A generational shift’: war prompts Ukrainians to embrace their language

Kremlin has banned Ukrainian from occupied territory schools but elsewhere language is on the rise

tuck at his home in Kyiv, Mykhailo Revenko listened to the sound of loud explosions. It was March 2022. Russian troops were on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, their tanks on the move. The fate of his country hung in the balance.

“There was a curfew. My job had stopped. I suddenly had a lot of time. I didn’t want to watch movies so I pulled a book from the shelf,” Revenko said. A native Russian speaker, he decided to improve his Ukrainian. “I went to a Ukrainian school and knew the language. But I needed to work on my vocabulary,” he recalled.

Revenko started with The Hunters and the Hunted, a 1944 novel by the dissident and anti-Soviet Ukrainian writer Ivan Bahrianyi. He then read Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front in a Ukrainian edition, as well as a translated work by the Swedish author Fredrik Backman.

Next he devoured Footprints on the Road by Valerii Markus, a Ukrainian soldier and popular blogger. Markus’s bestselling novel draws on his experiences fighting in the Donbas region in 2014, after Vladimir Putin kickstarted a war in the east, and sent special forces to take over Crimea.

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Russia, Ukraine, War