuvalova, Halyna Kruk, Iryna Starovoyt
 & Ukrainian Literary Scholar, Vitaly Chernetsky, 
readings of the magnificent poetry of Ukraine’s past: 
Taras Shevchenko, Lesya Ukrainka, Vasyl Stus, Bohdan-Ihor Antonych & Serhii Zhadan, 
plus their own GORGEOUS work
interlaced with lively conversation weaving poetry 
into literary, cultural & historical context
 This Event is Free ~ Please donate Generously!
 100% of the money we raise will be sent to Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen
Thank you to Our Supporters & Friends: 
 Colorado Poets Center, San Miguel PEN Centre, San Miguel Poetry Café,
New Mexico Literary Arts, Stephen Komarnyckyj, PEN Turkey, The Poetry School 
& Lost Horse Press
~ Slava Ukraini! ~


The letter below was received from Subhash Jaireth in both English and Russian:

Dear Chris,

Another alarming news: Novaya Gazeta announced on its website yesterday (28 March 2022) that it is spending publication. Just wondering if you could bring this the notice of PEN Members.

Here is the text of the announcement is Russian and English (my translation)

With best wishes,


Мы получили еще одно предупреждение Роскомнадзора.

После этого мы приостанавливаем выпуск газеты на сайте, в сетях и на бумаге — до окончания «специальной операции на территории Украины».


С уважением, редакция «Новой газеты»


We have received another warning from Roskomnadzor (The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media).

As a result, we have decided to suspend publication of the newspaper—on our website, on social network sites, and on paper—until the end of the “Special Operation on the Territory of Ukraine.”


Sincerely, Editors of “Novaya Gazeta”

Subhash Jaireth
45 Noala Street, Aranda
ACT 2614, Australia

PEN Melbourne’s good friend, Maria Tumarkin, has made a personal plea to support the people of Ukraine. You’ll read in her letter that Maria wa born and raised in Kharkiv, a city that is under brutal attack. Maria has been following along with her friends as they make their way to safety. It has been a harrowing time for so many in Ukraine and their families and friends here in Australia. There is much we can do to support. Calls for an end to war are necessary, however financial donations will assist those who now struggle to survive each day.  Please circulate this widely.

Maria Tumarkin is an awarded Australian cultural historian, essayist, and novelist.

Dear Con

I am a Ukrainian–Jewish–Australian writer born and raised in Kharkiv. Increasingly my city is being compared to Aleppo in Syria.

My childhood friend’s son, Yurii, made a video in English about Kharkiv’s destruction (note, this is highly distressing, please take care when watching). At the end of this video, Yurii pleads for everyone to sign the petition to close the sky over Ukraine. This is what all people in Ukraine, including the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, have been saying for days now. Don’t wait till something beyond unconscionable happens, do it now. Whatever you fear most is happening already. The fight for Ukraine – this is not, even for a second, hyperbole – is a fight for the world. That is what they’re saying.

Yurii’s mum Olha is a psychologist. She’s been working for Proliska, a Ukrainian humanitarian mission active since 2014 and specialising in humanitarian support for and evacuation of civilians, especially those in state institutions such as hospitals and orphanages. They operate under the auspices of UNHCR and are effective and fearless. Proliska means snowdrop. For those who wish to donate to Proliska, I’ll update information on donating from Australia on once I have everything confirmed and verified.

Olha and I studied psychology together in the first ever psychology class in Kharkiv in the late 1980s. When I find her on Facebook and ask if I can help her family, she replies, ‘We are fine, we’re in Uzhhorod, setting up and getting to work. No plans to leave.’ Uzhhorod is in Ukraine’s west. On our screens millions (by now) are crossing the border from Lviv into Poland, but there’s also an exodus to the west of the country where people are trying to find a degree of safety, for now. As I write this a friend calls to say that in Ivano-Frankivsk, also in the country’s west, where her friends run a volunteer network, every house is crammed with people. Her friend is sheltering nine in her house alongside her family. The west of Ukraine is ‘full’.

‘No plans to leave’ is what I hear from friends and friends of friends. All generations. The ‘choices’ my compatriots face are catastrophic. To leave their sons, husbands and fathers behind in order to take their children to hoped-for safety. To leave behind their sick and elderly relatives who wouldn’t survive the arduous journey. To leave their beloved, butchered, heroic motherland so as to be able to come back and rebuild it.

