WordCity Literary Journal. May 2022. Issue 14. For Ukraine

©®| All rights to the content of this journal remain with WordCity Literary Journal and its contributing artists.

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor. Guest letter by Clara Burghelea

Clara Burghelea

Welcome to the May issue of WordCity Literary Journal. This issue features a human rights theme and stands in solidarity with Ukraine and its people. The work is dedicated to the resilient people of Ukraine, speaking against the inhumanity of war, calling for peace and acknowledging the experiences of all poets and writers personally involved in this tragedy or simply reacting to it.

Our previous issue had been committed to sharing the pandemic experience that both united and divided us. We invited poets and writers to address this collective tragedy and share their personal take on it in the hope that their words will offer comfort and hope. Little did we know that more tragedy was about to hit the world in February when Russia invaded Ukraine causing an unprecedented refugee crisis.

Thus, the work included in this issue portrays a variety of reactions and a different understanding of this invasion that affected not only the Ukrainian people, but also their relatives, family and friends living abroad. Above all, artists all over the world, as well as simple people felt the need to voice their concerns or show their empathy.

We, the editors of WordCityLit, feel grateful for the way in which the contributors of this issue chose to interpret the current and historic human rights theme and incorporated it in their work, at the same time, standing against the Russian war and in support of the Ukrainian people, through their words.

We are also happy to have been given permission to include in our May issue, poetry in translation from the Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine anthology edited by Oksana Maksymchuk & Max Rosochinsky, with an introduction by Ilya Kaminsky and an afterword by Polina Barskova. These poems by different compelling poetic voices all over Ukraine, engage with the experience of war and make reference to specific events that are part of the Ukrainian history. They also mirror the poems we have included in the May issue, in a common effort to acknowledge the urgency of poetry and translation equally, in such times of alienation and loss.

We thank you kindly for reading and appreciate your willingness to join us in our effort to speak up and defend all human rights.

Hearts for Ukraine. by Adam Young

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Hearts for Ukraine, by Canadian artist Adam Young, raised $65,000CAD For Voices of Children Ukraine. We at WordCity Literary Journal are honoured to share Young’s work and his vision. Please visit Young Studios on Facebook. In posts from March 2022, you will find details of the auction (now closed). While there, please enjoy more stunning works by Young, which detail his vision of Canada’s Maritimes.

More about Adam Young

Fiction. Edited by Sylvia Petter

Fiction Prelude

The stories this month are diverse. People are on the run – from war, from life, with characters and readers always hoping to find relief and closure.

There is an enigmatic line in “The Caterpillar´s Crawl”, a story by Geoffrey Heptonstall that sets the scene for this prelude: “You must live according to your dreams.”

In the extract from Wan, Dawn Promislow´s forthcoming novel questions of guilt, complicity and privilege are examined as a woman´s life starts to unravel in the climate of 70s Apartheid.

Vanessa Gebbie´s story, “Letters from Kilburn” is told as an exchange of letters between an Iraqi boy and Her Majesty´s Deputy Secretary.

Finally, “A Story from a Tired Land” is drawn from a cry for help first expressed in photos on Instagram as a way of showing hope and a way forward from another long ongoing war.

WordCity is proud to bring a foretaste of what I hope will become a photo book of this young photographer´s work. ~Sylvia Petter

Geoffrey Heptonstall


The Caterpillar’s Crawl

“I’m from a little place in Western Australia. You won’t have heard of it,” said the man from a little place in Western Australia.

“I’ve heard of it,” said the man who’d heard of it.

“Nobody’s heard of where I’ve from.”

“Yes, it’s called Western Australia,” the man who’d heard of it replied.

“But you don’t know a little place called Perfect, do you? Well, that’s where I live when I’m out there. Been out there all my life until I came over here. It’s a long way. My place is a long way from anywhere. If I ever write a book, I’ll call it A Long Way from Perfect. A good title, eh? Books with titles like that sell a million. I could write that book. Then I could retire. You know where I’d retire to?”

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Dawn Promislow

Dawn Promislow2 pic


I left, one day, my studio at noon, and walked under the dim trees, across to the garden room. The heater Josias had brought was next to the door. I went to the door, that door that now inhabited my dreams, and knocked. It was such a thin knock in the silence of the garden, a glade, it was. I heard the knock, so small, like a child’s. And I felt like a child. A timid, frightened child.

