Published in February 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Tim Judah has written a timely account of life in Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, as the future of the Donbass, Ukraine’s eastern region, remains uncertain. In Wartime aims to fill the gap between hurriedly written news reports and dry academic studies. Judah, a distinguished journalist, not only travels to the war-torn east, but also to lesser-known corners of the Ukraine’s west and south (the chapters on Bessarabia, the “appendix” of land extending west from Odessa, tucked beneath Moldova, are particularly intriguing). His long cast list of characters includes a frontline tattooist and an 87-year-old bomb shelter poet.
Judah’s reporting is underpinned by history, with the Second World War and its divisive legacy in Ukraine resurfacing again and again. In Russia’s offensive against Ukraine, “rewriting history is as important as writing the news.” For Ukraine, matters are complicated by the fact that it has “no common soundtrack of history.” Judah’s book is peppered with lessons from the Balkans, which he reported from during the wars of 1990s and continues to cover for the Economist.
The result is a vivid, human portrait of a society drained not just by war but by…