You Don’t Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl from Ukraine

Union Square. Oct. 2022. 128p. ISBN 9781454949695. $19.99. MEMOIR
In this current-event memoir, 12-year-old Skalietska shares her experience of being caught in Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. It draws from the diary she kept as she and her grandmother Iryna fled their hometown of Kharkiv, a large city in eastern Ukraine, after Russia’s initial attacks on the city. Arrangements are made for transport to Dnipro and then across Ukraine by train to Uzhhorod. That’s where the UK’S Channel 4 reporter encounters Skalietska and begins sharing her story. The TV station even helps Skalietska and Iryna cross the Hungarian border into Budapest before they ultimately settle in Ireland. The book concludes with vignettes from some of the author’s Ukrainian friends about their own experiences of the war, scattered with photographs. Skalietska’s writing is quick-paced and to-the-point, frankly describing her experiences during a horrific time of shelling, seeking shelter, and frantic arrangements to keep moving to somewhere safe.
VERDICT A firsthand account of life in a war zone, fleeing one’s home, and the way war forever alters the lives of children and families. Skalietska’s book is empathetic and sympathetic reading for adults and has strong crossover appeal for YA readers.
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