I heard the scrape of a chair, something like that, inside, and, instantly, the door opened, and he was there, standing there, and he saw me. Me. It was me.

Jacqueline, he said. How nice to see you. Is everything alright? He looked into my face. Oh yes, yes, everything’s fine, I said. I think my voice was small, tight in my throat. Come in, come in, Jacqueline, he said, and he opened his door, and stepped aside, and gestured me in.

All those months, four months, and I’d not seen him, or come into his room.

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Vanessa Gebbie

Vanessa Gebbie

Letters from Kilburn

901 Essex Heights
United Kingdom

October 15

Dear Your Majesty,

I hope you do not mind that I am writing. It is about the water pipes at Essex Heights.  The water is brown and I am worried. I have asked the Immigration Office many times but they say the pipes are old.

I am still worried.

I have seen you in the newspapers and on TV. I hope you can help me. Please forgive my bad writing.                          

I am yours,                                

Karim Hussein (Mr) (Aged 18)

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Ahmad Ali Fidakar


A story from a tired land

Once upon a time, nearly two decades ago, a miracle occurred at the center of crisis and turmoil in Ghazni province in a tired land when a humourful and playful boy was born into a traditional and populous family whose souls and minds for years had been harnessed by war.

War and terror were the twin monsters destroying the tired land of Afghanistan.

Despite the weak economy and being another mouth to feed the arrival of the boy did not diminish the joy and happiness of his family.

His grandfather, the dignified man of the family, with his open forehead and empty hands, gave everything up for his family, the boy´s grandmother loved her grandson very much.

The boy´s father always helped his father, the boy´s grandfather in the home, on the farm and through the hardships of life. He worked hard for his family to contribute to its happiness.

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Non-Fiction. Edited by Olga Stein

Editorial by Olga Stein


Revisiting 1990s Russia: Biznes in the Wild East

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine constitutes one of the biggest, gravest assaults on national sovereignty and human rights in decades. How does one explain it? Is there a political context one can parse well enough to make sense of decisions that have led to the displacement of millions, the destruction of historic cities, and the murder of countless civilians. True, there has been an on-going war in the Donbas region since 2014. Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March of that year. Nevertheless, Russia’s current aggression — indeed, its apparent effort to seize all of Ukraine — is not self-explanatory, given the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the start of the 1990s into 11 independent Republics and three Baltic states. For something like a decade after, didn’t it seem as if Russia had relinquished its neoimperialist ways?

          Perhaps now we must attribute a different, less benign significance to developments in the 1990s. The two wars in Chechnya, and two particularly vicious battles in Grozny, surely take on even more ominous meanings in light of Russia’s current assault on Ukraine and the growing list of its military’s war crimes. The official line, one that Russian citizens are being scrupulously served by state-owned media, continues to be that Russia is intervening only for the purpose of denazifying Ukraine. We mustn’t forget that the assaults on Chechnya were at that time described as ‘counterterrorist operations.’

          Revisiting the 1990s can be instructive if one is trying to make sense of a number of disconcerting matters. One of these is the rigged 2020 election in Belarus, which resulted in mass demonstrations and arrests. Alexander Lukashenko was first elected in 1994. Since then, he has been independent Belarus’ first and only president (his presidency is the longest in all of Europe). What accounts for Lukashenko’s uninterrupted and patently autocratic management of a supposedly democratic country, and what explains his increasingly pro-Russian orientation?

          Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in Russian oligarchs being given considerable air time. Their immense wealth can be traced to the privatizations of Russian state assets in the 1990s. These same multi-billionaires have recently been accused of influence peddling outside of Russia — that is, of using their wealth to shape the domestic policies of European countries, especially in England, where many of them have taken up residence after receiving “golden visas.” Rupert Neate and Aubrey Allegretti’s article, published in the Guardian on March 30, stated that “the UK government said sanctions had been imposed on 18 Russian businesspeople [with ties to Putin], with a combined worth of £30bn, since the invasion began. Hundreds more have been added to the list since.” It should be noted that Strabag, an Austrian-based construction company that won a $750-million contract for tunnelling Toronto’s Scarborough subway extension in 2021, is partly owned by oligarch Oleg Deripaska. It’s troubling to say the least that capital amassed from looting Russia’s publicly owned assets and resources in the 1990s is now being parlayed into ownership of corporations and property in Canada as well.

