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Jun 22, 2022

‘You Don't Know What War Is’, the moving diary of a 12-year-old girl from Ukraine, is acquired in auction by Bloomsbury

Yeva Skalietska’s

“Everyone knows the word ‘war’. But very few understand what it truly means. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know what war is.”

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Bloomsbury announce the acquisition of You Don't Know What War Is – the moving diary of Yeva Skalietska, a 12-year-old from Ukraine, charting her journey with her granny from war-torn Kharkiv to eventual safety in Dublin

On Thursday 24th February 2022, 12-year-old Ukrainian girl Yeva Skalietska is woken by the sound of explosions. Though there have been rumblings and rumours, few truly believe that war will break out between Russia and Ukraine.

And yet – it has. What follows are twelve days in Ukraine that change 12-year-old Yeva’s life forever. Yeva and her granny rush to take shelter from the missile attacks in a dusty, crowded basement. When the situation worsens, they need to find somewhere safer to stay, so they make their way to a friend’s house in a different area of the city. But the conflict rages all around them and Yeva struggles to keep calm over the continual sound of explosions and shelling. Eventually they take the difficult decision to head to Western Ukraine. It’s there, in a makeshift shelter in a school hall, that Yeva meets the team of UK news reporters who will alter the course of her life. She tells them she is writing a diary. The poise and maturity of Yeva’s account are striking, and the crew feature her in several news articles. They help Yeva and her granny cross the border into Hungary and, ultimately, to find a place to live in Dublin, where they’re welcomed and cared for by their host, school teacher Catherine Flannagan.

Lara Hancock, Head of Illustrated Publishing, with Commissioning Editor Sally Beets, acquired UK and Commonwealth Rights in auction from Literary Agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor of Marianne Gunn O’Connor Literary, Film/TV Agency. You Don't Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl From Ukraine will be published in October 2022, with cover illustration inspired by Ukranian folk art by Anastasia Stefurak and illustrated maps of Kharkiv, Ukraine and Europe by Olga Shtonda, displaced Kharkiv-native.

Lara Hancock says, “In You Don’t Know What War Is, we read about Yeva’s experience of the war in Ukraine in real time. Each diary entry is interspersed with personal photos Yeva took during her journey. Compelling and urgent, this book is a powerful document of a conflict few thought could happen, seen through the eyes of a child.”

Yeva says, “I began writing this diary to help me cope with my painful feelings and to write down my experiences so that years from now I can remember how my childhood was destroyed by war. I’d like to thank the reporters from Channel 4 News - Pariac, Flavian, Tom, Dealer and Nik, who have completely changed my life. I’m so thankful for my amazing agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor, who is filled with kindness and believes in my book wholeheartedly. The world needs more people like her. I am so happy to be published by Bloomsbury. Publishing my book will help me rebuild my life and I hope it will help readers understand, even a little bit, what war really is like. I want to dedicate my book to my beloved granny who has always done all she can to keep me safe.”

Sally Beets adds, “Yeva’s story has touched us deeply. Her writing is immediate and important and we’re so honoured that Yeva chose to publish You Don’t Know What War Is with Bloomsbury. It is a book that everyone needs to read.”

Marianne Gunn O’Connor adds, “I was deeply impacted by Paraic O’Brien’s very moving Channel 4 report on Yeva and her diary. I could see that she is a very special young girl with something important to say. I felt immediately I wanted to offer my services to help bring her story out into the world. Bloomsbury acquired UK & Commonwealth in a heated auction. Lara Hancock and Sally Beets with their wonderful team blew us away with their incredible proposal, imagination and vision. Yeva was super excited that Harry Potter’s publisher wanted to publish her diary. US rights were pre-empted by Emily Meeham and Claire Wachtel of Union Square Publishers on the flight back to New York from the London book fair. I’d like to thank my colleague Vicki Satlow for also offering her services for translation rights. Yeva’s diary is now sold in twelve languages and counting. This is a passion project for me and one that I’m committed to with my whole heart and soul. It’s truly an honour to be part of Yeva’s journey and to be able to make a difference.”

Yeva Skalietska is a 12-year-old Ukrainian girl who grew up living with her granny in Kharkiv, near the Russian border. She loves learning languages, bowling, playing the piano and painting. Yeva wrote a diary of her experiences of fleeing war in Ukraine. She now lives in Dublin, Ireland where she has made new friends and had a go at Irish dancing but is always missing home.

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