On the Day of Defender of Ukraine Opinion decided to find out what exactly our fighters at “ground zero” read. The first thing we noticed is that during the war almost no one wants to read about… war.

On the eve of the professional holiday of servicemen, the author of Opinion visited the zone of the Operation of the Combined Forces, in particular, he visited the front line in the industrial zone near Avdiivka, and also talked with the military of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the front line near Krasnohorivka, the partly occupied village of Zaitsevo, at which separatists are firing very often and Volnovakha.

Despite regular shellings and systemic violations of the Minsk Agreements by the Russian occupying forces, the Ukrainian soldiers admit that even on the front line there are quiet hours. So, it is very important to be able to spend this time properly. Everyone uses it in his own way: many of the military men, carrying service almost a few hundred meters from the trenches of separatists, our guys are hiding in warm dugouts and trying to sleep as much as possible. Most listen to the radio or watch television (although propaganda channels dominate here ‒ Russian or “DPR” (Donetsk People’s Republic – t.n.). As for Ukrainian ones, it’s easy to catch Channel 5, UA:First, UATV. However, almost every combat position, which I’ve visited, had books in the dugout. And some of the dugouts had even mini-libraries.

“I’ve found out who is Arkhyp Teslenko at the front”

“I really love to read. It distracts from bad thoughts, calms generally. Sometimes it is even a little fun. I had never read so many books before, like here, during two years of war,” says the serviceman of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Vladyslav. “I have already re-read almost all Ukrainian classics ‒ Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko, Lesya Ukrainka… Who Arkhyp Teslenko is, I found out only here, at the front. Accidentally, in one of the destroyed houses, there was a collection of his works, which was simply called “Writings”. I don’t read Russian literature on principle. Although, there is plenty of good one in the destroyed houses. Among the modern Ukrainian authors, I’ve read Serhii Zhadan “Depeche Mode”. It was hilarious I even told various jokes from the book to my brothers in arms. However, I don’t want to read anything about the war, neither about the Second World War nor about the current war with Russia. To be honest, everything is described somehow quite banal and improbable. Maybe I take it all too meticulously. In a word, there is no desire to read about the war.”

“Now I reread the Strugatsky brothers”

“For many of us ‘at the front line’, Taras Shevchenko and his ‘Kobzar’ are opening up in a new way. Honestly, I’ve reread it twice. It wasn’t trivial things from the school list, but something else that is much more serious,” says Oleksandr, the soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “It’s true when people say that Shevchenko was a prophet. Just look, he warned about Russians in so many works. Do you think it was just like that?

Now I reread the Strugatsky brothers. Yes, these are Soviet science-fiction writers, but, you see, their way of thinking was far from the Soviet one. Their works have significantly outstripped time, and some things that have recently been considered fantasy are already our reality.”

“Our main weapon is knowledge”

“ What is a front-line library? These are books that we found in abandoned houses. But, unlike ‘separatists’, we don’t burn them in stoves and, moreover, we do not put them near the toilet. We read them,” says the soldier of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Dmytro. “You know, when, from the ‘DPR’ side they began actively shelling these places, where we are now standing, there was practically no undamaged house left. When people ran away, the last thing they thought about was their libraries. They took the most necessary things ‒ documents, money, jewelry… Therefore, judging by the local home libraries, there has always been the Ukrainian spirit. So, in the local libraries, there is enough Russian classics, but the overwhelming majority are Ukrainian books. And, what really surprised me, you can find a lot of historical works ‒ about Cossacks, about Kievan Rus. I like to read just such a documentary, as well as popular science publications. When you’re well-read, you’re armed. No matter how trivial it sounds, our main weapon is knowledge. And actually this whole war began far from 2014, and it isn’t for the territory at all, but for the heads and minds of our ordinary Ukrainians.”

My heart is quieter from fairy tales

“The main thing… Do not laugh. Okay?” before answering the question, the soldier of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Andrii asks.” I am now re-reading Ukrainian folk tales. I don’t even know where this book came from ‒ someone just brought it to the dugout. I was looking through it and then as they say I was ‘stunned’. I reread some of the tales three times, for example, “Fox-sister and wolf-brother”, “Koza(Goat)-Dereza”, I also like “Kotygoroshko”. The guys somehow saw that I was reading fairy tales so they’ve started joking, in a kind way. I replied that I was studying them for memory in order to tell my little daughter. My daughter Nastya is now three years old. This is actually the truth. But besides this, I myself feel somehow calmer in my heart from fairy tales… It happens that we lie before going to bed… And the guys ask, “Well, and how did your “Mr. Kotsky” end? Ask as if it’s a joke. I begin to tell ‒ and there is a silence in the dugout. They are listening to it…”

Impressed by Vyacheslav Lypynsky

“I specially requested that the volunteers bring the book “Why do nations fall into decay?”. Right now I’m reading it. Accidentally I stumbled upon it on the Internet. I’ve read the book of the same publisher “Why Asia succeeded”. Not bad, but I expected more. I don’t know, maybe I wanted to hear a clear answer on how we should act in Ukraine,” says Ivan, the Armed Forces soldier. “For the first time, here, on the front line, I read “The letters to brothers-farmers” by Vyacheslav Lypynsky. In fact, it is ideologically- state treatise. After reading it, there is something to think about. I do not like fiction. Although, I would read Tanya Malyarchuk’s book about Lypynsky. In fact, I have already asked friends to send me it. In general, to be honest, when I have free time, I just go to bed. Sleep, rest, and don’t think about anything ‒ this is a luxury that you can afford here rarely.

By Vadym Petruk

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