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
The war filled up my Facebook wall ceiling days, nights thoughts dreams The war which has not reached me yet physically but kills from inside suffocates with multi-bladed knives of starvation shoots the bullets bombs crushes with deep tank treads It seems I die every day multiple times a day as fathers say goodbyes to their children wives I too say goodbye to someone I run the railroad tracks the empty road broken bridges and destinies stretching out my hands too far to comfort As prayers rise up missiles moan down from the skies how can it hurt so much thousands of kilometers nine seas away it hurts in blood hurts the Blood itself that same blood
By Linas Umbrasas
Translated by Audra Skukauskaitė
Linas Umbrasas is a Lithuanian-American poet residing in Plainfield, IL USA. Was born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1980. His poetry book Slibino dantys (Teeth of the dragon) was published in Kaunas, Lithuania in 2021. His poetry has also been published in publications and social media venues in both Lithuania and the Lithuanian community in United States. In addition to writing poetry, Linas is actively involved in the local Lithuanian community in Illinois. He dances in the Lithuanian folk group Suktinis and performs as an actor in Žaltvykslė theatre troupe.
Audra Skukauskaitė, Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of Central Florida. Audra was born in Panevėžys and studied and worked in higher education in Klaipėda. Her graduate education took her to California, after which she has continued her career as a professor in California, Texas, and Florida. While working in the U.S., over the past 20 years Audra has also been contributing to the Lithuanian higher education, particularly in the field of qualitative research methodologies. In addition to her work as a professor, Audra engages in creative endeavours of painting, photography, and writing poetry (primarily in English).
Photo by Lisa Kalloo
Check out the Poetry Travels book list on bookshop.org.
Read previous poems from Poetry Travels:
FIRST SPRING OF THE WAR by Vytautas Kaziela, translated by Jura Avizienis
A LETTER TO A CHILD by Lina Buidavičiutė, translated by Ada Valaitis
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