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"I’ll shut the windows and draw the curtains. And then I’ll go to war…": Excerpts from the diary of Kyiv historian and writer Serhii Myronov

Friday, 24 February 2023, 10:00
Draws: Olya Loza Collage: Andrii Kalistratenko

Serhii Myronov loved Kyiv. As a historian and a writer, Myronov organised tours of the city where he would talk about Kyiv’s history and cultural heritage. He knew the city’s buildings and courtyards like the back of his hand. In 2021, he started restoring and renovating old doors and entryways in Kyiv’s historic centre, often hidden behind sheets of metal installed to conceal them. 

Two days after Russia’s full-scale invasion started, on 26 February 2022, he joined Ukraine’s territorial defence forces. After eight months of training and deployments, he was promoted to the position of platoon commander in the 243rd Battalion of the 241st Territorial Defence Brigade. 

Among other topics, Myronov wrote about living through the war, fighting on the front, endless moves, the heat of summer, strange returns to Kyiv, mosquitoes, stray cats and dogs, and preparing for winter. He wrote about being a soldier and being a person, about fighting for his country’s independence and freedom – unsentimentally, with humour, bluntly, but with great care, love and lyricism, too.


To mark the passing of a  year since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda publishes translations of a selection of Serhii’s Instagram posts since 24 February 2022, a war diary of sorts.

24 February 2022

I carefully avoided talking about the war for the past few days, even weeks. But every night, when I turned off the light and laid on my side, wrapped in the warm duvet, I’d think: what if war starts tomorrow?

War has come to my country today. I’ve never spoken about my patriotism. I’ve hardly shared any of my views. I stayed deliberately apolitical; at times I acted as though I was cosmopolitan. But that was all a fiction.

I won’t write about those I love and those I hate. I won’t write some nonsense about how I’m going to defend my free Ukraine until the last drop of my blood. One can write or say anything one likes. It’s much more important to act.

War has come to my country today. I don’t think anyone in the entire world believes that we provoked the attack… We have been attacked. The way that those bastards from authoritarian regimes always attack. They attacked us at night.

The West has expressed profound concern. Did anyone really believe that another course of events was possible? The time to acknowledge the truth has come: we either take our fate in our own hands and, yes…fight, or we decay and rot…

This is the first time in our country’s history when so much depends on us. On every one of us, on every pair of hands. On kind words and wisdom. On stamina and a stubborn, almost reckless, refusal to concede. It’s now or never.

I will never judge those who are stuck in traffic trying to get to Lviv. Those who left earlier and are now worried about us, from a distance. I will not judge the soldiers of the other country whose tanks are now approaching Kharkiv. Judging others is stupid. Everyone does what they believe is right. The future will put everything in its place.

Take care, and take care of your loved ones. Do not succumb to panic. Love and believe that your love and your faith will never be taken away from you.

Those who can act – now is their time. Time will set things right.

Light follows even the darkest of times. My wish is that each of us stands free of guilt when the light comes... 

25 February 2022

"You’ll be alright."

We parted somewhere on Stetsenko Street. The sound of shelling. A small white car slipping away, possibly forever.

Moments later, reports of fighting near Vorzel. The battle for Kyiv had begun.

A young man on a crowded trolleybus was carrying a plastic container with two black rats. I was the only one wearing a mask. Covid was clearly not the most pressing issue now that fighting was as near as Vorzel.

She is the only person I wanted to take care of when everything started. An enormous part of my life. Five pets. I’m trying to convince myself that I did everything I could. But that’s not true, you can always do more. At least I did something.

I told her she’d be alright, in a deliberately confident voice. Dear god, I hope she’ll be alright… 

Meanwhile, I have no idea what will happen to me. I’m in the metro, almost at the Pecherska station. I hardly ate or slept in the last two days. I have an awful headache. And I’m really cold. I have to put some warm clothes on.

