Book Review – In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine By Tim Judah

It is 2017 and we go by conducting our lives with an ease that comes with routine. At the same time, in places far away from me, even as I type this, someone is dying. An unnecessary death; one that is a result of a war.

There are wars aplenty. In the name of god or king, or something else, there is war. And as a result, there are people dying.


In Wartime by Tim Judah is a book that shines light into Ukraine and the situation that existed post Crimea’s annexure by Russia. If you think that is all there is to the book, then you will be wrong. I thought In Wartime would be about statistics and derivatives – about the so many people who were killed because of this rebellion and the economic, social and political impact due to that, etc.

But it is not. In Wartime is insightful. Tim Judah is a reporter and political analyst for The Economist and In Wartime is a collection of experiences. I say experiences, as that was the word that came to my mind. Tim Judah travels through war-torn Ukraine. The east, the west and everywhere else. From Lviv to Chernobyl to Kiev to Bessarabia to Donetsk. He meets people, asks questions and enlightens the reader about the chaos and confusion that reigns during such a turbulent time.


All along his journey, he meets a variety of people. From the young to the old. Mothers who have lost their sons, to war veterans. From scholars to poets. There are people from every walk of life who tell Judah their story, the impact the war has had on them and about their Ukraine.

According to village lore, after the Jews had been shot the earth that covered the pit they were thrown into moved, because they were not all dead.

In Wartime is also a book that shows us Ukraine’s history. It is not just about 2014 but goes way back to the 1930’s. Holodomor, the gulags and secret police, the roundup of Jews, and the displacement of people during WWII era. Every detail that has shaped a country and its people to become what it is today is discussed in the book.

A rebel soldier guarding the ruins of the Savur-Mogila Memorial, September 6, 2014. The memorial, which commemorated the Soviet capture of a strategic hill near Snizhne in ­eastern Ukraine, was destroyed in fighting between Ukrainian and rebel forces in August 2014. According to Tim Judah, ‘journalists are told not to take pictures that show the faces of rebel fighters.’ Source:

In Wartime is a narrative. All through the book, we get the people’s perspective – of the war, of events in the history of the country, of people they knew. As one reads the book, we hear the unadulterated tales people like Anatoliy, Oleksandra, Mihailo, Olha, or Father Vasily have to say. They are not Tim Judah’s words, but their own. It does the author incredible credit that he has managed to convey their emotions and passion through words. The horrors they witnessed and the trials went through are their own and are written as such.

One villager stood up and said that he had a tractor that got stuck in the mud and it had been impossible to get it out, so he tied a goat to it and the goat pulled it out. Then the communist officials began to shout that he was lying and he said: ‘You have been lying for two hours’.

Tim Judah’s In Wartime is an enlightening read. It has been written very well – details aplenty and a lot of research and thought has gone into the book. The book is also interspersed with photographs. More importantly, In Wartime is a book about a country and its people who have survived wars and atrocities and yet, share the hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


In Wartime: Stories from UkraineIn Wartime: Stories from Ukraine by Tim Judah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
View all my reviews

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