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Alla Gutnikova’s Speech from Court

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Alla Gutnikova and three other editors of the student magazine DOXA were tried in court in Moscow on Friday 8th April and on 12th April were sentenced two years of ‘correctional labour’ and a 3-year ban on administering any websites. It is as yet unclear what correctional labour entails – they may have to live in special camps. They were accused of encouraging minors to take part in demonstrations in support of Alexei Navalny last spring.

Doxa (from the Greek word for ‘opinion’) is a magazine about university and student life and often writes about the pressures being put on teachers and students by the authorities.

Alla and her fellow editors have been under house arrest for almost a year since April 2021, only able to leave the house from 8-10am. There have been many calls for harsher measures against them. Their crime, in this case, was simply to say to students, during the period when there were demonstrations against the incarceration of Navalny, ‘Don’t be afraid, and don’t be bystanders! It is our legal right to express protest by any peaceful means.’ (‘Не бойтесь и не оставайтесь в стороне! Это наше законное право — выражать протест любым мирным способом.’)

The other editors besides Alla Gutnikova are Armen Aramyan, Vladimir Metelkin, Natalia Tyshkevich. None of them plead guilty to the charges.

This is Alla Gutnikova’s stirring and beautiful speech from court last Friday. Rich in references and quotations, it is a reminder of the progressive and international outlook of many young Russians. Her speech is being read widely in Russia: Alla is a voice of hope and enlightenment, in this darkest of times.

Gutnikova’s Speech:

“I won’t talk about the case, the searches, the interrogations, the tomes, the trials. It’s boring and pointless. Recently I’ve joined the school of tiredness and frustration. But even before the arrest, I managed to join the school of being able to talk about truly important things.

I would like to talk about philosophy and literature. About Benjamin, Derrida, Kafka, Arendt, Sontag, Barthes, Foucault, Agamben, about Audre Lorde and Bell Hooks. About Timofeeva, Tlostanova and Rakhmaninova.

I would like to speak about poetry. About how to read contemporary poetry. About Gronas, Dashevsky and Borodin.

But now is not the time or place. I will hide my little tender words on the tip of my tongue, at the bottom of my larynx, between my stomach and heart. And I’ll just say a little.

I often feel like a little fish, a little bird, a schoolboy, a baby girl. But recently I found out with amazement, that Brodsky was also put on trial at 23. And in that I am also part of the human race, I will say the following:

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Olga Stein


Title: On Contemplating Stars: New and Timely Translations of Alexander Pushkin

Essay on The Star of Dazzling Ecstasy: 79 Poems by Alexander Pushkin, translated by Philip Nikolayev

PART 1: On Reading Pushkin in the Present

Alexander Pushkin is widely considered Russia’s greatest poet. In terms of Russia’s literature, its poetic canon, and language, Pushkin could reasonably be equated with Shakespeare. Such a comparison wouldn’t startle anyone who is native to Russia, or anyone who has made a study of the Russian language and its literature. Yet even those who have struggled to learn Russian and have grappled with Pushkin’s work in the original may not be fully aware of Pushkin’s cultural significance, the remarkable fact that despite his untimely death at the age of 37 (in January, 1837), his oeuvre shaped, and continues to influence the composition of poetry — not just in terms of meter, rhyme schemes, and originality, but as a set of principles concerning how poetry operates: its range for conveying ideas and emotions, and the aesthetic and ethical values it should espouse, or alternatively, rebuke. This is why those who have read Pushkin generally consider him a representative of Russian culture. They view him as a poet, artist, and, importantly, thinker and social critic, who wrote with an awareness that poetry and literature in general should do more than charm with beauty and wit; Pushkin intended to affect attitudes, and cause readers to question or challenge the status quo.

