The Sound and Voices of War
– Memoir by Vadym Yakovlev, Translated by Olena Jennings, Art by Andrew Ratekin –
In the middle of the night, I was awakened by a siren. The siren warned of the possibility of a dangerous air attack. I think this sound, which has been echoing almost daily for the last three weeks, will always remain in my memory. The siren is extremely loud and is located next to my building. The emergency system woke me in the morning also – it didn’t give me a chance to sleep. But I am lucky – I am among the lucky ones for whom the war is only the sound of the siren, and not the sound of missiles and bombs flying overhead. The sound of war is a sound that permeates your life and deprives you of any peace. It is a sound that kills time. These three weeks passed by like a single day. You lose the ability to distinguish Friday from Saturday, morning from evening. The siren isn’t interested in what day it is or what time it is. Soon time stops being significant to you. The sound of the war kills the feeling of space. It doesn’t matter where you are – home, with friends, at the store. In Lviv, Odesa, Kharkiv, or Mykolaiv. Space is divided into areas where the siren often sounds, so into dangerous areas and areas where it rarely sounds, in other words, in areas that are more or less safe.
War is a sound. It is the sound of my friend who left his city because of the war, to come live with me. We shelter together in a small studio apartment. It doesn’t annoy me that we must share this small space. It doesn’t annoy me that I must devote time to his needs as well as my own. It only annoys me when he argues with his father over the phone and when he argues with his brother and sister, trying to convince them to leave. I am annoyed by the sound of my friend who left his city because of the war to come live with me.
War destroys a person’s feeling of space and time. Destroys it with sound, various sounds. And you come to understand that for a person in times of peace – there is foremost space and time. For a person during war there is the absence of space and time.
My mother, my sister and her son escaped to Moldova. My mother calls every day. I hear the sound of her voice. Sometimes she sounds upset me, sometimes calm me. I always feel distressed, but I have to listen to my mother, to whatever she wants to share with me. Because I worry about her. For her space and time have also disappeared because she doesn’t care where she is. The most important thing is that she is in an area that is safe and that the siren does not sound. Time has stopped existing for my mother. She doesn’t know what her present is and where her future will be. There is no sense in planning. But she has sound. The sound of my voice on the telephone. I don’t know when we will finally see each other again.
Yesterday I looked at photos. There is the photo of a woman’s grave and her twelve-year-old son. They were hit by a missile somewhere near Kyiv. They were buried right in the yard of their own home. The neighbors made a makeshift cross and a board with their names and the date of their deaths. It probably wasn’t possible to bury them in a cemetery. War. Now the woman and the child won’t ever hear the siren. They will never hear the voices of their relatives on the phone and the arguments of their friend with his brothers and sisters.
War makes you conscious that there are three kinds of people. The first kind is people who live in a time of peace, for them time and space exist. The second is a transitional kind – people who live during war. Then the sound of bombs, sirens, or the distressed voices of relatives that they don’t know how to help, takes away time and space, but also gives them fear and alarm. The third kind is the last kind of person – that is a dead person.
For now, I belong to the second transitional kind. I hope that at some point I can return to the first kind. How I envy the people who haven’t heard the sound and voices of war.
Vadym Yakovlev (1990) is an Ukrainian independent writer and columnist. He/she is author of the first Ukrainian queer novel with transgender characters “Where the Territory Begins” (Kayala, 2020). Based now in Germany. Follow Vadym on Facebook
Olena Jennings is the author of the poetry collection The Age of Secrets (Lost Horse Press, 2022) and the chapbook Memory Project (2018.) Her novel Temporary Shelter was released in 2021 from Cervena Barva Press. Her translation with Oksana Lutsyshyna of Nobody Knows Us Here and We Don’t Know Anyone by Kateryna Kalytko was released in September 2022 from Lost Horse Press. Her translation from Ukrainian of Vasyl Makhno’s collection Paper Bridge was released in October 2022 from Plamen Press. She co-edited the anthology of poetry Ukrainian American Poets Respond released from Poets of Queens Press and Yara Arts Group. Her textile art has been shown at Bliss on Bliss Art Projects and the NYC Poetry Festival. She is the founder and curator of the Poets of Queens reading series and press.
Photo by Iryna Sosnovska
Andrew Ratekin (°1974, Evergreen, United States) creates paintings, drawings, and mixed media artworks. By choosing mainly formal solutions, Ratekin creates intense personal moments masterfully created by means of rules and omissions, acceptance and refusal, luring the viewer round and round in circles.His paintings are based on formal associations which open a unique poetic vein. Multilayered images arise in which the fragility and instability of our seemingly certain reality is questioned. By applying abstraction, he tries to develop forms that do not follow logical criteria, but are based only on subjective associations and formal parallels, which incite the viewer to make new personal associations. Follow Andrew on Instagram. He can be contact by email at email@example.com