There is international interest in the diary of a 12 year-old Ukrainian refugee, Yeva Skalietska. Bloomsbury UK has acquired You Don’t Know What Love is – the Diary of a Young Girl from Urkaine which charts Skalietska’s journey with her grandmother from war-torn Khakiv to the safety of Dublin. The title has already sold to the US and in 12 languages.
Bloomsbury UK won the title in a seven way auction and Union Square is to publish in the US. Foreign rights sold so far are Italy (Deagostini), Hungary (Alexandra Europa), Romania (Bookzone), Holland (Xander), Germany (Droemer), France (Michel Lafon), Lithuania (Alma Littera), Spain (Destino), Sweden (Bazar), Norway (Gyldendal) and Finland (Otava).
On Thursday 24 February 2022, 12-year-old Skalietska is woken by the sound of explosions. What follows are twelve days in Ukraine that change her life forever. With her granny they 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 young 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 is 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.”
Skalietska is represented by the Marianne Gunn O’Connor literary agency in Dublin. At Bloomsbury UK, UK and Commonwealth rights were bought by Lara Hancock, Head of Illustrated Publishing, and Commissioning Editor Sally Beets.
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 herself says: “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. 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 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.”
Gunn O’Connor says: “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.”
Today, Yeva loves learning languages, bowling, playing the piano and painting. She lives in Dublin, Ireland where she has made new friends and had a go at Irish dancing but she says she is always missing home.