Pushkin’s artistic legacy is monumental, yet one that nonnatives have had limited opportunity to appreciate. His masterpiece novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, has been translated several times (the first translation appeared in 1881), but many other works have been confined to Russian. Simon Franklin was on the mark when he said, “Non-Russian-speakers know that Pushkin was Russia’s greatest writer only because Russians tell them so.”[i] Charles Johnston, whose book of translations, Eugene Onegin and Other Poems, was published in 1999, gave this eloquent formulation of the barriers to translating Onegin: “It’s as if a sound proof wall separated Pushkin’s poetic novel from the English-reading world. There is a whole magic which goes by default: the touching lyrical beauty, the cynical wit of the poem, the psychological insight, the devious narrative skill, the thrilling, compulsive grip of the novel, the tremendous gusto and swing and panache of the whole performance.” This is helpful, but only for starters. Those fortunate enough to have read Pushkin in Russian would undoubtedly argue that any statement on the difficulties involved in translating him into another language invariably fails to convey their full measure.

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Books and Reviews. Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy

Livi Michael

Aleksandar Tišma. Kapo, New York Review Books, (2021) £11.99

The term ‘Kapo’, as David Rieff explains in his illuminating afterword to this novel, refers to a prisoner in the concentration camps who has been selected by the Nazis to work for them.

Lamian, the protagonist of this novel, has served as a kapo in Auschwitz. At the start of the novel he is living in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, where he has a job as a superintendent in the railyard. The opening sentence sets out the premise of the plot: ‘He had found Helena Lifka.’

We begin, then, in media res. We are not initially told who ‘he’ is. The perspective remains close to Lamian’s own myopic view, intensifying the sense of claustrophobia that remains with us from this opening sentence. The verb ‘found’ has particular resonance, an ironic ambiguity pointing to a deeper paradox, because there is no sense at this point that Lamian has been looking for Helena Lifka, a prisoner he repeatedly raped in Auschwitz. As the narrative unfolds we see that Lamian has not ‘found’ Helena Lifka, rather, he is being haunted by her. The opening sentence represents a moment in which his past actions, always inescapable, have found him.

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Alina Stefanescu

The Aliens Created by Nation-States: A Review of Voices on the Move: An Anthology about Refugees

Domnica Radulescu and Roxana Cazan, editors, Voices on the Move: An Anthology by and about Refugees. Solis Press, September 28, 2020. ‎ISBN 978-1910146460


“The alien is even more animal than the animals,” Brandon Shimoda wrote in his hybrid memoir, The Desert. The legal terrain occupied by refugees and stateless persons is not human. The intractable exclusivity of citizenship as conferred by modern nation-states ties one’s rights to the blessing or curse of birthplace. Every citizen should be haunted by this.

The world’s most vulnerable, at-risk humans are the displaced, the refugees, the migrant laborers, the stateless, as anthropologist Ruth Behar reminds readers in the foreword of Voices on the Move: An Anthology by and about Refugees, edited by Domnica Rădulescu and Roxana Cazan. How we treat the vulnerable depends on how (and whether) we view vulnerability. The anthology arose in the context of Trump’s travel ban, his zero-tolerance policy for undocumented persons, an explicit, tactical dehumanization and abuse of humans on the run. The editors (both of whom identify as Romanian-American immigrants) begin by invoking the names of Black Americans killed by police. Insisting on the moral obligations of bystanders, the editors take listening as a form of action.

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Gordon Phinn


Emergence and Renewal

Books Considered:

Maybe It’s Me – On Being the Wrong Kind of Woman, Eileen Pollack (Delphinium Books 2022)
Artful Flight, Susan Glickman (Porcupine’s Quill 2022)
In the Writers’ Words, Laurence Hutchman (Guernica 2022)
Music, Late and Soon, Robyn Sarah (Biblioasis 2022)
The Swan: A Biography,  Steven Moss (Square Peg 2021)
A Triptych of Birds & A Few Loose Feathers,  Pratibha Castle (Hedgehog Poetry Press 2022)     
Stars in the Junkyard, Sharon Berg (Cyberwit 2020)
Screw Factory,  Edward Anki (Anxiety Press 2022)

