21st century Europe
friendship starts in the small hours,
coinciding with air raid alerts.
I open my eyes to check cities
under attack today
quickly listing my friends
21st century Europe wartime
friendship is keeping your friends
holding them by the hand
what else can you do from your safety?
Sending short messages
how are you?
how’s your cat?
how’s your dog?
and your kids, have you managed
to get them to safety?”
While they, my dear brave friends,
stay in bathrooms for hours -
the most secure room in their flat, they say,
according to the principle of double walls
(the first one takes the missile,
the second – debris).
Holding cats, dogs, children
responding in monosyllables – fine
or blanks - it must have hit nearby.
I am holding to our common memories tightly
and to those we still have to make.
Please not you, not today
Olia in Dnipro
Ania in Odessa
Yulia in Kharkiv
Luckily I have no one in Mariupol
otherwise my heart would blow up
it is not big enough
to ever contain Mariupol.
Iryna Vikyrchak is a Ukrainian culture manager and poet. She directed and curated numerous literary festivals and events in Ukraine and Europe. She’s also worked as head of the National Desk of Creative Europe in Ukraine (2016-2017) and as assistant to Nobel Prize Laureate Olga Tokarczuk (2019-2021). She’s the author of three poetry collections, of which the latest, Algometria, was published in Kyiv in 2021. She is a member of PEN-Ukraine and is a PhD student at Wroclaw University in Poland. She writes in Ukrainian and English.