Apricots of Donbas: Mellowness and Extremes

An Interview by Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed with Lyuba Yakimchuk, Svetlana Lavochkina, and Grace Mahoney

Ripe apricots. Ukraine.

The 2022 Grammy Awards ceremony featured a performance by Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk that showed support for and solidarity with Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s full-scale war against the country launched on February 24, 2022. Before Yakimchuk read her poem “Prayer,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the audience in a pre-recorded video. In his speech, Zelensky emphasized that music is the opposite of war, reminding the world about the horrible atrocities inflicted by Russia. “Fill the silence with your music,” he said. “Fill it today to tell our story.”

Yakimchuk’s reading was accompanied by musicians Siuzanna Iglidan, Mika Newton, and John Legend. The performance featured a bandura, a Ukrainian national instrument that symbolizes both the country itself and the Ukrainian people’s centuries-long resilience in the face of oppression. The poem Yakimchuk read was “Prayer,” from the collection Apricots of Donbas, the Ukrainian original of which was published in 2015. She worked on the collection for several years, responding to Russia’s initial assault against Ukraine in 2014. Some poems were written prior to 2014, and some after. Apricots of Donbas brought Yakimchuk immediate recognitions as a poet who, in a highly sensitive manner, reflects on how war affects the individual.

In addition to its commentaries on the war, Apricots of Donbas offers ways to understand the Donbas itself, as a place of extremes, a land characterized, on the one hand, by the delicate fragrance of the apricot tree and the mellowness of its fruit, and on the other, a place of harshness and excess. Yakimchuk writes of her diverse Donbas, attractive and shocking at one and the same time, a land of freedom and liberty. Combining and embracing these extremes helps to understand the Donbas, where the border with Russia is visible because of a change in the landscape: the wild apricots disappear where Russia begins.

Apricots of Donbas was translated into English by Oksana Maksymchuk, Max Rosochinsky, and Svetlana Lavochkina and published by Lost Horse Press in 2022, just a few months before Russia’s invasion.

Born in Pervomaisk, Luhansk Oblast, Lyuba Yakimchuk received her degrees from the University of Luhansk and the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. She had been living in Kyiv for several years when Russia launched its brutal assault. Yakimchuk was then forced to move temporarily to Vienna, Austria.

Svetlana Lavochkina is a poet, novelist, and translator. Born in Ukraine, she moved to Germany more than two decades ago. As she explains, her personality pie still has the Ukraine filling. Lavochkina translated about a third of the poems included in Apricots of Donbas.

Grace Mahoney is the series editor of the Lost Horse Press Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry Series. She is a scholar and translator of Ukrainian and Russian literature and is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan. In 2014-2015, she participated in the U.S. Fulbright program in Ukraine as a Student Researcher. Her book of translations of Iryna Starovoyt’s poetry, A Field of Foundlings, was published by Lost Horse Press in 2017. Her translations have also been featured in harlequin creatureUkrainian Literature: A Journal of TranslationsAlchemy, and Ploughshares, Apofenie.


I was privileged to be able to sit down with Lyuba Yakimchuk, Svetlana Lavochkina, and Grace Mahoney in April of 2022 for an extended conversation. My thanks to Ani Abrahamyan for providing a transcript of our discussion. Lost Horse Press grants permission to M-Dash to reprint two lines from “Knife” and four lines from “I have a crisis for you.

Nataliya Shpyolova-Saeed

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: What did the reading of the poem “Prayer” at the Grammy Awards mean to you?

Grace Mahoney: We had information that this was going to happen ahead of time and we were doing our best to support Lyuba’s getting on stage. It was kind of unbelievable to think it was happening. I feel like these eight years I’ve been a graduate student studying Ukraine, studying Ukrainian literature as a manager of this poetry series, feeling like nobody came to our readings or our events, nobody bought our books. I feel like my Ukrainian scholarship is inside a very Russo-centric field and only appreciated by our wonderful community of Ukrainian scholars. I could not believe it: seeing President Zelensky give his address, and seeing a bandura on the stage and hearing Ukrainian music sung, and then seeing our poet, of course I was sobbing. It was a very emotional day because that was the day that we also received these horrific reports and images from Bucha and Irpin’, so it was very emotional. I hope it is far reaching. But it was completely a cognitive dissonance. I’m very happy for Lyuba.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: Lyuba, what did you want to communicate to the world—the international community—by your performance and by the poem you chose? How did you choose the poem for the ceremony?