I don’t know what will happen next. I’ll get home, straighten up, eat something. I’ll check the news. I’ll get my documents and some money. I’ll shut the windows and draw the curtains. I’ll leave the light on and turn off the gas. And then?

And then I’ll go to war…

28 February 2022

The fifth day of the war. I’m starting to feel sorry for them. Not Ukrainians, the others.

Ukrainians inspire only admiration, not pity. Pride for their integrity and the strength of their conviction. Overwhelming pride for being able to be part of this most important time when our nation is being made. Turns out that war was what we needed to feel united and strong. We will emerge from this nightmare even stronger, even more tenacious. However this ends, we now have a national conscience. And we have a single degenerate to thank for it.

The ones I pity are Belarusians and Russians. I am genuinely sorry for those meek and submissive people, ignorant and afraid. They arrive in Ukrainian villages in columns of "the most modern equipment", watched over by "ratniks" [warriors - ed.] and "vatniks" [a pejorative used to describe jingoistic followers of Russian government propaganda - ed.], and they’re being crushed. It’s just so stupid. I don’t understand the self-loathing that must compel them…

I don’t understand how they can tolerate the way they’ve been treated for years. This isn’t just cruel, it’s a genocide. Those guys come here to kill mythical fascists, professional tormentors of Russian children and Pushkin haters who would rather eat his books than have anyone read them, but they end up being killed on village roads by tractor drivers and IT workers who were probably planning to go on holiday in Portugal on 26 February (we’re visa-free now) but have stayed in Ukraine to, goddammit, defend their land from some fuckers no one wanted here.

I’m sorry for those enormous men captured on video beating young women with batons for bringing "No To The War" posters to demonstrations. I feel pity because they are afraid to post videos in which a group of their paratroopers, betrayed by the Motherland they so loved, turn to ashes in a shitty personnel carrier.

You are pathetic, and you arouse nothing but hatred and pity. A big Russian bear – huge teeth, a fur cap, a sailor’s shirt, and a bottle of vodka in hand – that’s how the world sees you.

Do you really like any of it? There are so many wonderful and smart people in Russia, kind and compassionate; people who love living, not wetting their pants whenever they hear loud footsteps on the stairs…

Thank you for being with us, but you have to do something for yourselves. Now is the time.

Our people have come together. We are not hysterical; no one is wailing or whining. There is no looting. Our people are great. You’ve helped us a lot. Many of you have helped us without ever really wanting to.

3 March 2022

The smell is unmistakable; it gets under your skin. Eight days wearing the same clothes. My boots have been soaked through. Stains of tea, coffee, and gun oil on my pants.

A piece of cardboard for a bed the last three nights. My back’s stiff as a board, my sides black and blue with bruises. We sleep in a mall, a grocery store, an office, a school.

We’re given a lot of strange, nostalgic foods: they remind me of my childhood. Watery porridge with canned meat, gluey macaroni, achingly sweet fruit juice.

So many men, too many. Breechblocks clicking into place. Do these men talk about women? Only about war.

I get so tired I can’t write. Too many people, too much talking. Too much noise and activity.

Cases of ammunition are 29 kg heavy. A sandbag weighs around 40 kg. But the heaviest of all are thoughts about war.

Whiskey is practically gold. Cigarettes are practically gold.

Everyone’s sick. Life goes on. This is war.

10 March 2022

An IT guy. A security guard. A fish inspector.

A driver. A soldier. A historian.

A student. A lawyer. A nihilist. 

A loader. A businessman. Maybe even a writer.

We are all different. We probably wouldn’t have met under other circumstances. I have little in common with heavy-drinking 50-year-old workers. I’m not that into memes. I don’t even like Ukrainian pop crooners… 

But war changes people, and here I am, laughing louder than anyone over a photograph of humiliated enemy troops, cursing men my father’s age at the top of my lungs for nicking and devouring a pack of Snickers bars. I even drink instant coffee. Me – instant coffee…

Is this really me? Am I losing myself? Is war eroding my integrity?

