77 Days of February
Living and Dying in Ukraine
by Told by the Nation’s Own Journalists
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Pub Date 12 Jul 2023 | Archive Date Not set
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From a team of leading Ukrainian reporters, 77 Days of February is the astonishingly powerful, bracingly intimate story of the early days of the Russian invasion of their thriving, independent nation. It brings to the world, in a way not seen before, the experiences of everyday Ukrainians whose lives have been forever torn apart by this brutal and illegal war, and celebrates their monumental strength and resilience.
The 24 stories here, along with an introduction by Serhiy Zhadan, the internationally revered writer, musician, and activist, share the harrowing struggles of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and reveal compassion, sacrifice, and heroism at every turn. There is the man in Bucha who lost his entire family to the shelling and now gives interviews to journalists next to the graves of his wife and children, so that the world might better understand Russia’s crimes against humanity. There is the woman in Kharkiv, raped for a week by a Russian soldier, who then shoots her ailing mother dead in front of her. The police patrol that collects bodies across the Karkhiv region, victims of Russian rage. The 14-year-old boy that is taken by Russian soldiers to Belarus—one of thousands of such cases—and the remarkable campaign to bring about his return. The zoologists at the zoo in occupied Demydiv, near Kyiv, who endure constant threats of execution so that Archie the rhino, Lekha the camel, and 300 other animals have at least some chance of survival. The young Kharkiv family, moving from subway to basement to survive the bombing, until they had no choice but to make a daring escape from the city. The theater company in occupied eastern Ukraine that is taken in by colleagues in a small town to the west, where they devote themselves to cooking meals for Ukrainian soldiers. The reports of an old man in the war-torn city of Irpin, alone and unable to walk, that reaches a de-mining trainer, who fights for days to reach the town, finds the old man, starved and naked but alive, and rescues him. The mother and two young sons who, after three weeks struggling to survive in Mariupol, flee the demolished city, surviving near-constant shelling and dozens of Russian checkpoints.
These and so many other accounts of relentless courage amidst unspeakable violence make 77 Days of February a invaluable work of urgent, lived, history. The stories take place in the first 76 days of the war, between February 23 and May 9—two symbolic dates in Russian military ideology. On February 23, Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day; May 9 marks Victory Day over Nazi Germany, also known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War. In contemporary Russia, under the influence of relentless state propaganda, these dates have been transformed into two memes—“Our Grandfathers Fought” and “We Can Repeat”—meant to reinforce the country’s xenophobia toward its neighbors and the world, as well as its right to impose “the Russian World” by military force. For the title of this book, Reporters’ journalists decided to add one more day, as a reminder that the war did not end on May 9 and continues on in all its grotesque tragedy.
To read 77 Days of February is to be plunged into the lives of astonishing people joined by a shared determination to cope, resist, and persevere. It is a fiercely inspired work of journalism that may change the way you view the world and the heroes who live among us.