As Russian shells rain down on Ukraine, the country’s most beloved poet cannot write. The inspiration is there: the tale of a schoolteacher who shepherded 10 children away from the front line after being told by the Ukrainian military that there was no hope of escape; old friends in Kharkiv who risked their lives to get neighbors to a shelter; or the discovery of mass graves across Ukraine. In the past 20 years, Serhiy Zhadan has written over a dozen books of poetry and seven novels; he’s also part of the ska-punk band Zhadan and the Dogs.
Now, though, it’s impossible to get the ink to flow; everything is happening too fast. “I can’t write poetry or prose right now,” Zhadan says during a video call from his apartment in Kharkiv. But music, somehow, keeps up. “I go to the music studio, and together with the band we get some songs out. It’s therapy. Then we go out and perform for our people.”
Mention Zhadan’s name in Ukraine and eyes light up. The 47-year-old’s work has long given voice to life in the Donbas, a predominantly industrial region of eastern Ukraine, and one that has endured fierce fighting between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists since 2014. In his work, Zhadan paints the region where he was born and raised as one intertwined with Russian culture but that is, first and foremost, Ukrainian.
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He belongs to a long line of poets playing a crucial role in Ukrainian culture. “Our leaders for a long time were not kings or queens, but poets,” Zhadan says. Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, says that many important monuments in Ukraine are dedicated to the 19th century poet Taras Shevchenko, who was born …read more
Source:: Time – World