One book a day: The War Diary by Olga Grebennik

Of course, few visual arts specialists know about Olga Grebennik. She is a Ukrainian born in Kharkov in 1986 and has been working as a children’s book illustrator since 2015. He has also won international awards. She is now a refugee, and this war diary, which she started on the day Russia invaded Ukraine – a few daily notes with black and white drawings – has already been published and launched at the Turin Book Fair in May. And, as far as I know, there is a translation in German, apart from the one in Romanian, which we report today.

“Our pre-war life was like a small garden, where each flower has its chosen place and blooms when the time comes. Love was the only fertilizer that fed our garden.
The children studied the arts – music, drawing, dancing. They were going to school. I illustrate children’s books. My works have always been full of color and joy. I also wrote stories that were published successfully. The main heroes are members of a fox family: a naughty fox, his younger sister, their father and mother. We talked about music lessons and bike rides, breakfast together, and cinnamon breads. The publishing house was waiting for the stories to continue. Their continuation was a war diary. It’s a literary genre completely foreign to me, isn’t it?

I remember very well that night, before the war. The children had fallen asleep, and the two of us finally had time to talk. My husband cooked. He put burgers and hot tea on the table. We were manipulating and debating our future. I was making plans for the new apartment, talking about the children and their successes at school. I had thousands of projects and dreams. I fell asleep happy and with my belly full.

And at five o’clock in the morning there was a noise. At first I thought they were fireworks, then I realized it was something else. Explosions could be heard from all directions. Confusedly, I started gathering documents and stuff without realizing what was really going on. (…) During the day I went down to the basement of the block. All the neighbors were already there. A flickering light bulb, a low ceiling. The sand beneath our feet made the air hard to breathe. In order to control my fear and anxiety, I grabbed a pencil and a notebook – to draw.

This practice always helps me control my emotions. I didn’t know then that this notebook would become a war diary. I thought the nightmare would be over in a few days. Drawing became the only gateway to my inner world, which was bombarded by planes from the outside.

I poured all my fear on paper. For the moment, it was a relief. The world in my notebook was the only reason I went downstairs. I was going down to draw a new sketch. The world was falling apart, and I, in spite of the war, was busy creating. To survive. This notebook was the thread I clung to with all my might.

8 days and 8 nights – that’s how long I’ve been in the basement. When it was a little quiet, I would go up to the apartment, and I would do something quickly. As soon as the shots were heard, we would take the children and run to the basement. ”

On the 9th he decided to leave the city. She was left homeless, mother, husband, only with children. He arrived in Warsaw, then in Bulgaria. Her husband stayed in Kharkov.

“I am writing this diary to say NO to WAR: War will have no winners, it will have only blood, desolation and a void in each of us. War snatched me from my own life … ”

A shocking diary describing life under bombing. With tailor-made drawings.

Olga Grebennik – War Diary. Translated by Vladimir Bulat and Anastasia Staicu. Seneca Publishing House.

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