An Excerpt That Says Most Everything About Putin’s War Against Ukraine


“Yahidne was captured by Russian troops in the early days of the war and badly damaged in the fighting with Ukrainian forces that followed. After killing a number of men in cold blood, the invaders herded the remaining population of the village, 367 people (including 70 children, the youngest a 21-day-old baby), into the basement of the local school. They were kept there for 26 days and nights, with less than half a square metre of space per person, four buckets for toilets and barely enough air. Ten people died of suffocation, untreated medical conditions and neglect. As the bodies piled up, the Russians allowed a burial party, but opened fire on it in the cemetery. The villagers carried the wounded back to the basement in the wheelbarrows they’d used to carry out the dead. At the end of the month the Russians retreated.

“Anna Zvyagintseva’s photograph The Same Hair shows a young child sitting on the floor in a patch of sunlight, covering her face with her forearms and chaotic strands of her long, fair curling hair. Above it is a screenshot from a message thread written in English. ‘How are you?’ the first message asks. Two and a half hours later the reply comes: ‘Air raid sirens sound all around Ukraine now. I didn’t know I can feel hatred so deeply. I saw a photo of a dead kid, who had the same hair as my daughter has.’”

—From a report entitled “Every Field, Every Yard” by James Meek in the August 10 issue of the “London Review of Books.” Meek is a British writer and journalist whose novels include “The People’s Act of Love,” set in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution.




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3 comments to An Excerpt That Says Most Everything About Putin’s War Against Ukraine

  • Kevin Feldman  says:

    Gut wrenchingly powerful prose here Andrew… it is so easy to let the war in Ukraine just
    slide off the headlines and forget the cruel brutality of this mess thanks to the twisted soul of Putin. Yet what also comes across with devastating clarity in Meek’s reporting is the courageous humanity of the Ukrainians who insist on living as robustly as possible while knowing from their daily experience that death is always just a drone strike away. Whew…

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    Putin’s war on the Ukrainian people isn’t the first time a Soviet or Russian leader deliberately wrought tragedy upon them. Stalin’s calamitous collectivization policy in the early 1930s ignited a famine which resulted in 4 million Ukrainian deaths. If that wasn’t enough, his secret police and armies tortured and murdered thousands more. This genocide became known as the Holodomor, a Ukrainian word for “starvation”. Does it never end?

  • Andrew Hidas  says:

    Indeed, Kevin, Ukraine being thousands of miles away and all of us along with the rest of the world busily pursuing our lives makes it difficult not only to tend to the war in general, but to then keep digging into the national pocketbook to support it—especially when one of our major political parties is sounding increasingly isolationist. And though the cost of our continued support may be great, the cost of withdrawing would be utterly calamitous for the entire free world, with ripple effects going far, wide and for a very long time (like, forever!).

    Human beings by the millions treated as fodder for paranoid, amoral dictators: It’s an old story, isn’t it, Robert? I have no doubt Putin would go his countryman Stalin one or millions better were he to deem it necessary. This is the shadow side of life and history that takes huge, dogged resolve to counter effectively. Sometimes it feels like we are no farther along in creating a peaceful world than we were eons ago, with the only difference being our weapons and tools of oppression are more lethal—which makes our resistance to dictators all the more critical.

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