Literary perspectives on the war in Eastern Ukraine

Discussion and reading | 5 June 2019 | 6:30-8:30 pm

With Ziemowit Szczerek (writer), Serhij Zhadan (writer) and Alexander Chertenko (literary studies expert)
Chair: Nina Frieß (ZOiS)

left: Serhij Zhadan © Amrei-Marie (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0), right: Ziemowit Szczerek © Sebastian Frąckiewicz

Since 2014, the war in Eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 12,000 lives and displaced around 2.8 million people. As well as being a topic for journalists, the fighting and the ensuing upheavals in people’s lives have now made their way into literature. At this ZOiS Forum event, researcher Nina Frieß (ZOiS), writers Serhij Zhadan and Ziemowit Szczerek and literary studies expert Alexander Chertenko will discuss writings around the war in Ukraine. Topics will include the challenge of writing about war, the target readerships, the possible ideologisation and politicisation of literature, and the highly diverse positions on the war adopted by writers according to their own involvement or background. Serhij Zhadan and Ziemowit Szczerek will also read from their own works.


Ziemowit Szczerek is a Polish writer, translator and journalist. His fictional travelogue Mordor’s Coming To Eat Us Up, set in Ukraine, was nominated for numerous awards and won the Paszport Polityki prize and others. Euromaidan and the war in Ukraine are also themes of his book Tattoo with Trident (not currently available in English or German).

Serhij Zhadan is a Ukrainian poet, novelist, musician and translator who has won international literary awards. The war in Eastern Ukraine is a central theme of his more recent writings (Internat/The Orphanage; Why I Am Not on the Net: Poems from the War).

Alexander Chertenko has a PhD in Literary Studies. Originally from Ukraine, he now lives in Berlin. His current research project looks at reactualisations of the colonial discourse in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish literature about the war in the Donbas.

Nina Frieß is a literary and cultural studies expert and researcher at ZOiS. Her current research project focuses on Russian and Russian-language literature in the post-Soviet space.