Lyuba Yakimchuk: It was a collective choice. We offered five poems to the Grammy producers, and it was one of them that worked better in a good way. We also provided a link to the official Ukrainian website for raising money for the Ukrainian army and Ukrainian refugees. It was part of our work. In my opinion it makes sense to take part in such events if you can help your people. It’s a practical part of our work. Another part was to tell the world about the war and the situation in the country, about the need to protect Ukraine, and a call to action.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: You wrote Apricots of Donbas some time ago, but we read the poems today and they resonate with the current moment.

Lyuba Yakimchuk: Yes, I started to write these poems about war before the war, before 2014. I wrote two cycles—Yum and War and Apricots of Donbas. Yum and War is about a little boy who plays with a toy and that’s why the war starts. I continued to work on Yum and War during my residence in Warsaw, where I studied how the Second World War began. The long poem “Apricots of Donbas”was written in Kyiv. At that time we had access to very few books about Eastern Ukraine, and I wanted to show that the Donbas is not only an industrial place, but a place with nature, with people, as well as the beauty of the industrial landscape, like coal mines, factories…

Then the war began. I witnessed only ten days or so of it in 2014 in Luhansk. At that time my friends were held hostage. I saw people with weapons in my city. Then I returned from Luhansk to Kyiv, where I lived permanently and began writing a cycle about the destruction of cities, people, and even language. These poems were a little different. It is a cycle titled Such People are Called Naked. It’s about people’s insecurity amid the ongoing war circumstances. My characters in this cycle are confused sometimes but strong. I worked for many years on this book.

Grace Mahoney: And the fact that this book came out in the fall and what happened just a few months later, that they resonate so well is so strange. When I first encountered Lyuba’s poems, they were almost like an artifact smuggled from this place that I never would have access to. I first came to Ukraine in 2014, so after the outbreak of the war, and as a Fulbright Scholar, of course, the Eastern part of Ukraine was closed off to me. I was consuming information from media, from scholarship, but really it was probably the first artistic collection and collection of poetry that I encountered. Now we have more and more literature—a really critical cannon—coming out, of accumulating artistic reflections on what’s happened in Eastern Ukraine and what continues to happen. But Lyuba’s book was one of the first, and those poetic meditations, especially in terms of language in war—we lose our language, the meanings and word associations fall apart—really actually linking the experience of war with how we process it as poets, as writers, and the poverty of language in a lot of cases, to address these issues, are so apt. Also, her perspective as a woman is really valuable. As you know, from the war side of things, so often we receive the male perspective, not exclusively—especially in the case of this war—but, her work is unique, and in the end completely resonant.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: Grace, you mentioned that this book has been on your radar for some time. What is the story behind the translation of Apricots of Donbas?

Grace Mahoney: I believe I was first put in touch with the translators—Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky—by Ilya Kaminsky. I had Lyuba’s book from Ukraine and a lot of times posted her poems on the Internet, on social media. Maybe I even saw her at a reading, I don’t know. I had not met her personally. Ilya put me in touch with Oksana and Max as translators, and also around this time Oksana and Max were coming out with their anthology Words for War. Lyuba was featured in that anthology, and also in The White Chalk of Days, which came out at around the same time. I was excited to know that she had translators and got in touch with them. They looped in Svitlana Lavochkina, who they knew was also translating her work. And that’s how it often happens in the series: the first point of contact is with the translators. Obviously, the books can’t happen without the translators.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: How did the Lost Horse Press series start featuring Ukrainian literature?