     Mandate free and making the best of that sluggish season, winter into spring, I settled into a very fine cache of those collections of the printed word we have come to love as books.  Blustery afternoons were made benign by the likes of Eileen Pollack’s essays Maybe It’s Me, On Being the Wrong Kind of Woman.  Frosty evenings were chivvied into cosy by the stimulating literary opinion-making of Susan Glickman’s Artful Flight.  Laurence Hutchman’s interviews conveniently packaged under the rubric of In the Writers’ Words insinuated themselves into many a bright blue sunny morning, while Robyn Sarah’s musings on her mid-life return to music and performance, Music, Late and Soon made for a chatty companion to Mozart’s piano trios and Prokoviev’s violin concertos.  Steven Moss’s venture into the enigmatic and paradoxical world of swans, The Swan: A Biography, chastised me back into the nature worship of emerging green as I stared longingly into the drab wet garden, and when I rose to wander about the house with a pretense to the elegant rearrangement of the archive, poets Berg, Castle, and Anki  reminded me, in stanza after stanza,  why books do, as Anthony Powell insisted, furnish a room.

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Literary Spotlight.
Dawn Promislow in Conversation with Sue Burge

I am delighted to be chatting to Dawn Promislow for this issue of WordCity.  It’s an exciting time for Dawn with her novel, Wan, coming out this month. Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer states,“Wan is a masterpiece. This beautiful, painterly, sublime, and sonically exquisite novel by Dawn Promislow is a work of utter genius.” And having got my hands on an advance copy of the novel, I would absolutely endorse this review!

Dawn, thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me during this busy period.  First of all, that classic question: How did you get started as a writer and when did you “come out” as a writer and state that that was your vocation?

Dawn Promislow

Your phrase “come out” is useful in this context, as in my case it did take a long time, and for me there was always an aspect of secrecy to the act of writing. I always understood that taking up a pen and writing was an act of great power, and possibly, subversion.

I grew up in an authoritarian society (apartheid South Africa) where creativity, even individuality, was not prized. You couldn’t speak your mind; and I didn’t speak my mind. I read books, though. Many books. I understood the power of writing and of books.

I must have been afraid at some level for many years to write, so I didn’t write—not at all. I had two children, I lived in Canada. But all the stories about my childhood in South Africa must have been standing like ghosts behind me, insisting on being told, and at some point I simply started writing them. Perhaps my children were older, and I had more time. I wrote in long-hand, in a spiral-bound notebook.

I wrote what became a manuscript of 25,000 words; I wrote quite quickly. This was in 2008. Then I enrolled in a program at Toronto’s Humber School for Writers to work on the manuscript, and under the mentorship of Olive Senior I expanded and deepened it, and developed the confidence to recognize what I had done. I had written a collection of short stories. (The collection was published in 2010 by Mawenzi House.)

I was a writer.

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Poetry. Edited by Clara Burghelea

Words for War
Oksana Maksymchuk & Max Rosochinsky, editors

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Selected poems by:

Anastasia Afanasieva – from The Plain Sense of Things
Vasyl Horoborodko – I fly away in the shape of a dandelion seed
Borys Humenyuk – An old mulberry tree near Mariupol
Yuri Izdryk – Make love
Aleksander Kabanov – Fear is a form of the good
Kateryna Kalytko – Can great things happen to ordinary people?
Lyudmyla Khersonska – I planted a camellia in the yard
Boris Khersonsky – My brother brought war to our crippled homes
Marianna Kiyahovska – we swallowed an air like earth
Halyn Kruk – like a blood clot, something
Oksana Lutyshyna – I dream of explosions
Vasyl Mokhno – Febraury Elegy
Maryana Savka – We wrote poems
Ostap Slyvynsky – Alina
Lyuba Yakimchuk – Eyebrows
Serhiy Zhadan – Village street- gas line’s broken

Read selected poems from Words for War

Mansour Noorbakhsh

Reskinned Moloch
             To: Ukrainian children after Russian invasion 
has raised again his shadow
with opened arms 
to burn the children, 
though has changed, reskinned, 
this time

his arms are open 
to embrace the world, 
Ukraine, Europe … 
what else would be the next?

perhaps still I am an immature child 
who dreams maturity of a lovely world 
in every poem 
unaware of
plentiful pollen of immature cruelty
growing under the skin of 
this mushroom-shaped cloud

