Hunt Murderers, Not Poets

Hunt Murderers, Not Poets

In support of arrested Russian poet Evgenia Berkovich.


On May 4, Russian poet and film and theater director Evgenia Berkovich was arrested with her colleague Svetlana Petreychuck. The charge was “excusing terrorism.” Their new play Finist The Bright Falcom allegedly led to their detention and arrest.

The play revolves around a group of women who fall victim to ISIS propaganda and decide to virtually marry ISIS members—before departing Russia for Syria. Despite the official reason for Berkovich’s arrest, many believe her anti-war poetry and activism were either contributing or deciding factors for the arrest.

On May 5, Berkovich was sentenced to two months in an Investigative Detention Facility (a Russian penitentiary similar to an American jail). The investigation is ongoing.

The independent Russian media outlet Novaya Gazeta released a video last week in support of Berkovich. In it, the newspaper’s editor in chief—and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate—Dmitry Muratov called on the Russian government to “hunt murderers, not poets.” At least 3,000 people have signed Novaya’s letter demanding freedom for Berkovich and Petreychuck. The collection of signatures continues.

The Nation would like to express our strong opposition to the arrest of Berkovich and Petreychuck. We, too, believe the Russian government should focus on “hunting murderers, not poets.” To express our support, the Nation translated and publishes one of Berkovich’s poems about the Russian war in Ukraine. While her genius may be somewhat lost in translation, her humanity most definitely isn’t.

Clothes needed, for a woman,
Seventy-nine years on Earth,
From a city that exists no more.
A T-shirt sized M—for Mariupol,
A jacket sized L—for Lysychansk,
A bra with a B cup –
for Bucha and Borodyanka.
She came here with only a passport,
She burst into tears at the top of each hour
And holds a photograph of her grandson
In front of a tank.

We never have enough shoes and pants.
We don’t need new things—
Who’s new in this world anyway—
Just bring what’s clean and comfortable.
Whoever has the clothes on the list,
You can take it straight to the warehouse.
Then, when this hell is over,
It still won’t end and we will
Give the clothes to the houseless.

Clothes needed, it’s for a baby.
He’s new to this Earth,
Born in a city that exists no more.
There, there are no people, only their parts.
Where was this baby for the last eight cursed years?
He was, where there is no war
No Azovstal.
He was, where cats run the streets,
Where freshwater streams flow.
He was, where there are no Buryats, nor Moscovites,
Where the woods aren’t scary,
Where there’s fresh porridge every morning.
He was where there were no explosions or executioners.
He was up above, where he could quietly watch
His still-living mother on her way to her school, not yet in the rubble.

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