Cover Image for Three poems

Three poems

Victoria Amelina, trans. by Larissa Babij
Issue Three

Having turned to poetry after Russia’s full-scale invasion, Victoria Amelina infused her verses with records of loss, pain, and perseverance she was exposed to as a war crimes investigator. Translated by Larissa Babij for this issue of the London Ukrainian Review, these three poems open a window onto the Ukrainian experiences of the all-out war.



in this strange city only the women testify
one tells me about the child that disappeared
two talk about people tortured in the basement
three say they didn’t hear about the rapes and avert their eyes
four talk about screams coming from the headquarters
five about people shot in their yards
six speak, but it doesn’t make any sense
seven are still counting their food reserves out loud
eight say I’m lying and that justice does not exist
nine talk amongst themselves on the way to the cemetery

I’m going there too, for I already know everyone in this city

and all of its dead are my dead

and all the survivors are my sisters

ten talk about the man who survived
he too was detained by them
he can testify about the torturers

I knock on his door, but his neighbour comes out
she answers for him:

it only seems like he survived—
go and talk to the women




See that woman, arm outstretched behind her?
She could be pulling a suitcase or somebody along with her
The invisible suitcase must be heavy, for the woman slows
Women like her are commonly known as wackos

There was nothing left to take from her burned out home
And who lived with her there? Now nobody knows
But they follow her and the little one still lags behind
And so the woman pauses: waiting for him all the time



Untitled (the sea)

a woman stands by a strange sea, lost,
with disheveled hair, tattered sneakers,
whispering a name through chapped lips

the locals think this woman has lost her husband

but I heard the name she utters
it’s not the name of a man nor the name of a child
she’s standing by the sea and calling the sea

well the sea also thinks that she’s lost her husband

it doesn’t answer to this weird, unfamiliar name
it just washes up shells and sharp-edged rocks
it just whispers in its own, sea-like way:

hey lady, he’ll return to you,
your Azov


[Read in Ukrainian here].


Image: Victoria Amelina’s archive.

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