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Alexia Kalogeropoulou


Sirens of death 

Listen, listen to the drums of war
how they beat
like human hearts in agony
listen to the sirens how they scream
like human voices
mourning the future deads
look at the fear on the faces of the children
an hecatomb of deaths is being prepared
for justice, they say, or for freedom
for their own interest, I say,
so to count money with dirty palms

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Josephine LoRe

Josephine LoRe

we've held our breath

through seven hundred pandemic days
waiting to awaken into normal

but this morning
images careen across the screen
tanks thunder through streets
seven hundred thousand flee from the beast
mouths agape in silent scream

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Rachel J. Fenton

Rachel Fenton

for Robert Sullivan

My people’s fierceness is noted in poetry and prose.
When I approach your ship, I steer a position to my favour, furl
my sail. My mast is un-stepped before I tether my vessel to yours 
so that we become two islands made one. 

Do not try to hurl
yourself overboard, there are smaller boats
waiting to pick you off as if a louse from my long
hair. Water surrounds us like greenstone at our throats.

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Dave Lewis

Dave Lewis

Every room is another room

It didn’t take long for you to go, not really, although it felt like a hundred years.
Watched you sleeping in that tiny room with nothing in the wardrobes or drawers.

After it was over though I started on the clothes,
holding each shirt close for the smell of you in healthier times.
I made a bonfire in the garden of your precious perfumed papers
then felt guilty, like Isobel. I filled bag after bag with things
you hadn’t thought about for ages;
your yellow foreman’s helmet,
tomato seeds still in their packets,
dented trophies that they gave you
for winning at skittles.

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Elizabeth Boquet

Elizabeth Boquet

February 26, 2022


For What
For the world, standby,
as Ukraine stands alone.
For the boy, bullets,
for his toy gun one act play.
For the girl, rape.
For her guinea pig, freedom.
For the parents, cocktail time.

Continue to 2 more poems

Claudia Serea

CS_Author photo_square (1)

Eastern European Dawn 
My father tells me over the phone 
he’d emigrate even now, in his old age. 
It’s good to have your daughter in America. 
I’m his insurance policy against history. 
He thinks about me late at night 
when he hears the news

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Frank Joussen

Frank Joussen

Night in Ukraine

I am night –
giver of peace and quiet
but I am not myself
in Ukraine tonight.

My head aches – crisscrossed
by mutated mosquitoes
that send lightning
through my veins
which tears up my belly
and wakes up the children
pursuing their dreams
of happiness there.

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Lauren Friesen

Lauren Friesen

Ukraine Memories 

My ancestors walked here
Among trees heavy with apples,
Plums, and cherries
Carrying baskets year in and out
For canning or asleep on screens
To dry for winter’s tastes.

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Michael Schein

Michael Schein

Don’t Look Away

Putin tracks the value of the ruble
a barrel of crude
then ruble then crude
his thin lips wet with drool.

Here is the bread line in Chernihiv, simple human hunger strafed
by Putin’s pawns, & the mother of three warming soup for her children
when shrapnel tears out her throat. Putin LOOK, as her children were forced to look.
Lash the beast to the mast of humanity. Make it see what it has wrought.	

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Janice Kulyk Keefer

Janice Kulyk Keefer


The village where my mother, her mother,
her mother's mother, were born
is no good to me.

The house where my mother was born,
the thatched house pierced
by the branch of a walnut tree:

torched in the war. Most of the village
was levelled, then—the remains
of my mother's childhood—church, schoolhouse,

cemetery—hold out no hands to me. I crave those
old-fashioned books of outlined images:water brushed
across the page, colours sprung from invisibility.

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Carol Hamilton

Carol Hamilton


I believe Dostoyevsky never had 
a grandmother to tell him fabulous tales
of the past as did Fuentes, Allende, 
those of rich heritage. What flashed
through his mind awaiting
the firing squad's fake bullets? 
during his father's beatings?
He lived the past he wrote us,
as did Tolstoy. And what will
our grandchildren tell of our times?
Children!  May I …
	Please  …
       text you a story?

