War Against Ukraine: Yuri Durkot’s Diary

Lviv, April 27, afternoon

Vf or about 15 years ago, a German TV station shot a romantic documentary about Lemberg as a World Heritage Site. Films about World Heritage sites have to be romantic by definition. Even if the term is somewhat inflationary, and dozens of new entries have been added to the UNESCO list since 1978, the idea of ​​priceless sites of universal value to all mankind is a wonderful example of the common fabric of human existence Civilization.

Juri Durkot’s Diary

War diary from Ukraine

Consolation for the inconsolable, taken not far from Bucha

War diary from Ukraine

The historic old town of Lviv has been on the list since 1998. Since then, the preservationists have been fighting against various building tycoons who want to build a high-rise monster somewhere in the immediate vicinity.

It was quite an elaborate production. A 35 mm camera and celluloid film seemed almost archaic in the digital age. Perhaps UNESCO wanted to set a monument to earlier film eras. Or maybe the bureaucracy just couldn’t keep up with the pace of technological development.

Help for a citizen of Irpin

Help for a citizen of Irpin

What: AP

The colleagues from Germany had brought a sophisticated piece of technical equipment with them – a collapsible crane with the camera attached to its long arm, while the cameraman sat below in a comfortable folding chair. This made it possible to take wonderful shots with slower or faster pans. When dismantled, the crane even fitted into an Audi 80. It was a masterpiece of German engineering. At that time, only the military used drones.

It took us about four hours to assemble the crane. Then the recordings could begin – if it hadn’t been so hot that summer. We found that the electronics suddenly went on strike because of the extreme heat. The problem was solved by holding the control panel up to the vents of a car air conditioner for a while with the engine running. Not particularly environmentally friendly, but sometimes art demands sacrifices.

The remote worked again, we made some great pans. After we finished shooting, we disassembled the crane again. It went a little faster this time. After about three hours it was time. We stowed the rods in the car and drove back to the hotel.

It turned out to be a very beautiful, atmospheric film. The camera moved slowly in an elegant arc, the facades flowed stylishly past the viewer, and the silhouette of a church tower rotated in the blue cloudless sky. The sequence lasted barely half a minute.

Today it would have been much quicker to film it with a standard drone. Nobody could have guessed at the time that years later combat and kamikaze drones would be so much more important in Ukraine.

What will the technical development bring us in the near future? Maybe in the future it will be just as easy to take great underwater pictures with a small, easy-to-use submarine drone. It would be a big step forward for the film industry, maybe even for UNESCO. Last week, the Ukrainian government listed the sunk cruiser Moskva as a national underwater cultural heritage. Whether Kyiv is considering having it included on the World Heritage List remains unknown.

Lviv, April 26, afternoon

Russian soldiers also communicate – with their friends, wives, mothers. They chat, post, call. The style is different. It is, so to speak, due to the current customs of national communication in this country. Judging by the intercepted conversations and various posts and chats, two major themes dominate there – fear and hatred. You can’t do without hate. Without hate there can be no wars. First the hatred, then the war. Hatred has always been an inherent part of Russian society. Hatred of those who think differently. hatred of strangers. hatred of the West. Mixed up with the dream that everyone is afraid of Russia. Fear and hatred are themes that were not entirely alien to Russian literature either. However, this is not a literary problem. It falls more into the realm of social science and psychology.

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ROME, ITALY - APRIL 14: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white) A wax statue of Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen damaged without an eye in protest over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the wax museum (Museo delle cere), on April 14, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

Of course, of all the phone calls intercepted by the Ukrainian intelligence services, those that show particularly deep abysses are specifically selected and published. But they fit perfectly with the state of Russian society and what atrocities the Russian army has committed in its war of aggression in Ukraine so far.

“Hi, where are you? I called you and wrote you,” says a chat between a soldier and his brother. – “In Ukraine, Kherson region.” – “How’s it going? Understood? When will you come back home?” – “What do you mean home? You have to survive here first.” – “What’s that supposed to mean?” – “It’s horrible here. We die by the dozens, I’ve never seen so many bodies. When my friend was shredded, I threw up for half an hour…” – “I watched the news on TV. If I understand correctly, there is progress. On May 9th we will take Kyiv.” – “What Kyiv??? We withdrew from Chernobaivka a week ago. Hell is there…” – “I can hardly believe it” – “I swear! Brother, if I die, take care of Tjoma, he’s only four…”

Russian soldiers allegedly in Shchastya in the Luhansk region

Russian soldiers allegedly in Shchastya in the Luhansk region

Quelle: Gavriil Grigorov/TASS/picture alliance

In one post, on the other hand, the mood is very different: “You’re doing it right, brothers! … The civilians are the mainstay of the army, they are primarily to be bombed. Then the army will surrender. And the mainstay of the civilians are children and doctors. Shoot the doctors, strangle the children… The base race of the Khokhly (Ukrainians) shall die out as a nation. All 40 million.”

The Russian Orthodox Church also engages in hate speech. She mentally arms the Russian soldiers. A leaflet from the ecclesiastical province of Bryansk reads literally: “You are a Russian warrior. It is your duty to defend the homeland from Ukrainian nationalists. Your task is to wipe out the Ukrainian nation.”

Actually, you don’t have to continue. No comments needed. However, there is a third sentence in the leaflet: “Your enemy is the ideology that sinfully damages the human soul.” In the mind of the Russian Orthodox Church there is probably only one true ideology that deserves its blessing – the Russian one Fascism.

Lviv, April 25, noon

What is an ordinary day at the front like? Can you even imagine it if you haven’t been there? Certainly not. That’s why you should listen. A Ukrainian soldier describes it this way on Facebook:

“From 8.40 a.m. the enemy launches a smoke attack against our units. After that he tries to attack our positions and go around them from the flanks. Part of the enemy infantry advances to position X in area X, firefights ensue. At 11:30 a.m. the enemy will be repulsed.”

“Fighting has broken out again on the left wing. They continue.”

A destroyed residential building in Chernihiv

A destroyed residential building in Chernihiv

What: AP

“Three combat missions are reported in the operational area of ​​​​a Ukrainian mechanized brigade. At 15.00 there is a new attempt by enemy infantry, reinforced by X, to advance to position X. The fights continue. The enemy is unsuccessful.”

“From 3:25 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. a new attack, supported by 10 armored personnel carriers and 6 tanks. The enemy is unsuccessful.”

“From 6:25 p.m. the enemy resumed their offensive on sector X. Without success. The enemy artillery is constantly shelling our positions. We fight back. Enemy casualties: 4 tanks, 3 armored personnel carriers. It is still unclear how many Russian soldiers were killed and injured. We continue to hold the positions.”

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“There is heavy fighting every hour. There are repeated reports of shot down Russian fighter jets and helicopters. We’re not able to do this because we’re like Jedis from the Star Wars universe, it’s because the sky is full of those bastards.”

It’s just a short, telegram-style description of everyday life at the front. Just a day on a small section. Five enemy attacks supported by tanks, massive artillery fire and air raids. I slightly shortened the post and redesigned it a bit. There is also another summary of the situation published daily by the General Staff. It says: The enemy tried to attack our positions in area X. Without success.

Juri Durkot was awarded the Brücke Berlin Prize and the Leipzig Book Fair Prize for his translations of the works of Serhij Zhadan – together with Sabine Stöhr.


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