Poetry Travels: Lithuanian Poets for Ukraine – A LETTER TO A CHILD OF WAR by Lina Buividavičiūtė, translated by Ada Valaitis

On the morning of February 24th, the world was stunned by news that no human being could ever desire: a war was being waged in the heart of Europe. The Vilnius Book Fair, a beloved annual festival of literature began that very day. Only this year, the festival was imbued with sadness and the premonition of world war: not a single book presentation, discussion, concert or poetry reading was performed without a reference to the war. Thirty-two years ago, as Lithuania had been fighting for independence, poetry could be heard at every demonstration, rally and meeting: once again poetry has become an important form of resistance and a means for expressing civic responsibility. This time, the battle is being waged by Ukraine, and Lithuanian poets dedicate their verses to her and her people.
Lithuanian poets and writers have responded to the war in Ukraine in various ways: the voices of those who have lost their faith in the power and meaning of their art, those who feel paralysed, poisoned by anger and hatred, can be heard on social media. Others continue to write silently; still others contribute to relief work for Ukrainian refugees. Poet and translator, editor of the Vilnius Review, Marius Burokas, has become one of the most reliable war chroniclers on Facebook.
Ukraine‘s heroism has inspired the Lithuanian Culture Institute to create a poetry archive to document the authentic experiences of and contemplations on the war and the empathy for Ukraine. Some of the poems have been translated into Ukrainian and English and disseminated to wider audiences. An unexpectedly large number of authors, some well-known, others completely unknown, from Lithuania and beyond her borders, responded to the poetry initiative. We invite you to become acquainted with some of their testimonies.

Introduction by Rūta Mėlynė

Translated by Jura Avizienis

In partnership with Lithuanian Culture Institute

My child, they say, when boys are born
to an entire generation, we must wait for war.
At a similar time, we had sons –
we rejoiced, all of the matrons of the family,
but dark forms loomed,
there was no calm. My grandmother
saw those forms before the Second
World War when she glimpsed the sign of the cross
in the sky, women, alone,
bearing all of the world’s burdens
on their shoulders. On September 11
You will turn eighteen, and I
watch the skies more nervously, follow
the news in neighboring lands.

And yet, I forgive You for being born, child of war. 

I can’t describe how much I’d never want
to have to mark the door of our home
with the blood of a lamb when you return.
My hope is that
you’ll never know how cold steel
weighs on your hands and heart, how you break out in sweat
during sleepless nights counting
the fallen. Is it for You
that I hope for this, or for me?

Still, the most frightening things aren’t bludgeons, phantom
limbs, our faded hair –

the most frightening thing is that we’ll never be rid of
the ghosts of the bare wind, nothing will be
as it once was.

And yet, I let You go, child of war – 
My reigns no longer hold back the horses. 

By Lina Buividavičiūtė

Translated by Ada Valaitis

Lina Buividavičiūtė is the author of two poetry books in Lithuanian, a cultural commentator, a lecturer, and a writer. The poem ‘A letter to a child of war’ was written drawing on the collective experience and the motif of war (in many senses). With the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, this text took on added meaning and gravity.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, USA, Ada Valaitis holds a Master’s degree in Literature from George Mason University. In 2007, she was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Lithuania to continue her work studying and translating Lithuanian literature.

Ada’s translations have appeared in numerous collections and journals, including the Vilnius ReviewWashington Square ReviewThe Dedalus Book of Lithuanian Literature, and How the Earth Carries Us – New Lithuanian Poets. She served as a contributor to Transitions of Lithuanian Postmodernism: Lithuanian Literature in the Post-Soviet Period and Lithuania on a First Date, and as a translator for the award-winning documentary film The Invisible Front

Poster by Lina Dagilė

Photo by Lisa Kalloo

Check out the Poetry Travels book list on bookshop.org.

Read previous poems from Poetry Travels:

UNTITLED by Aneta Kamińska, translated by Anna Blasiak

TWO LYRICS OF LOVE AND MEMORY by Lina Kostenko, translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj

CROW STUDY by Yuri Andrukhovych, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Ludmila Khersonsky, translated by Maya Chhabra

UNTITLED POEM by Iryna Vikyrchak

From THE ANDROMEDA NEBULA by Anna Gréki, translated by Souheila Haïmiche and Cristina Viti

TEAPOT by Nurduran Duman, translated by Andrew Wessels

IT’S COMING AGAIN by Michael Strunge, translated by Paul Russell Garrett

REPORT FROM ANOTHER CITY by Marcin Niewirowicz, translated by the Author

INTERIOR by Ana Blandiana, translated by Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Patea

THIS IS LOVE by Joanna Fligiel, translated by Anna Blasiak

REVELATION IN H&M by Menno Wigman, translated by David Colmer

*** (I WANT TO FOLD THIS DAY) by Inga Pizāne, translated by Jayde Will

THE SIEGE by Marcin Świetlicki, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese

FISH by Jana Putrle Srdić, translated by Barbara Jurša

THE WELL by Maarja Pärtna, translated by Jayde Will

THE SHADOW by Pentti Saarikoski, translated by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

A FAREWELL TO MY DEAD CLASS by Irit Amiel, translated by Anna Blasiak and Marta Dziurosz

THE GIRLS IN BERGEN-BELSEN by Nora Gomringer, translated by Annie Rutherford

DECEMBER, by Jaume Subirana, translated by Christopher Whyte

ROSE RED, by Ulrike Almut Sandig, translated by Karen Leeder

*** (I D[R]IPPED MY PEN…) by Mario Martín Gijón, translated by Terence Dooley

WHAT COMES by Magda Cârneci, translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mădălina Bănucu

TRANSLATION by Justyna Bargielska, translated by Maria Jastrzębska

*** (MY EYES, DENSE NIGHT…) by Gëzim Hajdari, translated by Ian Seed

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