This time the spotlight is on Issue 3; art, poetry and prose as a reaction to the war in Ukraine

Our cover this issue is the painting ‘Tree of Life‘ by Ukrainian artist Olga Kovtun. The painting is a detailed rendition of traditional Ukrainian embroidery, ancient motifs and symbolism that become part of the spirit, the ancestral tree. The woman’s face is peaceful and turned inward her hands loosely joined, enigmatic as a priestess. Olga has, much to our relief, returned home safely to Kiev. You can find her on instagram:Olga Kovtun @kovtun_olga_art – where digital prints and her art is available.

Annie Peter‘s powerful poem ‘They Spoke of Castles in The Kremlin’ The Soviet famine of 1931-33 from the perspective of a Russian German woman looking back on her life.

Annie is on Instagram and regularly does performances of her poetry. @anniepeterpoetry

The following is from ‘Castles in the Kremlin:

‘ A German in the Russian motherland,

They taught me all the ways of dying,

I count them when I go to bed.

They tore my hair out, but no tears were shed.

I heard of castles in the Kremlin,

They are painted red.

Dear widowed father who is newlywed,

She showed us all the ways of dying,

I count them when I go to bed.

He’s gone to war under the famine’s threat.

I dreamt of dancers in the Kremlin,

They were wearing red.’

Olivia Payne‘s remarkable short fiction ‘Unearthed‘ a meditation by Gagarin’s mother on war,the Cosmonaut’s complex legacy, and the brutal repression of the Soviet Union.

From ‘Unearthed

‘Inside the earth for more than a year, we slept next to each other. A mass grave, a family mausoleum. Then in the daytime the same as always: the vegetables, the cows. When he was older the metal. What I understood was that he poured something liquid into a mould and it hardened, the same shapes over and over. He was taught to take life and crush it into shape, force it where it was needed, how other people wanted it. Nowhere was he taught the extravagant, the extraordinary. You should strip extravagance down until it becomes workable, usable. His brother and sister, taken away and made usable. History will see them as spare, as extra. Abundance, rightly taken from us at the right time, to be made use of. They worked land here, they worked land there, and we don’t speak of the rest. And maybe history will see his death as the earth’s proper response to the extravagant: a furious reclamation.’

Victoria Gartner‘s poem ‘Heart-Strings

Victoria is on instagram: @vicgartner

Death and war have razed the land of her Ukrainian ancestors, and homecoming is a bitter road.


‘Now, war is here.
The valleys, the birch trees, rivers, yellow fields and honey
That they spent centuries loving
– are dying.

There is silence in our village.

The Molfàr is long gone.
He knew they were coming,
And he knew they would find him first.
He has kept his dignity and chosen his path.
Deep in the licù, his body now hangs from the branch of a tree.
He is waiting for the rain.

Far away, on another island, in another life,
I keep stitching. My coffee has grown cold.
But on my canvas, the shadow of the design has appeared.
It is the shaman’s black cat.
He is alone, vigilant,
Roaming the village still.’

Natalia Garbu and her photo collage project ‘Vadik Fights Back’ after finding an old photograph of Ukrainian boy Vadik taken during the war, photographs originally sent to his grandfather.

‘I bought this photo from a vintage store in Ukraine. Fascinated by a shaman some days before , that told me that he feels that all these lands are full of pain and suffering because we did not and do not honor our ancestors, I bought all the photos of people I could find in that day. Promising to work on them in an artistic way. Honoring by remembering and feeling. Art can heal, he said.’

for more of Natalia’s Vadik Fights Back project and her beautifully dark, fever dream like photography; she is on Instagram: @nataliagarbu