Grace Mahoney: It started not by accident, but by serendipity. I had a manuscript of my translations of Iryna Starovoyt’s poetry, which I was proposing to various publishers. Along the way, Polish-American poet Piotr Florczyk put me in touch with Christine Holbert at Lost Horse Press, knowing that Christine has Ukrainian heritage and might be interested in this manuscript. Christine grew up in the Ukrainian diaspora here in the U.S. and has speaking skills, but had not been to Ukraine and did not read Ukrainian. Since I have lived in Ukraine and worked with Iryna Starovoyt during my Fulbright year, I put myself in the circles of the contemporary poetry scene there, I had a lot of contacts, a lot of ideas, and a good sense of the poetic landscape there. We got working on it—my book was the first one in the series. Once we got rolling, the second book in our series was Yuri Andrukhovych’s poetry translated by Vitaly Chernetsky and Ostap Kin. Since then, we’ve been able to publish about two books a year and part of my editorial vision is to not only feature some of these big names that we know, like [Yurii] Andrukhovych and [Serhiy] Zhadan, but also to really tap into the contemporary poetry scene that is constructed or made up of younger, emerging poets from different parts of the country, different generations and poetic schools.

Featuring Iryna Shuvalova, Mykola Vorobyov, speaks to the range of poets operating in Ukraine and beyond today. Definitely, I had, as a woman, really strong feelings about making sure representation in the series was balanced. Traditionally, women writers are underrepresented, statistically speaking, so I really made sure that that wasn’t happening. Lyuba Yakimchuk and her book Apricots of Donbas was definitely on my radar from the very beginning, knowing what a prominent voice she has been since 2014. It speaks directly to this war that has been going on now for eight years in very powerful terms. We are thrilled that we were able to feature her book in the series.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: What was the most challenging part when translating Apricots of Donbas?

Svetlana Lavochkina: Well, I think that Lyuba’s poetry is so internationally understandable that I can’t say I had really hard, bone-breaking difficulties. I remember the poem “Nizh”/”Knife.” There was a little story about it. Lyuba writes about a person who kills:

Mat za matom / Avtomat za avtomatom

It was a challenge, a pleasant challenge. If anything is difficult in a translation, it’s fun. There’s nothing untranslatable—I swear by that, and I believe in that firmly. To translate that literally would mean to ruin the effect that Lyuba created. And then it’s always best to talk to the author and ask the author what she meant to say. Lyuba told me, “You know, it’s like you’re killing, and you have to numb your psyche to be able to do that at all. And sometimes muttering some nonsense helps.” I don’t know, Lyuba, if you asked people doing that when they kill or if it was your own perception. So it could be some stupid chant you repeat while you’re shooting. And probably some children’s rhyme which is stupid and nonsensical, like Mother Goose rhymes, rang a bell inside me, and I looked up Mother Goose rhymes to see if there was something to be recited while shooting. I found this:

Chip-chop, chip-chop, the last one’s dead.

I do not remember the exact Mother Goose rhyme that went like this. This was what Lyuba was happy with, and what Oksana and Max were happy with, because we cross-edited each other. And that worked. Sometimes in order to be faithful to the deep sense of a poem you have to phrase the lines differently. Lyuba is very open to that.

Lyuba Yakimchuk: I like that.

Svetlana Lavochkina: She never bickered about that, and we’re grateful to her for permitting us some freedom for the benefit of her wonderful poetry.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: So, Lyuba, you do not interfere too much in the translation process?

Lyba Yakimchuk: Not at all.

Svetlana Lavochkina: Lyuba is very wise. And this accounts for success, as well.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: Can we talk a little bit about the image of apricots in the Donbas? When I first read this title, of course it triggered an image of agriculture. But then I thought about the color and the image of miners came up. So it’s a very poignant image and multilayered. To me it’s poetic and sensitive, both kind and generous. I’m wondering what you wanted to encapsulate in this image, what you would like your readers to think about when they read even just the title of your collection, Apricots of Donbas.

Lyuba Yakimchuk: I have a story about apricots, maybe not just one but a few. When I was a teenager, one of my distant relatives said that after crossing the border to Russia the apricot trees are nowhere to be seen, while in the towns and cities of the Donbas they grow everywhere. Now this territory is occupied and there is no state border there, but the border still exists, and it is formed by apricot trees. When I was a child, these apricots were still a way to earn money for us. As you know, after the collapse of the USSR, there was a huge economic crisis and the people had nothing to live off. And then there were these wild apricots that we used to sell to conductors on trains that went from Kyiv to Moscow. I could say that apricots used to be our daily bread. We made plenty of things with them:  jam, marshmallows, even vodka. This was a very essential tree that was very helpful to us at that time.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: Svetlana, what is Apricots of Donbas for you in terms of the imagery?