New people. So much talking. You can’t even find silence and solitude on the toilet. Sometimes I stay up until one in the morning hoping that everyone will fall asleep and I’ll be able to write… but they’re all staying up, too. The click-clack of gun locks. The rustle of candy wrappers. They’re loading their guns. They’re smoking.

A shower is three minutes of barely warm water. I miss the rush of hot water in my shower at home, and I miss my comfortable sofa. I miss good coffee and fresh sheets, a comfortable and clean toilet. I miss the colourful inks I used to write with. I miss my dead dog’s collar…

I didn’t want to go to war. I didn’t want to kill, to feel this hatred.

I feel uneasy dressed in camo. I don’t want to tense up every time an odd-looking vehicle passes by.

I just want to be myself…

29 March 2022

Military existence is unpretentious and ugly. There is no room for beauty or excess, for the bright colours of mass-produced goods, for the comfort of breathable running shoes, for lavender sachets to keep moths away, or even for citrus-scented air fresheners. There is no room for crumpled bed linen, because there is no bed linen, either. 

But there are sleeping bags; shared sleeping bags that anyone can sleep in. However you plead, you’ll never be able to claim one for your exclusive use.

Spoons and mugs are also shared. Why wouldn’t you use a mug that’s sitting on the table? It doesn’t matter who used it before you. You probably don’t have herpes. You probably don’t have a virus.

There are heaps of poor-quality toilet paper which makes your ass involuntarily contract more than the sound of artillery does. There are dozens of identical pairs of socks – you will never be able to figure out who they belong to or where yours are. Any chocolate accidentally left out immediately gets devoured. We all share a microbiome at this point. We share long, dark nights illuminated by each other’s dimly lit telephone screens, reading news from the battlefields.

There is the rattle and clatter of our guns. Our comrades’ bony shoulders. A bewildering array of khaki-coloured things. A sense of community.

…A great sense of community that can exist only among men; among men who didn’t know one another before war and who were brought together by it. 

Thinking about it, we do have a lot. But what you want most of all when you’re at war are things you can’t get…

9 April 2022

Fear and despair. Hunger. Disorientation.

Their eyes are full of fear, their fur dishevelled, and they’re baring their teeth, but they’re wagging their tails, coyly but eagerly.

War touches everyone and everything. It was started by humans, but it affects pets (which is a term that might not accurately capture the relationship many villagers have with their animals), cattle, even birds.

Storks are circling the sky confused, unable to find their nests. Swallows darting frantically away from explosions. Moose injured by mines. Dogs whose owners will no longer feed them.

At first, they dash away from you and bark, frightened. Then they get closer and closer, tucking their ears and lowering their heads, wagging their tails. The dogs press themselves against your legs and turn sideways so you can scratch their sides. They lick your hands and cover your olive-coloured pants with dirt and cow shit. They walk all over your light-coloured boots with their dirty paws, but you keep petting them…

War touches everyone and everything, but some have done nothing to deserve it…

6 May 2022

We heard birdsong around four in the morning. Birds were singing as if for the last time. A pregnant cat approached, trying to press her side against our legs as she stretched nervously. Cars would start driving by in about an hour. That’s when the sun would also rise.

We were on duty at a checkpoint. We were tired and cold, waiting for someone to bring us hot water, but no one came. We clocked in at eight the night before. By the ninth hour on duty, our bodies were desperate to get some rest. To make matters worse, it had been a very cold night; we were, of course, completely unprepared for the cold.

To be very honest, we were prepared for very few things. However you try to prepare for certain things during war, you’re still caught off guard by how everything actually turns out. Maybe that’s what makes war special, its unpredictability. It’s always got its own agenda. You either accept it or go crazy…

That cold morning the birds were singing like it was the last dawn of their lives. I dutifully wiggled my toes inside my boots, still wet from the previous afternoon. My back was aching from the weight of the body armour which I’d had on since the morning of the previous day. We’d seen no cars in the past 20 minutes. Before that: several bread trucks, one after another. Their drivers, tired and sleepy, wearily showed us their special permits before disappearing in the hazy dawn.

