You Don’t Know What War Is by Yeva Skalietska

Today we have something a little different – a kind of double feature as it were, as Mandie reviews not only the book You Don’t Know What War Is by Yeva Skalietska, but also the audio book, narrated by Keira Knightley. If you’d like to take a listen to the audio, there’s a handy Soundcloud sample a little further on. Our thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things tours for the tour invite and to publisher Bloomsbury for the copies for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 25 October 2022
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

About the Book

Published in association with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, with a foreword by Michael Morpurgo.
Everyone knows the word ‘war’. But very few understand what it truly means. When you find you have to face it, you feel totally lost, walled in by fright and despair. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know what war is.

‘Everyone, absolutely everyone, should read it. You will love Yeva.’ Christy Lefteri, No.1 international bestselling author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo

This is the gripping and moving diary of young Ukrainian refugee Yeva Skalietska. It follows twelve days in Ukraine that changed 12-year-old Yeva’s life forever. She was woken in the early hours to the terrifying sounds of shelling. Russia had invaded Ukraine, and her beloved Kharkiv home was no longer the safe haven it should have been. It was while she was forced to seek shelter in a damp, cramped basement that Yeva decided to write down her story. And it is a story the world needs to hear.

Yeva captured the nation’s heart when she was featured on Channel 4 News with her granny as they fled Ukraine for Dublin. In You Don’t Know What War Is, Yeva records what is happening hour-by-hour as she seeks safety and travels from Kharkiv to Dublin. Each eye-opening diary entry is supplemented by personal photographs, excerpts of messages between Yeva and her friends and daily headlines from around the world, while three beautifully detailed maps (by Kharkiv-native Olga Shtonda) help the reader track Yeva and her granny’s journey. You Don’t Know What War Is is a powerful insight into what conflict is like through the eyes of a child and an essential read for adults and older children alike.

Listen to a sample of the audiobook right here – narrated by Keira Knightley

Mandie’s Thoughts

You Don’t Know What War Is by Yeva Skalietska gives the reader the perspective of war through the eyes of a 12-year-old as she experiences the start of the war in Ukraine, how her life changed and the hardships she faced with her grandmother as they made their way to safety, eventually ending up in Ireland. 

The title of this book has never been more truthful. We all see the pictures of the bombed-out buildings and see the reports on the news and in the papers of where the latest fights have taken place, but what we can never know or understand is what it is like to live through it not really unless we experience it for ourselves. I don’t normally read children’sbooks as my own son is now in his twenties and I am of an age where they no longer hold the same sense of wonder that they used to but book is different, its not a work of fiction, it’s a book that parents can read with their children, to help them understand what they see and hear but told in a way that is not sensationalised or scary, written by someone of their generation who likes what they like and just wants to be able to feel safe and be a child. 

Despite everything Yeva still has hope; hope that she will stay safe with her grandmother, and hope that she will see her friends again and they will be able to play together like they used to and, most of all, hope that one day she will be able to go back to Ukraine to live her life in her home country. The book is peppered with group chats with her friends and pictures of her life which add to her words and her story.With the foreword written by author Michael Morpurgo, this is a book that I think should be read to give people perspective on the true costs of war for those who just try to survive it. Whist some may think the writing is simplistic, for me I wouldn’t want it changed in any way. This is Yeva’s story and it should be read in her words. It’s what makes it a compelling read

I have also been lucky enough to listen to the audio version of this book with the foreword read by Michael Morpurgo himself, and Yeva’s story read by Keira Knightly. They treat it with the respect and compassion needed to give the story life. Listening to it some time after I had read the book added a new dimension to it as I find that it suits the diary style of the book.

About the Author

Yeva is a 12-year-old Ukrainian girl who grew up living with her granny in Kharkiv, near the Russian border. She loves learning languages, bowling, playing the piano and painting. Yeva wrote a diary of her experiences of fleeing war in Ukraine. She now lives in Dublin, Ireland where she has made new friends and had a go at Irish dancing, but is always missing home.

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5 thoughts on “You Don’t Know What War Is by Yeva Skalietska

  1. Your review made this a must buy – both versions, I had to give up reading print/Kindle a few years ago due to a terminal illness. So Audible is a life-line.

    But I must have a print copy as well, since I have been following events there daily since February 24th. My concern for Ukraine emerged when I researched a fiction short featuring a 12-year-old Ukrainian girl in World War 2. I have written shorts about her descendents set against the current disaster. Fiction yes, but I try to echo real accounts.

    Yeva’s diary is a must read therefore. Slava Ukrayini.

    Liked by 1 person

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