On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a renewed and unprovoked full-scale military attack against Ukraine, aimed to stamp out the country, its culture, and its people.
As the events of this war unfolded over the next few days, I reached out to K., a journalist based in Kyiv, and D., an artist from St. Petersburg who opposes the war—each of whom I’d been in touch with only once online and had never met in person—to ask how they were. I was moved by the rawness of their responses, and I understood that, unlike most of what I had read about this war in the media, the personal accounts of these individuals might provide an emotional entry point to understanding the everyday reality of the war’s devastating impact in Ukraine for those of us not immediately affected. I asked K. and D. if I could interview them about their experiences to create a weekly illustrated diary that would juxtapose their individual, contrasting voices and raise immediate awareness of the war. Both of them instantly agreed.
Over the course of the next 12 months, I communicated with them individually via text message. Every week, I asked how they were feeling, what they were thinking about, and what they had experienced during the previous week. In addition to documenting their everyday experiences, I also posed questions that I hoped would shed light on how the war affected them on a deeper, more existential level: What impact did the war have on their minds and bodies? How did it change their relationship to their families and their sense of cultural belonging? Did it make them think differently about guilt, sacrifice, reparation, and retribution? Why do we wage wars, and will we ever learn from them?
Reprinted with permission from Diaries of War: Two Visual Accounts from Ukraine and Russia by Nora Krug, copyright 2023. Published by Ten Speed Graphic, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Nora Krug is a widely published German-American author and illustrator whose drawings and visual narratives have received numerous awards. Her visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home (foreign edition title Heimat) was the winner of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award. Krug is Associate Professor of Illustration at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.