Ukrainian American Poet Ilya Kaminsky on His Viral Poem and Watching a War From Afar

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The author of the viral poem 'We Lived Happily Through the War' on the Ukrainian sense of humor and resistance.

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As for the poem—”We Lived Happily During the War” is not a piece of journalism or philosophy, where one might go into facts or questions of ethics. In a poem, one hopes to create an experience in the reader: in this case, the hope of the poem is to help the reader see their own complicity.The poem doesn’t want to be a pronouncement. The poem is a warning. This is what happens when half-measures take place. “We lived happily during the war,” the poem begins, and it ends with the same words.

One hopes the reader sees the critique of this “we” and what it has done. By the time you get to the repetition of “our country of money” and then to “our great country of money”—one questions the word “great.” That is what art hopes to do: It doesn’t shout at the reader “You must change!” Instead, the reader is changed via the act of reading.imagines a town’s sharp resistance to an occupying force. We’re now seeing citizens of Ukraine engaging in active resistance to the Russian invasion.

But alas Ukraine is not a perfect country. There is corruption and a lot of crime, especially among political figures. There are oligarchs. Although the Ukrainian president is Jewish, there is still antisemitism in daily life (which is why my family left). But what gives me hope is the new generation of Ukrainians, people who grew up after the fall of USSR. They are free—probably more free than Americans or Europeans.

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You know WAR is not funny. But everyone are allowed their opinion and way of coping with WAR. Me myself I have been living in WAR since 2007 with no end. Try being VICTIMIZED, THREATENED, AND STALKED 24 a day for over 15 and ongoing after going to court.

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