The pregnant cat meowed and approached me. She rubbed her back against my leg and sat down. I told her I had no food and that I couldn’t scratch her because I could barely bend after 20 hours of standing with the weight of the body armour on my back. Not that I really cared about scratching her.

What I cared about was getting a hot drink. Hot and thick. A coffee or a hot chocolate. For some reason I wanted a hot chocolate, even though I never normally drink it. A thick, bitter cup of cocoa would have been perfect that morning. I liked the thought of making it steaming hot. I wanted it so bad, a damn hot cocoa.

The cat stayed by our side even when cars started rushing by. We shooed her away. Don’t be mad at us, cat. Tomorrow night you will look for another leg to press yourself against, and you will again be told there is no food.

…but will the birds sing?

17 May 2022

Sometimes I marvel at the amount of effort sunk into these heaps of corrugated metal that now pile on the sides of Ukrainian roads.

How much creative effort and maybe even good intentions have been sunk into making machines that bring death to people like us. How many hours of labour have been sunk into creating these astonishing machines, complicated and even strangely beautiful. An incredible amount of individual and collective effort… And then these things are used in the most brutal and banal way.

Everyone knows that human folly knows no limits. That cruelty knows no limits is a surprise to no one either.

Unfortunately, there is a limit to all good things. That’s what I sometimes think. But the good things have yet to reach their limit in this war.

Too many good people are fighting against too many people who might not be evil, exactly, but are definitely not very smart.

Every soldier fighting in every war always thinks that they are fighting on the right side. But hell, it feels good to know that I really am on the right side. The side of truth.

The good hasn’t reached its limit yet. Truth is on our side. And those heaps of corrugated metal mark a stage in a transformation that’s taking place. The more of this metal – the more lasting and durable the foundation of our future… 

24 May 2022

I write something about May every year. It is a special month for me, for my city, for, seemingly, everyone… But not this May. This May is different.

For the first time in my life I’m struggling to find words to describe May. Everything is green, everything is in blossom. The smell of wet bark. Petrichor. The smell of the grass, which grows taller and greener and stronger every day. Apple, cherry and magnolia trees, then lilac. Everything appears the same… but it’s an illusion.

This photograph captures the absurdity of May 2022 Anno Domini: two men in body armour playing football with guns slung around their shoulders in the lush green May…

The last three months seemed to drag on forever. They were full of worry, fear, anxiety, precious tiny moments of joy, and hopelessness which kept threatening to turn into despair.

These three months feel like a life apart from life. It is difficult for me to recall how I lived before the war. And so I don’t even try. I don’t think about the wild, warm May showers from my past, I don’t think about the feelings that seemed to erupt with a new vigour every May in the past. Now I have no feelings, and there are no showers, either.

The war started three months ago. It has changed everything. It has split my life into "before" and "after". I have no idea how long the "after" will last…

7 July 2022

There is a saying: it is harder to make it through one move than two fires. We’ve had to move again. This time we’ve gone farther.

We spent several hurried hours the night before packing whatever we could gather and buy in the two days leading up to it: food, jerry cans of diesel, personal belongings, medicines, ammunition (we didn’t have to buy the ammunition). We had to pack everything in two small vans and several regular cars. It was quite a task, if you ask me. We remembered to feed the cats.

Then, a long journey; a convoy of two dozen variously (but invariably) damaged cars. Stopping at the curb, dozens of men peeing. Eating a kilogram of sour and bitter cherries. Respect in the voices of villagers greeting us. Young village girls and the coy glances they steal at us. Finally, we arrive: another place where no one expects us.

