a woman in a crowd holding a Ukrainian flag

Vladislav Areshka, University of Portsmouth PhD student in English Literature from Belarus, shares a creative writing piece about the invasion of Ukraine

  • 11 April 2022
  • 9 min read

It is an unfortunate custom that Strength has late entrance: it oftentimes occurs that we must first consult all our weaknesses before realising our power. And the world has been a slow learner.

But a much worse defect is that our learning has been mostly tactile. We do not master surpassing a stone without first stumbling over it. Yet our knowledge remains capricious enough to wear off as soon as a sore toe heals, and so our eyes unlock from the path and predict no further danger. The human genius of prudence is thus neglected.

Meanwhile, storm clouds do not grow overnight, and Terror in Belarus and Russia had been nourished for decades into the never satiable Giant by others’ watering his potatoes and washing his dinner plates afterwards. Unless, as it happened, he reached such a size that there is no more space to contain both – the Giant and the others. And this brief insight is not about lamenting the former.

Whatever monstrous features they bear and no matter how unwanted they are, hatred, sorrow and pain (in small or large proportions) continue their daily rule and are still believed by most to be inexorable, nay an indispensable part of our life, similar to death itself.

We are cheated by no one but ourselves.

As far as we are obliged by the certainty of death, there is no such obligation to cohabit with hatred, sorrow and pain, whose place in life is sanctioned by no other than ourselves. For what an odd mentality our collective mind holds: still thinking of “world war” as possibility and of “world peace” as an ideal, only imaginable, unreachable.

Truth brotherly competes with faith, with hope, while unhappiness delights.

We wrong the Evil to be mundane; the Good – absolute. But Love is not an angel, a deity, nor the highest office with its own career. It is neither a costly invention nor a privilege. We think greatness is entailed only in some positions or certain occasions.

Peace, Love do not demand but for a welcoming body. I understand, Truth shames us by our defects and thus renders indignation when we are unfaithful to it. But what you must look at is not the war itself but yourself in it. Make a step out of your body and see:

the cure to all the ills has already come out of this scuffle naturally – in the Unity’s garments.

We made our own shackles and continue dragging them with no prison guards following. The traditions of human, but inhumane, disunity has long lost its practical application.

My Love, similar to most people’s in the present, has acquired different nationalities:

I am born Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish – which is the list most certainly incomplete, and it obviously changes along with the reader’s own view on maps and blood; as a boy, I lived loving the embrace I gave my grandfather from the rear seat of his motorcycle going to our dacha in the Belarusian countryside; I loved listening to Ennio Morricone’s melodies on our family car trips to visit other parts of the family all over Ukraine; I love Mykolaiv’s market that brought me my first private second-hand book, The Headless Horseman by an Irish-American, Thomas Mayne Reid; I love cleaning the beach from plastic debris near my wife’s family house in Italy; I love watching the show Bake-Off Italia, although preferring the French version, Le Meilleur Pâtissier, for its productional tenderness; I love Eurovision’s playful assembly; I love Korean TV dramas and how good-wise they often are; I love Belarusian war-time literature, the nineteenth-century Russian novellas; I studied and lived in Belarus, Iran, China; for six years I lived and matured in Italy, studied Italian, English, American and Russian literatures by the only commission of love and choice; and now, based in Scotland, I am a researcher of Anglo-American poetry in an English university…

I love my total incapacity to transmit fully where and with whom I don’t see myself. But I am suspicious of being right that you as well do not cram in the “locality” cage. For one’s I is plural today more than ever. Thanks to Unity and Peace, we reap the blooms of human culture, while war devolves us back to its hungry gloom. And each extremity of the Earth, sooner or later, shivers from its repercussions.

My heart is unsettled for some of my family, stranded in Belarus and Ukraine;
but no less it is for those who attribute “brotherhood” a badge!

My Slavic ancestry does not impersonate my Love, does not confine it in my eyes or ears. And if today one deceives oneself into believing in viability of racial, national, social or any other artificial division, the one harms first of all oneself and is a fraud: since he or she eats daily from other country’s labouring hands, laughs and cries with across-the-globe cinematography, sweats over a remedy for those whom he or she may never get acquainted with. Would this person dare to renounce the world for his bias and bigotry?

Ourselves are those who by chance or by will put into books discrimination:
for all are none but one; for this war – or any – is but the world war.

Blood is known in few facilities:

it vessels health or pain does manifest –

its visibility reminds it is

invisible when favoured best.

Equally, a cry is fancied out –

extant – once it reverberates: for calm’s

default criterion is null, account

for sounds those additive in sums.

Love, although learns purer unrequited,

innately wants a partner in devotion:

unintroduced, she sits – unless invited

to streams of corresponding motion.

A thing subsists in its potential,

thus hardest to discern:

our common sight is referential –

the easiest to earn.

Repetitive rolls history,

for Truth eludes the eye:

to think of possibility

commensurating I.

Unhappiness in radiancy

is bright, but watchful stay:

the sharper is an imagery,

the harder’s to retain.

Still blood can boil,

a voice can moan,

and love can long –

                     within:

a thing is thoughtful more

if facéd inwardly.


About the author

Vladislav Areshka is a Doctoral researcher in American poetry at the University of Portsmouth. He was born and raised in Belarus. Before coming to the UK, he received his degree in English literature in Rome and was involved in various cultural enterprises in Apulia.