Andrey Kurkov

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‘The willingness of Ukrainians to support local sporting events is a form of resistance.’ Men play chess in a bomb shelter in Odesa, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

While Ukraine lives in fear of the next mass bombing of its energy infrastructure by Russian missiles and Iranian drones, and constantly monitors the actions of troops located in Belarus, there are still small forms of normalcy, small forms of resistance. A blitz chess championship was recently held in Zhytomyr, a city 140km west of Kyiv and a regular target of missile attacks.

Blitz chess – because slow chess is impossible in today’s Ukraine, where everything has to be done quickly or very quickly. The games were played according to the Swiss system, and with nine rounds in which players have only three minutes a move.…  Seguir leyendo »

People fishing in a lake in Borodyanka, Ukraine, July 2022. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Observer

The city of Kremenchuk is looking for blood. Last week, two Russian missiles blew apart a large shopping and entertainment centre where around a thousand people were spending the afternoon. The exact number of those killed is still not known, but hundreds of people were at the epicentre of the explosion and of some of them, not even fragments are left. The number of wounded is known, though. The survivors were left without arms, without legs. And they need blood.

This tragedy has given a new impetus to blood donation efforts. Blood is needed everywhere in Ukraine – wherever Russian missiles and shells explode, wherever wounded soldiers are brought from the frontlines.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man visits the grave of his soldier relative in the northern city of Slavutych, home of most of the workers in the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Photograph: Celestino Arce Lavin/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Odesa is being shelled from the sea and from the territory of Russia, but people do not panic. They live almost normal lives. Like all Ukrainians, they have just celebrated grobki, or “little graves”. These are what we call the special days in spring when we honour the memory of deceased relatives and friends. At this time, all Ukraine dedicates itself to the care of graves in the cemeteries. Some people from Odesa will have removed the old foliage from the graves and also repaired monuments and fences destroyed or damaged by Russian missiles.

Many cemeteries in Ukraine have been destroyed or damaged by Russian troops, including Kyiv’s Berkovtsy Cemetery, near Tupoleva Street, where I grew up.…  Seguir leyendo »

Putin’s bombs and missiles rain down, but he will never destroy Ukraine’s culture

Over the last few days, the well-known theatre actor Oksana Shvets and Artem Datsyshyn, soloist of the national opera-ballet, have been buried in Kyiv. These performers died when ballistic missiles hit Kyiv.

At the same time, a Russian bomber was “carefully” dropping a half-tonne bomb on the Mariupol drama theatre; inside, more than 1,000 citizens, including children and elderly people, were sheltering from the air raids.

The total war that Putin has declared on Ukraine implies that the aim is to make sure that Ukraine ceases to exist – along with its culture, history and language.

On 17 March, a meeting between Russian functionaries and Russian cultural figures took place in Moscow.…  Seguir leyendo »

Every nation has its bugbears. Ukraine has two: the forced famine orchestrated during Stalin's rule, which killed between four million and seven million people; and the Ukrainian language. Under the Russian empire, it was frequently banned: Catherine the Great put a stop to the use of Ukrainian at one of eastern Europe's most ancient universities, The Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Then Peter I banned the printing of books in Ukrainian. Later the Russian Orthodox church took Ukrainian language manuals out of schools. Alexander II forbade the import of books in Ukrainian; Alexander III banned the use of Ukrainian in official institutions.

The list of bans goes on, and it is clear why Ukrainians consider the article in the constitution that makes Ukrainian the country's sole official language their most important achievement since independence.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 brought great joy to my family.

The Soviet Union relocated hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians from the contaminated area to new houses in other parts of the countryside. Ukrainians are shrewd. Many families that had lost one home tricked the government into giving them two houses as compensation, and then sold them off at ridiculously low prices. And so that was how my wife and I came into possession of an excellent second home in the country with a garden and a plot to plant vegetables in, and a separate brick shed that was later converted into a real Finnish-style sauna — for only $6,000.…  Seguir leyendo »