“The war did not only start a week ago.” This is the mantra that Ukrainian author and prize winner Tanya Malyarchuk repeats at the start of every question regarding the current war situation in the Ukraine.

Since Russian troops invaded the democratic state of Ukraine at the end of February 2022, the situation in Ukraine and the plight of its people has been one of the most important topics covered by the news worldwide. Despite the horrible reports of heinous war crimes and the threat of an atomic war, Malyarchuk has become the voice of Ukrainian authors and artists during these difficult times. Born in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, Malyarchuk worked as a journalist in Kyiv until she immigrated to Austria in 2011.

Protest of Ukrainians for peace. Image courtesy of Sima Ghaffarzadeh.

In her opinion, the war against Ukraine started 8 years ago, with the most recent invasion being far from Russia’s first attempt to take control over Ukraine. The difficult relationship between Russia and Ukraine began as far back as the 12th century, when Kyiv was first attacked by a Russian lord. Centuries later, the 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea by Russian troops was for Malyarchuk the start of this threatening situation.

In a recent interview with the German broadcaster SR, Malyarchuk criticises the lack of advice and the inaction of the West back in 2014. She, along with a number of her colleagues, were certain about the impending country-wide invasion by Russian troops.

However, despite the warnings of Malyarchuk and others, the Western world, including the European Union, remained diplomatic and neutral in the face of Crimea’s annexation. Such actions are concerning, as the active promotion of Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, as outlined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, is crucial for a conflict-free future.

Tanya Malyarchuk by Thomas Victor. Image courtesy of Die Zeit.

Not only is Malyarchuk acting as the voice to the West for Ukraine’s fight for freedom, but she is also sharing her country’s stories and culture through her work. In her latest novel, Blue Whale of Memory (German: ‘Blauwal der Erinnerung’), she describes the fight of the main character Wjatscheslaw Lypynskyj for the independence of Ukraine. The inspiration for the story and its characters was the history of the Ukrainian Bolsheviks. For Malyarchuk, Lypynskyj is a symbol of a European Ukraine, which was unjustly replaced by a Soviet Ukraine.

Despite the ongoing political tension and outright conflict, Malyarchuk’s oeuvre nevertheless remains pioneering and hopeful. Yet, much like the future of Ukraine, Malyarchuk’s future appears uncertain, as she explains in an interview regarding her future releases.

“I have been researching for two years for a new novel. I won't be able to write this text about the Holocaust in Ukraine, because the war against Ukraine, prepared by absurd Nazi accusations by the Russian leadership, has unhinged all historical contexts. And we are facing a new tragedy. What effect all this will have on me as an author, I don't know."

Crowds of refugees from Mariupol, Ukraine, make their way out of the Lviv train station on March 24 by Ty O’Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket for Getty Images. Image courtesy of Pew Research Center.

However, where there is darkness, there is light, and as much as the situation appears discouraging, there is hope. The ongoing war is frightening and ridden with human rights abuses, but emerging from it are stories of freedom and selfless heroism, and we can be certain that Malyarchuk will be there to write about them, to spread light and hope in a time of darkness for Ukraine.

As Malyarchuk writes: “For whatever reason, I write down the quotes randomly fished out of the net, fragments of conversations of strangers who are currently fighting for their lives and the existence of the country. They are desperate, euphoric, fearful, angry, sad, ready for action. All rolled into one. I will never forget these voices.”

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