Ukrainians Turn to Diaries for Solace, and to Share Life in Wartime

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In an entry on her podcast diary dated May 18, Oksana Koshel, 35, talks about going to see a house her family had recently bought in a small town called Hostomel. Russian forces occupied the region through February and March, and it was spring before she was finally able to go see it. All the windows and the glass doors were broken, she said; the gate was torn out and their minibus stolen.

Hostomel is a small town just north of Irpin, where a photograph captured a family of murdered evacuees. “It’s so excruciating to see because I know exactly where this crossroads is,” she said of where the family was killed. “It’s so surreal to imagine that just two months ago a whole family died here.”

Koshel’s diary entry is part of a British podcast series, “Ukraine War Diaries,” produced by Sky News Storycast. The series has had more than 1 million listens. She is one of three Ukrainians who have been recording personal audio diaries using WhatsApp since March. The others are her husband, Seva Koshel, a business executive and a military volunteer on the front lines; and Ilyas Verdiev, an I.T. specialist based in Kyiv.

They send the audio notes to the series producer, Robert Mulhern, in London, who edits them into shorter segments and publishes them weekly as a 15-minute podcast.

A project like this would not have been possible before the widespread use of smartphones, Mulhern said in an interview. “But today these guys are walking around Ukraine with mono-mics in their pockets — that is, their iPhones.”

When Seva Koshel was at the front lines in the Donbas region, Mulhern added, he could respond to what he was experiencing in diary form, “while his experience is kind of raw. Sometimes hours or minutes after something has happened, he can sit there, record it, and send it to me immediately.”

For Vitaly Sych, the chief editor of one of Ukraine’s largest news companies, NV Media House, which produces a news site, a weekly magazine, and talk radio, there was a liberating immediacy to posting a personal diary online when the war began.


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