Diana Bilobrova is an 18-years old from Horenka, Ukraine. The full-scale invasion started when she was 16, leaving a painful mark in her memory. Poetry helps Diana to relieve and let go of the traumatizing experience, as well as advocating for Ukrainian victims of war. Diana’s story is one of millions, and that is important to keep in mind.Currently, Diana is a high school senior at Westover School in Connecticut. She plans to take a gap year and volunteer in Ukraine, also studying political and social activism.
Diana, please describe your home or hometown to readers.
My home town is like an oasis near the bustling city. It is calm and the air is always fresh. Pines are rocking slowly in the wind, and lakes and rivers are running through my village. Earlier, we would go to the forest every fall to pick mushrooms, and every spring to collect birch sap. Despite being a calm and rural village, it is only a half an hour ride away from the capital of Ukraine, where all the possibilities are.
Where do you write? What time of day do you write? Do you have a particular writing process?
I usually write when I am overloaded with emotions or impressions, or after I have a detailed flashback I want to tell the world about. My process is fully unplanned - the words come to me as I write. Usually, after I am finished, I reread the piece and change it a bit so it matches the rhythm. Writing is also pretty spontaneous for me - If I don’t finish it in one go, I will not finish it at all.
If you described Ukraine in three words or phrases, what comes to mind?
In hands of active youth
How do you feel living through a war has affected your way of writing?
It pretty much started and boosted it. Now, I write pretty much only about the war--it has a therapeutic effect. I also write mostly in images rather than thoughts--I want the reader to interpret it individually and come up with their own thoughts and emotions.
Who are your favorite authors?
My preferences in reading change often, but my favorite of all times is Kafka. I also like Erich Maria Remarque and Serhii Zhadan.
Besides writing, what are you interested in? (Hobbies, sports, music, etc.)
I have a lot of interests - I have been rock climbing for 5 years, and I love hiking. I am also interested in anthropology and political activism. However, I see engineering or technology as my career path - math has always been my favorite subject.
Tell us a bit about your family(siblings, pets, relatives).
My family consists of my mom, my older brother(20), me, and my younger siblings (9and 4). We always had a few pets, and now we have a dog and three cats. All of our cats are rescues, and we all love our pets! (Let me be honest, cats are definitely better than dogs.)
Any advice on how to write in a time of difficulty or turmoil? When parts of regular life are falling apart, how do you find the space in your mind and heart to write?
For me, writing, as creating in any way, is a method to cope and let my thoughts out. There is only one rule I obey - I never pressure myself to write, it comes to me when I need it. Also, I have to find a place and time to dive into my thoughts and write--everyone needs time for themselves, and writing is a good way of spending it.
What helped you capture these feelings in your piece(s)? Did you rely on anything to help you emotionally during your writing process?
Honestly, taking all of the thoughts out takes a lot of emotional resources for me, so I have to make sure I can take a rest afterwards. Music helps sometimes--I actually can focus more when I have music on. Writing about the war is painful because you have to dive into memories, but it feels much better afterwards. I still need some time to return to reality though.