Story #148. "Life Gains New Value When at War": Reflections of Ukrainian Poet and Soldier Dmytro Lazutkin

May 10, 2024
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine about his poetic work and the path of a military man.

Dmytro Lazutkin is a Ukrainian author, journalist, winner of the most prominent Ukrainian literature prize, military serviceman, and spokesperson for Ukraine's Ministry of Defense.

Dmytro Lazutkin's military career began in early 2023 with the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade, "Magura." He headed the public relations department and was promoted to senior lieutenant.

According to the Ukrainian author, the decision to join the military was deliberate. Dmytro's prior experience as a military correspondent, during which he covered the actions of Ukrainian military personnel in the most dangerous areas and documented the counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia, came before it.

"When I was mobilized, it was important for me to be directly involved in creating this story and to see it not through a television screen but with my own eyes - communicating with people, hearing those explosions, risking my life, and ensuring the safety of others."

In February 2024, the serviceman was assigned to the 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade, which is responsible for defending Avdiivka. Dmytro was eventually offered a position as a spokesperson for Ukraine's Ministry of Defense. So, after passing the selection process, Dmytro Lazutkin became not only a well-known figure in contemporary Ukrainian literature but also the Ministry's official spokesperson.

"I would have been uncomfortable for me as a spokesperson if I hadn't been involved in combat. In the 47th Brigade, I had experience escorting journalists, including foreigners. This brigade attracted international attention because it used Western equipment such as Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, Paladin self-propelled artillery units, and Abrams tanks. In our work, we demonstrated the professional use of the American-provided equipment. This is the kind of experience you can't get in a peaceful city. And so, when I go on air, I always remember that I am first and foremost a serviceman and that my brothers-in-arms are performing combat tasks on the front lines."


While fulfilling his military obligations, Dmytro continued to write poetry, which, with the onset of full-scale combat, altered the lyrical format familiar to his audience. In 2022, the writer's poetry collection "Zakladka" was released, which included pre-war poetry.

According to Dmytro, the earlier poems reflected the mood of anticipation for the war, whereas the newer texts predict its end.

But can this end be considered a victory? Perhaps there can be no victory in a cheerful, celebratory sense. I think of those who have always been warriors, and I realise how different our country would be without them. They'll be greatly missed. They devoted their energy, strength, and youth to this war. So, instead of celebrating the victory, I'll remember the men and women who did not live to see it.

The author's connection to the harsh realities of wartime is clear in texts written after the full-scale invasion began. Lazutkin describes the war as it is. Instead of syllabotonic, verse libre appears.

transl. Maria Galina

"From the beginning, I knew I didn't want to write rhyming, beautiful, imaginative poems about the war. During my time in the Armed Forces, I wrote a lot of verse pieces that read like stories. Everything is connected to frontline cities, heroes who endured the deepest hells of war, and my views and fears. In my opinion, few people in war have never experienced primal fear. For example, if a GBU falls nearby or a missile lands 100 meters from you. Even after you've gotten used to it, the feeling of animal fear persists. Just as one "whispers" a fear, I "whisper" my experiences and pains in my poems."

Music exists in poetry, and war's music is arrhythmic. It's like improvisation. It was with this sentiment that I wrote texts over the last two years.

According to Dmytro, like many other Ukrainian writers, he had creative pauses caused by devastation and exhaustion. Despite his emotional exhaustion, the author remained inspired.

"Explaining inspiration is incredibly difficult. Perhaps there is a need to jot down words and create this lacework of poetry. So, I was involved in this 'spider' business. When I felt that such words were about to be spoken or written, I knew that no one else would."

"Definitely, my writing serves as both therapy and medicine for me." Let's say you write a text about absolutely wild and violent events, describe a story that took place in extreme conditions, and you let it all pass through you, through imagery, a specific metaphor. It gets easier for you. However, it can be difficult to share such stories at times. I have some poems that I haven't shared on social media. I pause because I recognize that these texts are extremely personal."

We took advantage of the opportunity to speak with Dmytro about both his creative and personal transformations.

"When you communicate with people who risk their lives, and you lose them, you obviously change. Understanding yourself is a difficult task that requires time. Situationally, I noticed changes in myself caused by the war. However, the process is still ongoing. When I arrived in Kyiv from Donetsk Oblast after being away for half a year, I walked around like a man from the wild, eyes and mouth wide open. Everything surprised me, including the city's ongoing life cycle and how people have changed. Conditions have an impact on people, how they feel, and what they think."

"Undoubtedly, when you return from war, you dismiss some issues as minor because they are insignificant in comparison to the challenges you face in war. Whether you're a stormtrooper or stationed at a command post, you're constantly expecting to be shelled. So, the challenges of civilian life pale in comparison to the dangers of war. Life gains new meaning through the lens of a different reality."

Dmytro believes that culture can play an important role in bridging the gap between military personnel and civilians.

"Culture in the context of reintegrating military personnel into society is unquestionably important because it serves as therapy. Returning soldiers are, in some way, traumatized. The longer the war goes on, the more complicated the relationships between the military and the rest of the world, as well as between people and their loved ones. Many families have split up during this time, and many soldiers return as different people. They're being rediscovered. It is a process that culture can aid in because it works with subtle energies and touches the soul. And when the soul is wounded, it does not open up right away."

Nika Krychovska
Journalist at UkraineWorld