I bring you a book that needs no introduction. Not a book I’ll ever forget. Thanks to Rosie and her team for the support.
The Thin Blue-Yellow Line. Between Love and Hate by Anton Eire (trans.) Simon Geoghegan
A diary chronicling the hopes, pain and fears of ordinary Ukrainians collected during the current war. Frank, emotional and straight from the heart.
This book is about the first 100 days of fascist Russia’s perfidious and unfounded invasion of Ukraine. But it is not an account of the war and its battlefield engagements. It’s about people. About their feelings and emotions, their experiences, fears and pain, their suffering, hope and love.
I started writing this book one sleepless night in Kyiv when I had been kept awake all night by the roar of our aerial defense system and explosions nearby, listening out for approaching rockets and bombs and wondering whether I should take my wife and young son and run for the air-raid shelter. That night, I realized that I had a duty as a writer to act as a voice for those whose stories desperately needed to be told to other people in the world.
I wrote about what I saw and felt. About the stories, my relatives and friends shared with me. It became a chronicle, memoir, diary and confession. I set down our stories so that the whole world might know and understand what we have been through. So that the whole world might share our experiences of this war alongside us – in our trembling buildings, in our freezing cold basements, underground parking lots, bomb shelters and metro stations and in the ruins of our burning cities. So that the world might be given a glimpse into our hearts through the lacerated wounds that have been inflicted on them by this cruel and barbaric war.
About the author:
Anton Eine is modern sci-fi and techno-fantasy author from Kyiv, Ukraine.
He has published ‘I, Jesus, Rock Star’ novel, techno-fantasy cycle “Programagic”, Sci-Fi short stories collection “Human Kind” and superhero series “Maze City Stories”.
After building his successful carrier in marketing, he decided to let his creativity write fantastic fiction books to actualize numerous ideas he had in his mind for years.
Anton is passionate about food (and some drinks of course!), photography, animals (especially wild cats), and rock music. He likes embedding his hobbies into the fantastic canvas of his writings and to share that passion with his readers.
Anton Eine officially can’t stand any limits and boundaries, so his books usually step out of the box of traditional genres, crossing the edges of conventional storytelling and blurring the borders of common thinking.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.
This non-fiction book (it might seem incredible and over a year ago we wouldn’t have imagined it could happen, but this is not a fictional dystopian story) is one of the most difficult books to review I’ve come across. The author explains how difficult it was for him to write. He is a writer of science-fiction and techno-fantasy, and he hadn’t planned to write a non-fiction book. In fact, he was supposed to be working on several of his fiction books, including one that he has been working on for many years when events took an unexpected turn. We have all lived through events that seem to have come right out of a horror book in recent times, but for the people of Ukraine, things got even weirder and more dangerous on the 24th of February 2022.
Anton Eine felt he had to write about what was happening, and make sure that people all over the world could get a first-hand account and hear the stories of the people who were living through the nightmare of the war. An author who speaks and writes in Russian, who lives in Kyiv, and who shares his experience of all the gamut of emotions throughout the first 100 days of the war. I’m writing this review when the war has passed the mark of 300 days, and what can one say? If we had a hard time believing it when it started, what can we say almost a year later?
This is a raw book, where the author bares his soul and shares his thoughts and feelings. It is painful, it is ugly at times (if you don’t like name-calling, dehumanising others no matter what they do [although he would counter that the ones doing the dehumanisation are the enemies], and people freely expressing their anger, do not attempt to read this book). The author explains that he decided to write the book as things were happening and capture the impressions and feelings, rather than letting them cool down and being rational about it because that is not what it was about. He didn’t attempt an analysis of the situation, and he does not talk about military campaigns. He feels that kind of books should be written by others. What he wants is to share the stories of many who might never be inclined to share them outside of their own circle of friends and relatives, and also his own.
This is not a straightforward collection of stories. This is the story of the writing of the book as well, of the circumstances of writing it; trying to be in touch with relatives and friends displaced by the war, fighting, volunteering, or missing; worrying for his wife and young son; trying to decide how to explain what is happening to a three-year-old; wondering if they should have left, as they did, or stayed in the city. Of jumping out of bed with the alarms; getting sidetracked by a song, an update, an intercepted message between a Russian soldier and his wife, a show of solidarity, the result of a poll revealing what Russians think about the war, a request for material from his brother, who has joined the Territorial Army, accounts of destruction, cruelty, and massacres…
Eine writes poems, refers to favourite songs, singers and groups, books, and stories. (I must confess I am not a big reader of fantasy or science-fiction and was only familiar with some of the musical references. I don’t think our tastes are too similar, but that is neither here nor there). The book follows a more or less chronological order, although sometimes the author might backtrack to talk about a memory or an episode that he couldn’t include as it happened. Eine mentions the Kübler-Ross model, the one we associate with the five stages of grief, and there are some similarities he acknowledges at times. He cannot believe what is happening at first, especially in XXI Century Europe (although, of course, not that much time has passed since WWII, which he often refers to, and many other wars had taken place since, some in Europe as well), and this quickly becomes anger, an anger that doesn’t go anywhere, although there is some modulation and questioning at times.
I think many of us have learned more about Ukraine since the war started than we ever knew before, but that still is pretty limited in most cases. We get the news here, sometimes live connections with people in situ, but many of the things mentioned in the book haven’t reached us here, at least in Spain where I am. What we hear is more than enough to horrify us, but the stories the author shares make it all more vivid and more difficult to look away from. They highlight the fear, the confusion, the not knowing what to do for the best. Whatever the protagonists of the different stories decided to do (stay, leave the country, join other members of the family, enlist, hide, volunteer to help…), they are always wondering if it was the right thing, if they should have done something else. The ones who were (or have been, so far) lucky, keep thinking about those who weren’t. There are many stories of women running away with their young children, sometimes ill and in dire need of help, having to face terrible ordeals, and luckily, in many cases, eventually finding help and kindness, in their own country or a neighbouring one. Those stories are a drop in the ocean if we think of the number of refugees from the war, and as Eine explains, many people don’t want to talk about it, at least at the moment, and are trying to forget and get on with their lives as much as they possibly can, but they do paint a horrific picture of what it must be like for many people in that situation.
After the stories, and when the book reaches day 100 of the war, the author renders an homage to just a few of the many heroes, men and women, young and old, who have put the lives of others before their own survival, and who have gone above and beyond what most people would expect, as the writer says, not out of patriotism, but out of love for humankind. As the author concludes, “We are all Ukraine”.
The proceeds of the book will go to help Ukrainians in need, and the author also has other suggestions, for those who want to do more, as to how to help.
This is not a book I would recommend freely to everybody, because people know what their limits are when it comes to reading, especially non-fiction, and I cannot even think of trying to list all the warnings (probably anything bad you can think about, you’ll find here). On the other hand, even if you don’t feel up to reading it at the moment, you might know of somebody who wants to read personal accounts or even people who would be happy to buy the book simply as a way to help the people of Ukraine. Do your best. Spread the word.
Thanks to the author for providing us with this account, especially in such difficult circumstances, and I hope he and his family remain safe and his country’s nightmare comes to an end very soon. Even after reading the book, it is still difficult to fully comprehend what it must be like.
Thanks to all of you for reading, and if there is anything you can do to share, please do.