Solomiya contemplates the end

by Steve Watson in June 2024
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Current affairs

I’m a massive fan of Solomiya, which feels weird. When Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders at the start of 2022 I didn’t believe there would be a full-scale invasion. When they invaded I didn’t believe the fighting would last more than a few days. And writing now, in the third year of the conflict, I can’t believe it’s still rumbling on, with the US elections looming and a whole new nightmare unfolding in Gaza.

The first issue of Solomiya felt somehow exciting – it was defiant and presented a totally different picture of war as seen by young people in Kyiv. The second issue felt more weary; after a year of war some of the energy had gone from it, replaced by a new understanding of the darkness that had been thrust on Ukrainian people. And this third issue feels like a continuation of that process, unfolding against the backdrop of global events that could play a decisive role in the outcome of the war.

I think that’s why this issue contemplates its own end for the first time. As I say in the video above, it’s totally normal for independent magazines to come to an end, and the team seems to be at peace with that. But the thing that remains inconceivable is the idea that the magazine would have to stop because Ukraine loses the war. Seen in that context, there’s a desperation to the rest of the issue, which is clearly evident in features like Margarita Polovinko’s viscerally affecting paintings made using her own blood. But it’s there too in editor Andrii Ushytskyi’s absorbing interview with war photographer Maxim Dondyuk, which attempts to see beyond propaganda and reflect what’s happening at the frontlines.

I love this magazine and I think it will remain a vitally important artefact of the war for years to come. But reflecting on its overall role, I’m left with the same glib thought as always, which is I hope that Russia can be defeated and Ukraine can start the process of rebuilding – that’s the issue of Solomiya that I really want to see.

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