International Women's Day: reflecting on the work of Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich

On the International Women’s Day we reflect on the words of Svetlana Alexievich, a journalist and writer who was born in Ukraine in 1948 to a Ukrainian mother and a Belarusian father. 

Ms Alexievich was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015. She reported on the main events in the Soviet Union in the second half of the twentieth century. Because of her strong criticism of the regime in Belarus, she was persecuted and her work was banned from the country. Her work has been translated in over 40 languages and includes The Unwomanly Face of War (Penguin Classics, 2017), in which she describes World War II from the perspective of the young women who fought in it.

Here is an excerpt from her Nobel Prize lecture:

"I do not stand alone at this podium… There are voices around me, hundreds of voices. They have always been with me, since childhood. I grew up in the countryside. As children, we loved to play outdoors, but come evening, the voices of tired village women who gathered on benches near their cottages drew us like magnets. None of them had husbands, fathers or brothers. I don’t remember men in our village after World War II: during the war, one out of four Belarusians perished, either fighting at the front or with the partisans. After the war, we children lived in a world of women. What I remember most, is that women talked about love, not death. They would tell stories about saying goodbye to the men they loved the day before they went to war, they would talk about waiting for them, and how they were still waiting. Years had passed, but they continued to wait: “I don’t care if he lost his arms and legs, I’ll carry him.” No arms… no legs… I think I’ve known what love is since childhood…"

This day is for everyone, and Ca' Foscari celebrates all women, and in particular all the women around the world who have experienced and are experiencing the horror of war.