Svetlana Lavochkina: Well, I was privileged to translate about a third of the collection, and it is the long poem itself “Apricots of Donbas” that I redressed into English. Lyuba visited Leipzig last year, and on my balcony my husband took a photo of us wearing bicycle helmets. There happened to be some apricots at our place, and we posed with them. This picture was probably very symbolic. Also, I remember apricots in the Donbas, of course. The fragrance, the beautiful, tender fragrance that can’t be confused with anything else. I must confess that here, in Western Europe, apricots are nothing like the ones in the Donbas. It is this sweetness, this mellow essence, the mellow soul of the Donbas that is personified by apricots to me. Of course, the orange color—the color of the sun, the color of the hot furnace of Donbas summers.

Lyuba Yakimchuk: I just remembered we had a special word for green apricots—bebriky. Svitlana, do you know this word?

Svetlana Lavochkina: Bebriky? I’ve never heard of that.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: I’ve never heard of this word either!

Lyuba Yakimchuk: Yeah! Green apricots—bebriky. Children always wanted to eat green apricots and it was forbidden.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: I might be wrong but I feel like there are at least two parts, two aspects of the Donbas. One that is described in this very mellow way, this very moving and touching way, and another part, which is probably more conflicted; which stirs some different emotions when compared to the imagery of trees, fragrance, and fruit. I think we’re still working on how to talk about the Donbas, how Ukrainians outside the Donbas can understand what’s going on there, and how things with the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic could even become possible.

Svetlana Lavochkin: I wasn’t born in the Donbas. I spent some years there; it’s a place of extremes. It’s as mellow as apricots, and it is fragrant and beautiful as roses, but there has always been a certain harshness about the way people thought and behaved there. If you compare my native Zaporizhzhia, for example, the ways of behavior, of making jokes, with the Donbas ways of communication, you’ll see that in the Donbas everything is more expressive; everything is expressed in more extreme ways. And the metaphors, the cursing, the taboo words are driven to extremes. It always fascinated me, at times it shocked me, and definitely it inspired me. In my own work, the Donbas plays a very big role as well, and the prototypes who gave me their stories are also very, very extreme. A friend who inspired me to write about the Donbas—in the book Carbon, also published by Lost Horse Press—came with his girlfriend to Leipzig to visit my family. My family was if not appalled then at least really impressed by the intensity and the extremes those people demonstrated. It was not our Zaporizhzhian patterns of behavior. Definitely, limitlessness might have been one of the reasons of this destiny that the Donbas has to endure. I do not know if Lyuba agrees with that, but it’s my perception.

I would say that the Donbas is the motherland of my adult mind, because I spent my formative years there. The Donbas for me is a place of extremes and a sunken Atlantis of Eastern Europe. It was an Atlantis, and unfortunately I didn’t witness the period of its blossoming in the 2000s, I was away already. Only my friends told me how beautiful it was there. Of course, the place was contrast-filled: love and hatred, stretched to extremes. The city of roses—Donetsk—is still in my memories of youth.

Lyuba Yakimchuk: I could add that the Donbas is a very free place. The Donbas has freedom. For me it’s a very essential thing. When I came to Lviv for the first time, it was hard for me to adjust.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: I wonder if you have any kind of connection with anyone in the Donbas at this point, or if all ties are just cut?

Svetlana Lavochkina: Well, I have a tremendous connection to the Donbas, especially Donetsk, because a refugee from Donetsk is currently living with us—the daughter of the friend who inspired me to write Carbon. When the war started, he called me and asked, “Will you take care of my daughter?” I said I would, and so she came here. She keeps telling me stories about her childhood and about her perceptions, and I’m learning anew. This young woman, she is twenty-nine, is a different generation. Yesterday I said I never wanted to have a pet again because they get old and die, and you then have to bury them and cry. She said, “I used to have hamsters. And then those hamsters died. You can imagine there’s shelling everywhere, it was probably 2015. The city’s being bombed, and I wasn’t afraid. I left my house and started to dig a little grave for my hamsters. I didn’t care about the shelling,” she said. And it nearly broke my heart because what has been happening in the Donbas has never been noticed here in the West. The West did not notice what these people were going through. So my Olha, the refugee girl living with me, treats all this news without any shock because she is so used to it. When she heard about the massacre in Bucha, she said, “This is nothing new to me. That kept happening [in the Donbas]. Nobody cared.” And now, of course, it’s all over the news. So you see, they are really courageous. This is my Donbas connection right now, apart from all the friends who stayed there and still valiantly oppose the regime.

