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

In an entry in her podcast diary May 18, Oksana Koshel, 35, talks about going to see a house her family recently bought in a small town called Hostomel. Russian forces occupied the area throughout February and March, and it was spring before she could finally go see it. All the windows and glass doors, she said, were broken; The gate is ripped open and their minibus is stolen.

Hostomel is a small town located just north of Irpin, where a family photo of murdered evacuees. “It was horrible to watch because I knew exactly where this intersection was,” she said of the place where the family was killed. “It’s bizarre to imagine that just two months ago, an entire family died here.”

Koshel’s diary entry is part of the British podcast series, “Ukrainian War Diary,Produced by Sky News Storycast. The series has more than 1 million views. She is one of three Ukrainians who have been recording personal audio logs using WhatsApp since March. The others are her husband, Seva Koshel, a business executive and an army volunteer on the front lines; and Ilyas Verdiev, an IT specialist based in Kyiv.

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

Mulhern said in an interview, a project like this wouldn’t be possible before smartphones were widely used. “But today these people are walking around Ukraine with a single mic in their pocket – their iPhone.”

When Seva Koshel was on the front lines in the Donbas region, Mulhern added, he was able to respond to what he was going through in the form of a diary, “while his experience was rudimentary. Sometimes hours or minutes after something happens, he can sit there, record it and send it to me right away.”

For Vitaly Sych, editor-in-chief of one of Ukraine’s largest news companies, NV Media House, which produces news sites, weekly magazines and talk radios, posting a personal diary online when the war started is understandable.


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