For some reason, no one expects us anywhere. Wherever we go, whatever we do – we are a foreign body among the locals’ bodies. Only the cats are always happy to see us…

What lies ahead of us are days of painful relocation, preparing and setting up new positions, dry rations and swarms of mosquitoes that seem to favour the exotic flesh of our Kyivan bodies. In fact, here we are nothing other than flesh.

What lies ahead of us? I better not think about it.

19 August 2022

Romanticising war might be the most dangerous thing in the world…

At some point in their childhood, every little boy gets interested in war to some extent: Roman legionnaires, knights whose exploits are glorified by troubadours, or illustrated magazines about the Red Baron and his red plane – it doesn’t matter what they marvel at. What matters is something else.

None of these stories prepare you for the sight of your friends’ bodies draped over birch branches after being hit by a 203-mm shell. They fail to explain how to go on  living after your comrade dies in your arms, choking on blood because their body armour hasn’t protected them from a stray bullet. They fail to convey what it feels like to crouch at the bottom of a shallow pit, shells hitting the ground all around you: despair and helplessness…

Life is cruel as hell. Good people – really good people – often die. Good people die so that someone else can live. Often those who live go on without thinking about those they owe their lives to. That nothing and no one is ever forgotten is a lie, a fiction. But it’s true that good deeds rarely bring you glory.

Sometimes I don’t know what to tell those young guys. It’s as if they live in those technicolour films: they run around in their handsome uniforms and flirt with the girls. The girls flirt back, and I try to keep my mouth shut.

Tomorrow any of them may die the "death of the brave". For some reason, the brave always die. The cowards live. Life is cruel as hell, and unfair, too.

Good guys die sooner than bad guys. That’s life.

24 August (Ukraine’s Independence Day)

She is odd. 

Big. Unique in some places, often beautiful, sometimes woefully banal, and sometimes downright ugly.

She is cosy, like a big warm blanket, though she can also be stern. Very stern. Now and again.

She is funny. Awkward and open-hearted, like a child.

She is both stupid and wise. Kind of weird. Peculiar. Fiercely wilful. She’s like a colourful Carpathian lizhnyk rug.

She’s poor and she’s rich. She’s a capacious language that can express almost anything, except for love. There’s never enough words for love.

She’s diverse, like the crowd at an 80s rock concert.

She is sweet, like cherry preserves. And sour. Like cherry preserves.

She’s happy, like a celebration. And sad. She is very sad, like the faces of saints in holy places. Filled with sadness.

She is tender, like a summer breeze in a wheat field, like a folk song hovering over a dirt road in an old village. Tender, playful, delicious.

She is melodic and lyrical, like two doves on a steep hill. Lyrical…

She is different. She is shape-shifting. She is alive. 

We are defending her, because she deserves it. She deserves to live, to live and to prosper. Ukraine… Your anniversary has never been so important. Please just stay alive. For the sake of all of us. 

22 September


Everything grows grey. Animals turn gentler while people turn tougher and rougher. Cats seem particularly affectionate, dogs huddle closer, and people remain themselves.

Nature prepares to hibernate. Birds flit in the leaden sky, looking for food or for scraps of wool to make their nests warmer. Hedgehogs scurry in the vegetable and flower beds; they’re loud, brazen, boisterous. There’s fewer ants around, flies and mosquitoes too – they only awaken rarely, warmed by rare sunshine or the heat of a radiator, and flutter and jerk as if drunk, without purpose or meaning.

New things materialise on the shelves in the stores and at markets, while others disappear. It’s a particularly cold September. The news is chilling too. Though other news gives hope and comfort. Life goes on. Winter draws nearer…

Soldiers prepare for winter, too. On my way to the bathroom at night I catch glimpses of warm jackets and boots glowing on the screens of my comrades’ phones. For many long months they will have to battle not just bugs, but the merciless cold wind threatening to consume the heat of their bodies, the humidity trying to seep in from the outside, and the salty drops of moisture of their own bodies trapped under layers of clothing… Humidity and moisture are the enemy in winter.