Lyuba Yakimchuk: I’m in contact with my classmate in Severodonetsk with her daughter. There is a massacre there right now. I’m trying to make her flee from this place, but nothing works, and it’s tough. I don’t know what to do. People are shocked and can’t think in rational ways, and I can’t do anything. 

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: I would like to talk a little about one of the poems, “I have a crisis for you.” When the full-scale war started, I was so outraged by how people kept calling Russia’s assault on Ukraine a “crisis,” and I thought this poem about crisis was a wonderful way to somehow illustrate that what we’re dealing with today is not a crisis but war, and to illustrate the absurdity of even using this word “crisis” to describe the atrocities that Russia is inflicting on Ukraine. I was amazed and taken aback by how accurate a poem written back in 2014 or 2015 was for the description of the present moment.

Lyuba Yakimchuk: In my mind, many countries and organizations just do business with Russia and are afraid of losing money. They use euphemisms to hide their attitudes toward the situation and not lose business. But euphemisms hide the real situation. This war is not a crisis at all. This war, this massive Russian aggression, is a war against civilians, children, and even animals in Ukraine. And these photos of killed children with their hands tied in Bucha, and raped children—this is not a crisis. This is not even a war anymore, it’s genocide against Ukrainians. Even this word, “war,” does not express enough at this time. When people continue to call it a crisis, it is unacceptable. I just tried to show how it works in reality: just putting this word in different situations in our life, our history, lays bare what’s happening.

Svetlana Lavochkina: I know this poem very well because I translated it:

Second World Crisis,
First World Civil Crisis,
Cold Crisis, Uprising Crisis,
Uprising Crisis of 1648 to 1657.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: I believe you would agree with me that the international community is still learning what Ukraine is, and to some extent Ukraine remains unknown to many readers. Thanks to translations, to translators, we have more people who can somehow appreciate Ukraine and Ukrainian literature and poetry on a larger scale. I do believe that works like yours help the Anglophone world learn about the differences between Ukraine and Russia, and also this work encourages people to look deeper into the culture and history of Ukraine in the first place. What does Russia’s war against Ukraine say about Ukraine and about Russia?

Svetlana Lavochkina: What people know about Ukraine depends on geography. If we speak about Europe, people will be more competent. Yet the international community has seen and experienced firsthand this incredible courage, incredible valiance, and intrepid belief in freedom. This is something that deserves the utmost admiration, and now the world is giving this admiration to Ukraine. What is the world learning about Russia? What am I learning about Russia? Perverse as it may seem, the last remnants, the last vestige of any belief I might have had that this nation is to be salvaged, is gone. Conscience is not dead in Russia, but the overwhelming majority are zombified, they are zombies without any scruples, and they have been reduced to less than animals when we see the looting, the rapes, the massacres. I can’t put it into any frame. In Ukrainian we say “Я не знаю, на що це надягнути” (I don’t know what to put this on). And I think it’s not just me who thinks this way. I’m just numb. This connects to one of the previous questions: If I, having been abroad for such a long time, am shocked, if I can no longer laugh, what do the people who still have to stay feel? People who are afraid for their children in the face of shelling, of killings, of bombings? I can’t even fathom what they have to endure and how courageous they are. It is, unfortunately, oppositions that the world is learning. Ukraine stands for humanism, for freedom, and an unbroken will to win. They are not fighting as mercenaries. They are fighting for the right to live as a nation. And this is bound to succeed. They are destined to win. Russians, because of their moral fall, will lose. It is a law of nature, a law of history. Look at Hitler. Look at Stalin. And this is the end that Russia will experience. My mother, who is seventy-four years old, says “I have a goal in life. I would like to live till the Hague.” Something like this. It is a difficult question, I must say.

