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Beauty and Resilience: Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry Exhibit

Volume 11: Nobody Knows us Here and We Don’t Know Anyone

Translated by Olena Jennings and Oksana Lutsyshyna 

Born in Vinnytsia in 1982, Kateryna Kalytko is an acclaimed poet, writer, and translator who has published multiple collections of poetry and prose. Her work has been translated into English, Polish, German, Hebrew, Russian, Armenian, Italian, and Serbian. She has been the recipient of many literary awards and fellowships, among them the Central European Initiative Fellowship for Writers in Residence (2015) and the Ukraine BBC Award for fiction (2017). Her poems were also included in the 2018 Words for War anthology.

Nobody Knows Us Here and We Don’t Know Anyone deals with separations and changes while hinting at the ongoing war in Ukraine. Translators Olena Jennings and Oksana Lutsyshyna provide this contextualization of Kalytko’s poetry: “Beautiful images come together like puzzle pieces to create violent and shocking images of war and create an atmosphere depicting the sense of loss and pain that is experienced during a search for safety and identity in violent times. War colors the way we see images. It transforms them and turns them upside down.”


Here is language for you, woman

Shoot from it. 

Defend yourself till your last breath - and never

allow them to approach. Use

a built-in system of radio interception

and night vision goggles

This is your default setting. And don't tell me you don't know

     how to shoot.

Closely watch

the disclocation of the enemy and their slightest advances

Let them approach the shooting range - and then lean into

the aim and don't

waste time.

You have stashed enough ammo, don't be stingy,

if you run out, then make words into ammo.

Only a woman's thin fingers are nimble enough for this. 

And never, never let them approach

the old border on which

the plum tree planted by father grows.

If they bypass it, you will have to use hand-to-hand combat.

     That's when

you will have to pierce with a bayonet, cut from ear to ear,

split them open, beat to a pulp, skin them

until the light in their eyes is fully extinguished.

When you come to, you will pet the prickly shaved head

of your newly drafted son, hand crutches to your husband,

and then start anew.

Whos said that we leave our own to their fates?

We armed them, like we knew best.

Front Cover of Nobody Knows Us Here and We Don't Know Anyone

Photo of Kateryna Kalytko







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