5 English-language books that will help you understand Ukraine

ukraine books

To get to know Ukraine through the written word, we need various works. Historical, poetic, fictional, and even children's books. We offer 5 books that are worth reading to acquaint yourself with the country that made headlines in the global media in February 2022.

Unfortunately, Ukraine gained such popularity due to a full-scale war initiated by Russia on February 24, 2022. This event raised many questions among people worldwide: what is this country, why did it come under attack by a superpower that had guaranteed its security, where does its desire for recognition as a European state come from, and why does Russia, led by Putin, seek to destroy both these aspirations and the country itself? All these questions have both complex and simple answers.

To put it simply, Ukraine aims to reclaim its rightful place. It was and is a part of Europe, which, unfortunately, for several centuries, fell under an empire often referred to as the "Empire of Evil," which now seeks to take away the independence of a country with a much longer history. The historical background of the development of the Ukrainian nation and statehood is very diverse, and complex, and requires thoughtful analysis and reading.

We offer several historical books, one poetic, and one fictional. This selection will help take the first steps toward understanding Ukraine.

"Behind the Scenes of the Empire" by Vira Ageieva

Vira Ageieva, a literary scholar, literary critic, and a doctor of philological sciences, analyzes Ukrainian resistance to the empire and the struggle to preserve collective memory through the prism of reading cultural heritage, particularly literature. The author reveals to the reader both the obvious and frightening reality: Ukraine is constantly in confrontation with empires, and she traces how Ukrainians have been in this struggle for centuries and are once again faced with the need to overcome millennia-old challenges. An important book for a deep and vivid understanding of this component of Ukrainian history.

"Crash Course in Molotov Cocktails" by Halyna Kruk

This collection of poetry was published by Arrowsmith Press (USA). The vast majority of the poems were written after February 24, the beginning of the great war in Ukraine, in both Ukrainian and English.

"These stunning testimonial poems by one of Ukraine's most respected poets simultaneously take your breath away; they are philosophical and imaginative. In the somber recapitulation of evolution itself, Kruk writes: 'Nothing predicted humanity's arrival.../ nothing predicted the arrival of the tank...'" - as stated in the collection's annotation.

"The Russo-Ukrainian War" by Serhii Plokhy

An American historian and professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University has written a historical book about the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II. Serhii Plokhy analyzes the origins, course, and potential consequences of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The British publication The Telegraph included this book by Serhii Plokhy in the list of the 50 best publications released in 2023.

"Felix Austria" by Sofiia Andrukhovych

In the spring of 2024, a bestselling novel by the Ukrainian writer will be released in the USA. "Sofiia Andrukhovych, in the novel 'Felix Austria,' meticulously recreates the atmosphere and everyday life of a long-lost period and space," as announced. For those who want to understand Ukraine's European aspirations and learn about its deep European connections, this book will be a treasure. Moreover, it is a very light, finely crafted novel that reveals several layers of reality, filled with flavors, love, and passion.

"Ukraine 22: Ukrainian Writers' Response to War" Anthology

Penguin Books (UK) published a collection of 22 essays authored by nine Ukrainian writers. These works depict the realities of life in Ukraine during the first year of the great war. In these essays, the authors attempt to comprehend the horrors of war, document daily life, contemplate the role of culture in today's conditions, condemn Russian imperialism, and reevaluate their attitude toward the world, especially Europe and its ideals, as stated on the publisher's website.



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