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  • Writer's pictureJulia Gillis

Diaries of War - Two Visual Accounts from Ukraine & Russia; Book Review

This is an enthralling book. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an empathetic & passionate interest in the war between Ukraine & Russia (the Russian invasion of Ukraine.)

I randomly found this book in the Youth Graphic Novel Section at my local Library in Kingston, Ontario while my daughter hunted for her 30 plus graphic novels she would burn through in 3 weeks.

The author, Nora Krug, is a American-German illustrator/author & an associate professor at Parsons School of Design in New York. She has published other, award-winning work, including Belonging, published in 2018, which was an illustrated memoire about her family's history in her homeland, Germany.

Diaries of War are the word-for-word & real-time accounts given to Krug from 2 people on each side of citizenship, from the start of the war in February of 2022.

The introduction that Krug offers at the beginning is extremely helpful. She not only goes over the book's layout, the context of her two participants & her hopeful intentions for what her work will offer, but she gives a great timeline of the Russian Empire/Soviet Union history with Ukraine. From my very brief world history lessons offered in a Canadian high school, much of this was skimmed over. Plus the rich & complex history of this area is often misrepresented in public school texts. Which is exactly why this type of publication is so incredible & unique.

Krug specifically points out that two individual narratives from opposing sides are rarely offered together & even more rarely accepted as parallel truths in recorded history. She writes, "Facts are important and incontestable, while individual experiences can never be entirely objective, nor do they present a complete picture of the political situations that they grow out of. But personal narratives shed light on different aspects of the truth and are therefore important components of it."

Her Ukrainian protagonist is K., a Kyiv-based journalist, born in the Volga region of western Russia during the Soviet Union. With Inuit, Jewish & Cossack (East Ukraine & South Russia near the Caspian & Black Sea) origins, she moved to Crimea in her teens, attended Journalism school in Russia & was living with her 2 sons & husband in Kyiv at the time the war started. She removed her sons to Copenhagen to live with her husband's parents 4 weeks into the war. Her husband was required to remain in Ukraine (men of fighting age & ability were not allow to leave.) She travelled back & forth from her sons in Demark, back to Kyiv to be with her husband & into the front lines of the war zones in Crimea for her journalism & reporting work multiple times throughout the 52 weeks covered in the book.

Her Russian protagonist is D., an artist that was born in a small Russian town & moved to St. Petersburg at the age of 20. He has work, a wife & 2 children in that city; he has anti-Putin views & opposes the war. Much of his year is spent abroad, getting artist's work visa's for other countries in the EU while simultaneously seeking a place to relocate his family out of Russia. His travel later becomes his evasion of being drafted to fight in a war he does not agree with, which is also creates a risk of being imprisoned or killed if his position becomes public in the wrong group of people. We see the internal struggle for D. as he loves his home, his town & his prior life - but not the country's actions & his government & often feels helpless to create any impact or shift for a better future as a Russian citizen.

This book is easily digestible in a long afternoon or evening to one's self. It is easy to be completely transported off your couch into a completely different world with this illustrated novel. It was a completely random find for me & I'm very grateful at whatever clandestine elements were at play for this. Additionally, the book is laid out in an artistic way that allows you to absorb the personal accounts of each K & D in a comparative & collaborative way. Both being parents, both being insightful, both struggling through danger & war (in different ways) shows a connection we don't assume while we are watching the war from our news sources on the other side of the planet.

Most important, the book offers perspective. With K. in a war zone, suffering power outages, bombings of her homeland, being away from her children to keep them safe, seeing reports on her captured, tortured & murdered friends - it gives our Canadian, daily struggles a different flavor. With D. being the citizen of a country which has begun attacking another country, not agreeing with your country's/government's actions, facing local punishment for that, while facing shame & judgement abroad for your nationality connection to atrocities you don't agree with & trying to find a new home when you don't really want to - it shows a conflict with more grey than black & white.

Find the book on here.

Remember that developing your empathy for others & expanding your perspective, along with building new levels of self awareness are the most important things you can do for yourself & others around you. Growth, change, personal development are necessary for this world to become a better place & it always starts with ourself. The more you explore, get curious & focus on contributing outwardly, the more incredible our world can become.


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Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. 

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