Home > Uncategorized > Oles Honchar: The ponderous, stupefying word “War”

Oles Honchar: The ponderous, stupefying word “War”

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Ukrainian writers on war

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Oles Honchar
Translated by V. Scheerson

I heard of the outbreak of war at the Korolenko Public Library in Kharkov.

Buried in books and notes, I was preparing that day for an examination in Russian literature.

Still alive in my memory is the pale, startled face of the girl-student who, dashing in, shy to break the scholarly silence reigning in the spacious reading room, uttered in an undertone the ponderous, stupefying word:

“War…”

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There was a time when ferocious Tartar hordes trampled upon our soil, brutally exterminating the stock Slav population, setting fire to magnificent temples, destroying the lofty culture of Kiev Rus with the frenzied fury of savages. But that had been long ago, that had been an invasion of rude and ignorant nomads for whom pillage was a habitual occupation. But now, in the 29th century, hordes advanced upon us from civilized Europe, and our mothers suffered mediaeval tortures at the hands of butchers with university education…

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In this stern, workaday war – unseen, but clearly felt – Tolstoy and Gorky, Rolland and Barbusse stood at our side. They, these great men of culture, had taught us to respect Man, to believe in him, to appreciate his spiritual force, his mind, his talent, and his remarkable propensity for self-improvement.

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