Where’d you come from, my loathing?

Original by Svyatoslav Vakarchuk
Translated, from the Ukrainian, by Alexandra Kutovoy

Where’d you come from, my loathing?
I never gave my phone number to you.
I didn’t invite you over.
Shut the windows in my heart, the terrace too
Where’d you come from, my loathing?
I didn’t wake you at night.
I didn’t bring you food.
Didn’t leave my keys in the door.
What hell did you crawl out of, monster?
Where do the howls to the sirens come from?
Right into the heart of my heart,
Carrying millions of strangers’ names.

How do I live now, loathing?
How do I write letters to Spring?
How, having forgotten nocturnes with hailstorms,
Is “Someone Like You” possible to sing?
You’ve made me black and white,
You’ve made me simple, without gradient or shade.
Now don’t howl for my mercy,
Now don’t ask for my forgiveness, my restraint.
I won’t stop so easily this time,
I’ll blow up every bridge.
I’ll destroy you, my hatred,
And Earth’s crosses will twitch.
I’ll destroy you in the streets,
Destroy you in the sky and on the land.
Destroy your spoiled curses,
Destroy your every ship and every tank.
And when my anguish subsides,
The sun will glimmer through,
I’ll crawl to God in tears,
And sing “Someone Like You.”


Звідки взялась ти, моя ненависть?
Я ж тобі не давав телефон.
Я ж ніколи не кликав в гості.
Вікна в серце закрив і балкон.
Звідки взялась ти, моя ненависть?
Я ж тебе не будив вночі.
Я тобі не приносив їсти.
Не лишав у дверях ключі.
Звідки, суко, ти в біса взялася?
Звідки виють під звук сирен?
Прямо в серце до мого серця
Ці мільйони чужих імен.
Як тепер мені жити ненависть?
Як писати весні листи?
Як забувши ноктюрни з градами
Заспівати “така як ти”?
Ти зробила мене чорно-білим.
Ти зробила мене простим.
Тож тепер не проси пощади.
Тож тепер не волай “прости”.
Я тепер просто так не спинюся,
Я тепер підірву мости.
Знищу я тебе, моя ненависть,
І здригнуться землі хрести.
Знищу, суко, тебе на вулиці.
Знищу в небі й на землі.
Знищу твої брудні прокльони.
Знищу танки й кораблі.
А коли промине тривога
Сонце вигляне з висоти
Приповзу я в сльозах до бога
І заспіваю “така як ти”.

Translator’s Note:

At first glance, this is a poem about loathing. I could’ve translated ненависть as “hate,” but the feeling described by the speaker lacks this kind of sharpness. Instead, it seeps in and corrodes slowly, like radiation. 

The author, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk is the lead vocalist of the famous Ukrainian band “Okean Elzy” and a long-time activist for Ukrainian sovereignty. Currently, he is traveling through Ukraine to deliver military and humanitarian aid, while also sharing poetry and songs. This poem was written and recited in early March at a hospital in Zaporizhia. In it, the speaker resents that he is suddenly overcome with loathing after he had taken all the precautions to ward off ugly feelings from his entering his home, his body, and his mind. “Why this violent intrusion?” he keeps asking, as do millions of Ukrainians.

While the subject of the speaker’s loathing is initially vague, it is later revealed to be Russia’s invasion— the sudden hailstorm of missiles and bullets that shook so many Ukrainians awake from their sleep. The speaker vows to expel his loathing as he extinguishes his land from air raids, ships, tanks, and curses. 

Our family and friends share the same dream; to win the war, to rebuild their cities, to replant trees, to decontaminate the soils, to see justice and retribution. As for the speaker, he will “crawl to God” singing one of his popular songs “Someone Like You.” It is a song of love and loss, but in this case, the significant other is an entire nation fighting for its existence. 

Svyatoslav Vakarchuk is a lead singer of the rock band Okean Elzy, formed in 1994 in Lviv, Ukraine. He is a prominent voice in Ukrainian politics and social activism, performing during the 2013 Euromaidan protests as well as the ongoing war. 

Alexandra Kutovoy is a third-year PhD student of literature at UC San Diego, studying postwar narratives and ecocriticism. This is her first translation from Ukrainian.