8 October 2022

Such a strange day today. By the evening I’ve listened to this one song hundreds of times and written hundreds of words – not necessarily particularly coherent. All those words are woven into an odd mesh of wishes, desires, perceptions and dreams. No memories though, which is a bit strange. It’s a strange evening. A strange day.

Maybe it’s time… Everyone goes through this sooner or later. Maybe it’s my turn to cast off beautiful clothes, pretentious words, shadows of past actions, and just be myself – a desperately weak, vulnerable, resentful, and heartbroken human who wants things that anyone of his age would be ashamed to want.

I’m thirty five and I’ve spent the last seven months of my life in the army. My life is a succession of clumsy blunders, naive misunderstandings and an unconscionable, immense, infinite stupidity. I might have botched and squandered more opportunities to "make it" than anyone else. I’m not proud of that, though right now it may seem otherwise.

So, my name is Serhii. I’m thirty five. I have no family, no chronic illnesses and sometimes – no scruples. I don’t have a signature, either. However hard I practise, it turns out differently every time. My hair is black; I started losing it when I joined the army. I am more worried about this than I ever thought I would be and definitely more than I wish I was. If a man’s strength is in his hair, then mine is leaving me. If not, it is my hair leaving me. Either way, I’m worried as hell…

24 October 2022

Three days of travelling. Around 25 hours of driving. Hundreds of kilometres. Refuelling on the highway. Combat security, blocked intersections in small towns. An accident. Breakdowns. Curious incidents.

Old junkers. Fuming old cars from all over Europe, all on their last breath, all driving in the same direction.

Roads marked by tank treads. The drone of a tank is unlike any other sound. Deserted villages; buildings riddled by shells and destroyed by artillery. All the buildings. Dozens of mangled tanks abandoned along the roads, waiting for a tractor to haul them to a junkyard. Sulking autumn mood, dirt everywhere.

Hungry dogs scoff down anything people give them. Stray cats whose owners fled the war, leaving them to wander the streets. Fields full of birds. So many birds…

And people. Very strange people who never meet your gaze, no matter how intently you seek theirs. Residents of frontline cities who have been hearing shelling for months. They patiently wait in lines to go to the pharmacy and turn on overhead lights in their cars as they approach checkpoints. They always have their documents at the ready, too.

Artillery is pounding somewhere close by. New strikes. We sleep in a new location every day, though always in the car. I’m sleepy. Enough for today…

31 October 2022

Cities where no one smiles. Part 1

Separatist moods were born and then grew in our country’s remote cities and towns, among the long-defunct factories and half-destroyed playgrounds, among potholes and leaky roofs. It’s possible that those moods were there before – long before the factories shut down and children disappeared from the playgrounds, either because the swings and slides grew so obsolete or because there’s never been many children in these places, and the playgrounds were just a remnant of the past days…

Deserted houses, whose empty window frames sullenly look on as rare passersby hurry along, heavy blue grey sky, barometric pressure always somehow too oppressive, and these dull people, patiently waiting at rain-battered bus shelters for public transport that hardly ever comes. Donbas.

4 November 2022

Cities where no one smiles. Part 2

Donbas. Its black, fertile soil. And then, underneath: the damned clay. Heavy and viscous.

In the dead of the night, we hear explosions, the sound of weapons being fired, the sound of shells striking. Machine-gun fire. The hum of a tank. Mortars.

You hastily hit the unfriendly earth with your spade, all in the pitch black, relying on touch alone. Acacia branches scratch at your face, but you can’t cut the trees down – they offer the little disguise there is.

So you blindly thrust yourself at its thorns, cursing the innocent trees to absolutely no avail. Acacias must be the most reviled trees in the world.

It’s raining but there’s no shelter. In fact you can’t shelter – anything that would stand out against the ground is a potential target.

So you end up crouching in a puddle: water notoriously can’t drain through clay. It’s raining. Not long ago you loved rain. It rains all night. Everything is sodden. You’re cold. God, you’re so cold!

