The Death of a Soldier Told by His Sister by Olesya Khromeychuk - review by Helen Parr

Helen Parr

Journey’s End

The Death of a Soldier Told by His Sister


Monoray 207pp £12.99

Sometime after her brother’s death on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine in 2017, Olesya Khromeychuk wrote a play about it. Kneeling on the stage in the darkened theatre, she presented to the audience a short video her brother had made on his mobile phone while he was at the front. A blood-red sun appeared through piles of earth and her brother’s voice narrated: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please? I present you with the sunrise through a hole in a dugout wall.’

It struck me, reading this tender and courageous book, that the sunrise through a hole in a dugout wall could be an allegory for the experience of living with the death of a soldier. The reality is awful but there are glimpses of beauty. The world cares and does not care. The pain is immense but hard to confront. Grief reveals itself partially, gradually, shatteringly, and other people see only the surface. Life carries on. Even the deaths of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of soldiers do not prevent new wars.

Khromeychuk writes without sentimentality or self-pity. She was on the London Underground when she received a Facebook message from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She knew something terrible had happened and rushed off the train to call her mother. Her mother reported calmly, ‘Our Volodya was killed

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

Follow Literary Review on Twitter