Yeva Skalietska celebrated her 12th birthday Feb. 14, 2022, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, where she lived with her grandmother—Granny—and they shared a peaceful, satisfying lifestyle in their lovely city. Though they were aware of the “rumors and murmurings about Russia,” Yeva considered them “just that: words.”
A few days later on Feb. 24, Yeva was awoken by explosions and learned that Russia had invaded Ukraine in an unprovoked attack. As Yeva and Granny fled to the basement of the apartment building, they were joined by others seeking safety. When they had an opportunity to go back to their apartment and get a few supplies, Yeva made a decision that would irrevocably impact her life: “I grabbed my diary because I want to start writing things down as they are happening.”
Yeva chronicled Granny’s and her escape from Ukraine to Hungary and finally to Dublin, Ireland, where they live today. Their flight was unique in that their story—including the detail about Yeva’s diary—was picked up by the British press, which expedited their departure. But still trauma, fear, and sadness hounded Yeva every day. In a prologue to her published diary, she writes: “Everyone knows the word war. But very few people understand what it truly means. You might say that it’s horrible and frightening, but you don’t know the scale of fear it brings. And so, when you suddenly find you have to face it, you feel totally lost, walled in by fright and despair. All of your plans are suddenly interrupted by destruction. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know what war is.”
Throughout Yeva’s gut-wrenching narrative, her faith in God shines in the darkness. In fact, she concludes by writing, “The most important thing I want to say is that I believe only a strong faith in God can bring miracles.”
Yeva’s diary is an eminently timely and noteworthy resource for teachers, parents, and caregivers to help children who have never experienced war to grow in their understanding of the consequences of international conflict, to encourage prayers for global peace, and to more fully grasp the privilege of living in freedom. Recommended for ages 11 to adult.
(Union Square & Co.)