What can we do?
First, give money if it’s possible for you (I know it’s not possible for many after 2+ years of COVID). I’m raising money by giving away my two most recent books, Axiomatic and Otherland. The info is here:

My books are what I have to give. They are not special. In Otherland are chapters on WWII, Russia and Ukraine though of course they were written in 2010 when this war was unfathomable. In Axiomatic the last chapter is essentially a conversation between me and my dear friend Alexandra who has just escaped from Kharkiv travelling for three days through what she described as Dante’s circles of hell. There are many charities you may want to donate to beyond the one mentioned on my site. You might be compelled to send money to support the Ukrainian army. I will send you my books regardless of how you direct your donation.

I’m not pushing anything. So many books and essays and blogs are out there you can read. This one for instance from Ukrainian writer, Yevgenia Belorusets.

There’s another petition I’d like to mention. This one urges the Australian government to grant special visas for refugees from Ukraine.

What can we do?
Quadruple our efforts to shift the Australian government’s stance on accepting and resettling refugees. Not only Ukrainian refugees, and not only future refugees – those who are here now, in offshore and onshore detention. We have one of the greatest chroniclers, poets and philosophers of the modern refugee experience in Behrouz Boochani. While PEN has been tireless in its advocacy for Behrouz and others, and while Australia’s given Behrouz Boochani its top literary prizes, he’s living in New Zealand because in Australia anti-refugee and anti-immigrant policies continue to win elections.

I hope one day to write to you again telling you about literature in and about Ukraine, but not now.

Now is the time for direct action.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading and for your support.

Maria Tumarkin

Subhash Jaireth, writer and PEN Melbourne member, spent nine years in Russia studying geology and Russian literature between 1969 and 1978. Subhash has written to  PEN Melbourne:

I found a letter written by Ivan Vyrypaev, a contemporary Russian playwright and director.

The letter was published on his website in English. In the letter he calls Putin’s War barbaric and wants royalties from the ticket sales to go to Ukraine Aid Fund.

Below is the link to the independent news website Meduza where the letter was published in Russian and the link to an English translation of Vyrypaev’s own website.


This is to let people know that in Russia people are protesting in different ways and this is where people like me see some hope.

English text of Ivan Vyrypaev’s letter:

Since your theatre is financed by the Ministry of the Russian Federation or the city department of culture of your city, that is, the state that is waging a criminal war now with the Ukrainian people, killing the citizens of this country, destroying the infrastructure of cities and villages, I have made a decision, and I want to inform you that all the money which I will receive from your theatre, I will transfer to the relief funds for Ukraine, of course (and I want to emphasize this) this money will go only for peaceful purposes, and in no case, not for military purposes.

Our money will go to help Ukrainian refugees, children and mothers, to everyone who needs this help now. I am glad that in this way the money from the budget of culture of the Russian Federation will be fairly given to those who suffered and are suffering from the barbaric attack of Russia.

I will try to inform you in detail for what specific purposes the money we earned together was sent.

Spectators who buy tickets for my plays should know that by buying a ticket for the performance based on my play, they also make their own contribution in helping the tragically affected Ukrainians and at least to some extent (of course, to an incredibly small) compensate the monstrous damage that Russia inflicts on Ukraine.

Especially, I am happy to announce my plan to the theatres of the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre, the Theatre of Nations and the Moscow Art Theatre, because the royalties from these theatres are much larger than all other theatres together.

So, together with you, we are already starting to do what someday (I am absolutely sure of this) the entire Russian people will do. This letter will published in the media space, on social networks, and on my website, so that our action to help Ukrainians will be followed both in Russia and abroad.

Thank you for being together.

Playwright Ivan Vyrypaev

PEN Ukraine:

PEN Ukraine appeals to international PEN centers and fellow writers, journalists and intellectuals.
On this page, we tell about current situation in Ukraine and share official sources, media and accounts on Twitter, whose information can be trusted. You can follow the updates on sources that we recommend. Now, it’s important to tell the truth about the Russia’s war against Ukraine and appeal for support of parliaments and governments in the world.

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International