Lyuba Yakimchuk: I’d like to mention freedom. During the Grammy’s rehearsal, people just stood in a circle and prayed. It was like a performance. The musicians said that the Ukrainians are fighting for our and their freedom. It was so unexpected. It was very touching They take our fight as a fight for their freedom as well. because they feel our fight like it is a fight for their freedom as well, not just for our freedom.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: Sometimes we approach books as things that can somehow answer our questions. They can also pose additional questions or respond to or explain some emotions to us. What sorts of questions do you think Apricots of Donbas answers?

Grace Mahoney: That’s a really good question. I think when you go into Apricots of Donbas,you’re expecting a book that is very much dealing with war, and it does do that. But I think what has always surprised me when I’m reading Lyuba’s poetry are these very personal and intimate details. I think she poses questions to her reader, maybe not outright, but she will give a juxtaposition or put in something unexpected that asks you to reconsider your expectations of how you’re coming to this book and how you’re coming to the understanding of this war. And these really intimate moments that she includes show her humanity and who she is as a person. I think this book closes any kind of distance we have between a poet on a pedestal writing about the war with her very real experiences of being there and being from this place, and what it means to have to leave that place with just one’s memories.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed: There have been changes since 2014 in the ways that Ukrainian literature is read, but still it doesn’t seem that Ukrainian literature received much attention or even recognition in the Anglophone world right after 2014.

Grace Mahoney: I don’t have Ukrainian heritage and I came to the field of Slavic studies wanting to study Ukrainian literature. I started learning Ukrainian in 2014, but before that I relied on translations, and they were so scarce. It was very hard to find Ukrainian literature in translation, especially anything from the contemporary context. It did start trickling in, since 2014, and certain publishing houses in the Anglophone world are prominent in that—like Glagoslav, Academic Studies Press, the Yale series, and now Harvard has a series that they’ve managed to launch, and I would also include our Ukrainian poetry series as well. I think that the community of translators was getting bolstered and also the TAULT (the Tompkins Agency for Ukrainian Literature in Translation). Additionally, translation grants making it onto the scene, especially sponsored by the Ukrainian government through the Ukrainian Book Institute and then others that focus on making sure Ukrainian literature is being put into translation. But compared to the existing apparatuses for German or Russian literature in translation, there are far fewer recourses and a much weaker infrastructure.

Now it will be very interesting to see what happens, because I think there is this huge boom of people wanting to get into Ukrainian literature and translation, people listening to it—the amount of readings that we are seeing over Zoom that are being mobilized is incredible. Hopefully there are structures in place to make sure that publishing rights are honored, so that Ukrainian publishing houses and authors aren’t pirated, and their manuscripts aren’t abused. I think there’s been enough work done in recent years to help have supports for that and hopefully the publishers who have been publishing Ukrainian literature in translation will get the financial support they need to continue publishing and that the field broadens, hopefully with true sincerity.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed received her PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Indiana University in 2022. She also holds a PhD in American literature from Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (2007). Her research interests include contested memory, with a focus on Ukraine and Russia. She is a review editor of H-Ukraine. Since 2016, she has been a host on the New Books Network (Ukrainian Studies, East European Studies, and Literary Studies channels). She is currently Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Russian and the Eurasian Studies Program at Colgate University (Hamilton, NY).

Translators of Apricots of Donbas (Oksana Maksymchuk, Max Rosochinsky, Svetlana Lavochkina)

Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky are poets, scholars, and translators. Their translations were featured in such venues as Modern Poetry in Translation, Words Without BordersPoetry International, and Best European Fiction series from Dalkey Archive Press. Winners of the first place in the 2014 Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender translation competition, they co-edited Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine, and co-translated Apricots of Donbas, a collection of selected poems by Lyuba Yakimchuk, and The Voices of Babyn Yar, a book of poems by Marianna Kiyanovska. Their work has been supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Ukrainian Book Institute, Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Peterson Literary Fund, Fulbright Scholar Program, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Endowment for the Arts.

Svetlana Lavochkina is a poet, novelist, and translator. Born in Ukraine, she moved to Germany more than two decades ago. As she explains, her personality pie still has the Ukraine filling. Lavochkina translated about a third of the poems included in Apricots of Donbas.