Shells whizz over your head all night long. Shells of different calibres, rockets, bullets. Explosions cut through the silence, tracer bullets slice through the darkness, shell fragments slice through people’s bodies… this is war.

Those cities, or what is left of them, are horrifying. Shattered. Barren villages. Eviscerated garden cooperatives and summer houses. Burned-down cars lining the roads…

6 November 2022

Cities where no one smiles. Part 3

…and people. I’m still struggling to figure out what I think of them. My mind wavers between mistrust and  animosity on the one hand, maybe even something worse than that, and pity on the other; the distance between the two is razor thin. Are they to blame for what’s going on?

Cities where industrial facilities take up more space than residential neighbourhoods. Factories that will no longer produce mangled parts to be wrapped in wax paper. Cinemas that will no longer screen films about idyllic life in the Soviet Union. Community arts centres that have neither arts nor community left. Apartment blocks inhabited by brazen poverty. Fragments of past lives strewn among wild rose bushes: lives full of meaning and maybe even dignity. What’s going to happen to these places?

There’s frost at night. Birds no longer sing, but they circle the sky above us. Days grow shorter. You wake up in the dark and go to sleep in the dark too. Air in cramped rooms is dry, too hot from portable heaters. Clothes are damp. Thoughts are damp too and don’t seem to add up to anything. One day everything will be over. What will be over? Everything.

10 November 2022

What do you know about fear? 

The hiss of bullets over your head. The thudding sound they make as they hit the ground, close to you. The way they ricochet off the branches of an old acacia tree. 

The hum of a jet’s afterburner as it comes at you, preparing to launch missiles.

The sound of a tank’s diesel engine as it manoeuvres, seemingly forever, some 600 metres away in a thick, milky white cloud of smoke, preparing to fire. You’re caught in its powerful thermal imager; it knows where you are. Still you’re just listening to the rattle and clank of its tracks and the hum of its engine… then a deathly silence, then – an explosion. You don’t hear the tank firing, just the explosion.

The air vibrates from the helicopters that, unseen to you, approach from behind your positions to launch missiles.

You spot several red dots with a shitty thermal imager in a group of trees right ahead. Do you fire or not?

The 152-mm shells leave a whistling trail as they approach you on their elliptical trajectory, and all you can do is fall to the ground and pray.

You hear Grad launchers fire one – three – five – twelve rockets some 20km away. Then you hear the rockets explode: one – three – five – twelve. This time you’re spared. Will you be spared next time?

Mortars’ sharp and sudden thuds are preceded by a short whistle – so short that you don’t always have time to fall to the ground.

The radio’s hissing and you can barely make out fragments of incomprehensible words. You have to get out of the trench and stand tall to finally catch the signal – what if you have to run?

Explosions draw nearer and nearer, slowly approaching you. More and more earth pours on your head. The sound of shell fragments hurling past grows louder and louder. The drone they use to adjust fire – the same one that’s been hovering above your head for days – is just doing its job. Each explosion could be the last one you hear, but what can you do? You’ll either be spared, or you won’t.

The rustle of reeds right ahead of you. Branches creak and snap several metres away from an earthen breastwork fortification of the too shallow trench that was dug so recently. Silhouettes you imagine in the moonlight; two days without sleep, during which you’ve been fired at with every imaginable weapon. Your eyes are swollen and clouded from constantly looking through the thermal imager. Your head is spinning full of horrible, ugly thoughts. The eyes of your comrade mirror your own animal fear, the fear of dying in the damned clay of cursed Donbas.

And what do you know about fear?

Serhii Myronov was killed on 17 November 2022, near Bakhmut, a week after he published his last post and almost nine months after the beginning of the full-scale war.

The fighting in Bakhmut has only intensified in the months that followed. This translation is intended as an expression of gratitude to every person defending Ukraine in Donbas and elsewhere. We pray for you every day.

Written, selected and translated by Olya Loza

Edited by Sam Harvey