Finalist for the 2022 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize Honoring Jake Adam York
Watching Masha i Medved as Russia Invades Ukraine
By Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach
VOLUME 55 No. 3 & 4
Mishka, nu Mishka, blares in Russian
through one ear as CNN coverage
of the first-day missiles falling
on my birthplace echoes through
a blue earbud in the other. My children
are on the couch drinking their morning
milk and stuffing their mouths full
of warm croissants, watching a blond Slavic girl
wrap a giant bear around her finger. Mishka,
she tenderly calls, little bear, and he
reluctantly does whatever is asked—prepares
elaborate meals of kashas with dried fruits
and homemade cherry-currant-gooseberry
preserves and stroganoff and stews and
smoked fish with five kinds of potatoes,
and if she but whispers in her small,
high-pitched voice, Mishka, he will carry her
and a menagerie of animals, in his big-bear arms,
across a swamp and field of sunflowers,
to safety. More missiles fall on Kyiv.
The airport in the city I was born
is bombed. I don’t remember it.
My Dnipro. The home where I collected
chestnuts by the Dnieper River or ate
small spheres of ice cream from a shop
called Pinguin or held my mother’s hand
when the streets flooded and she lifted me up
to walk the rim of rusted fountains. Incoming call
from Dom, meaning Home, interrupts the news.
Mama tells me she finally reached her childhood
friend. They spoke as shells fell and maybe
Marina could see fires through her window.
My mother never thought this would happen.
None of us did. The subway stations turned
bomb shelters the way they were in the war
her parents lived through and grandparents
died fighting. Not while there are still those alive
to remember, she said. How could he do this
while they are still alive? She repeats it
to her mother over tea and tears
and disbelief. They thought they’d never
have to endure it again. Ice falls
in Arkansas. My children demand
another snack and episode of Masha
in their mother’s tongue, my mother-
tongue. This mouthful of history
we chew and chew until it chokes us.
• • •
TO READ MORE POETRY, PICK UP A COPY OF VOL 55 No. 3&4
JULIA KOLCHINSKY DASBACH emigrated from Dnipro, Ukraine as a Jewish refugee in 1993, when she was six years old. She is the author of three poetry collections: The Many Names for Mother, winner of the Wick Poetry Prize (Kent State University Press, 2019), finalist for the Jewish Book Award; Don't Touch the Bones (Lost Horse Press, 2020), winner of the 2019 Idaho Poetry Prize; and 40 WEEKS, forthcoming from YesYes Books in February, 2023. Her poems appear in POETRY, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and AGNI, among others. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and a PhD in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation, Lyric Witness: Intergenerational (Re)collection of the Holocaust in Contemporary American Poetry, pays particular attention to the underrepresented atrocity in the former Soviet territories. Julia is the author of the model poem for "Dear Ukraine": A Global Community Poem (dearukrainepoem.com). She is the Murphy Visiting Fellow in Poetry at Hendrix College and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her two kids, cat, dog, and husband. More information about her can be found at juliakolchinskydasbach.com.