Continue to 2 more poems

Lisa Reynolds

Lisa Reynolds 1


After discovery of Mass grave of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine
(Source: CNN, April 4, 2022)

Deny, deny, deny

That’s what he does,
Tells others to do

But bodies are unearthed
Bagged, tagged - in daylight

No tents, no screens
No deception, no deceit

War is war is war
Crime is crime is crime

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Gordon Phinn


The Family Man
Wars come and go
As do the politicos
Who sell them to the public
Under pressure from the generals
And the bankers beneath them.
You keep your sons clear,
Steer your daughters to safety
As the budgets for destruction

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Adrienne Stevenson

Adrienne Stevenson (1)

Sisters, 1906
inspired by the painting "Carousel", by Olexandr Murashko (Ukraine) 1906 

the day before our trip to Odesa
that day of endings and beginnings
my sister and I went to the fair
dressed in our best shawls
long skirts flowing over backs
of wooden steeds, the carousel
would remain when we had left
but we would leave no trace

the day before we boarded the ship
to bring us to the new land
we visited the stalls selling
food we were sure to miss
borscht, holubtsi, varenyky
even if beets, cabbage and potatoes
were abundant there
they would not taste the same

the day before we left our home
cradling pysanky—fragile mementos
we spent one final day
in traditional costume
in the new land we would try
to blend in, go unnoticed
be accepted despite our difference
take on new identities

now it is the next day
we have arrived at the docks
passage booked, papers in hand
will our daughters, and theirs
thank us for taking the journey
for becoming something other
or will they cling to remnants
of the lives they imagine for us?

…never dreaming that many days hence
in a new century, their cousins may face
the same stark choice to leave their homes.

Continue to 2 more poems

The Reverend Ngwa Hosea Ambe Nchesi

Ngwa Hosea Ambe Nchesi

What Will Be Remembered

Sow the seeds that will sprout
And grow into fruit-breaking trees
While you’re alive.
For your works will define you
When this candle is put off.

For when you’re gone
And in that little box lie
In that lonely corner of the world
Your own little portion
Of the earth beneath,
Only your trees will speak for you.

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Pratibha Castle

Pratibha Castle

In the Slips
While the world watches 
Violetta, clad in years
the measure of a week,
journeys from Odessa 
with her doll and cat 
and a Grandma 
her face a crumpled map 
of lifetime drills 
framed by a scarf 
the color of losing
urges a boy soldier 
put this flower in your pocket

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Reinhold Stipsits

Reinhold Stipsits-1

Spring paints without brush
Leaf buds blossom heart shaped
What a great lover

A Robin redbreast
In a flutter of spirits
Proudly presents hope

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Jack J. B. Hutchens

Jack Hutchins

Lament for Mariupol

It is impossible to get lost in flattened ruins
as grainy char will always point you towards hell,
and tall buildings wavering in the hazy Slavic evening 
no longer obstruct violent red horizons.

This long-forgotten place, squeezed between the wide 
European plain and the cold deep of the Azov Sea,
is now the stuff of hagiographies recorded on dry
bits of ancient, stained paper falling apart at the seams.

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Katia Kapovich


Chronicles of this war

In February the world became silent like a mouse,
you open a comp to see a falling house, 
an old man embracing what is left, a puppy,
while in the background burns a flying canopy
that somehow flew through the broken window glass.
So the old man takes an empty bottle,
fills it up with a gasoline
makes a Molotov cocktail and goes to battle 
an armored car fighting for his Ukraine,
for its poplars, for its peaceful hearth,
for its people, for a church steeple
because not gods win war on earth,
but regular guys, ordinary people.

Continue to 2 more poems

Olga Stein


Ancestral Home

My mother’s and my father’s parents,
babushki, dedushki, cousins galore
were born in Ukraine, in towns and cities,
whose names make up familial lore.

Odessa, Zhytomyr, Kyiv — known to me places
comprise a timeline, whole lines of descent
that emanate from memories, where half-familiar faces
return and sweeten them like a beloved scent 

Continue Reading

Nina Kossman


Another thing about a war

Another thing about a war
(besides the thing we all know,
the one about killing)
is that, once it begins,
you have no right to talk about small things,

Continue Reading

May be art of flower

Hearts for Ukraine, by Alex Young, http://www.ayoungstudios.com/
With this painting and its 200 prints, Young raised $65,000 Cdn for Voices of Children Ukraine

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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie's first novel, Stillwater, will be released in the spring of 2023. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

One thought on “WordCity Literary Journal. May 2022. Issue 14. For Ukraine

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