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The power of words

We all have our own ways of trying to deal with the horrible situation that is evolving in Ukraine. A war, just a few borders away; for some of us even in our own country, with our own families suffering the consequences. We need to express our anger, fear, despair, and solidarity in ways that make sense for ourselves.

Taking inspiration from a text by Guzel Yakhina, ‘The banality of the good’, a number of our students from the Language in Practice course have made statements related to the war in their chosen languages. Some of them are sentences translated from the text, others are sentences translated from other texts, or they are statements of their own creation. All of them combined express a strong anti-war sentiment, covering some of the many languages our students speak and learn. It is a response representative of the plurality of our International Studies community.

Words may seem worthless when faced with the destruction of war, but they are another way for us to show we care and we do not ignore what is going on.

Below you will find the statements our students made (if translated, also with the original).



Je pense que la situation en Ukraine est frustrante. C’est frustrant en raison du manque d’esprit critique et d’empathie de certains groupes dans notre société. Cela crée une situation vraiment tragique en Ukraine et Russie. En fin de compte, cette guerre aura un impact plus grave sur la population, autant de générations ressentiront les répercussions de la guerre, mentalement et physiquement, et de la destruction de l’économie russe et ukrainienne. Le pire, c’est qu'il ne s’agit pas d’une guerre de la Russie contre l’Ukraine, mais de Poutine tout seul. Nous ne pouvons pas tenir les Russes responsables de cette guerre, car ce serait ignorer l’histoire de la Russie elle-même : une histoire de régimes autoritaires où ceux qui ont résisté aux idéaux fascistes l’ont payé de leur vie. Pour cette raison, il est difficile de punir et de condamner les gens de tout un pays pour une liberté qu’ils n’ont jamais eue. Liberté pour l’Ukraine ET liberté pour les Russes.






In Pinyin transcription: Zhè bú shì wŏ de zhànzhēng.

“This is not my war.”


Students used a Swahili translation of ‘The banality of the good’ to translate into their native languages. This is the excerpt they used:

Leo, vifaru vya Urusi vinakanyaga ardhi ya kigeni. Ni vigumu hata kuamini kinachotokea. Upinzani ndani ya nchi ni wa kina kiasi kwamba nataka kupiga mayowe. Maneno hayaji, hayana nguvu ya kutosha. Uchungu, hasira, hofu, udhaifu – vinafurika. Habari tulizopata tarehe 24 Februari 2022 ziliniponda. Dunia yangu haijapinduliwa tu, bali imeteketezwa. Sielewi kwa nini “chanjo” hiyo ya upinzanivita haikusaidia.

Wakati umewadia kuyasema maneno rahisi ya ukweli, na kuyarudia tena na tena. “Vita hapana!” “Amani duniani!” “Uhai wa binadamu una thamani kuliko yote!” Haya tutayarudia mpaka giza hili lipite. Tutathibitisha kawaida ya wema ili tusikumbane na kawaida ya uovu siku za usoni.

Hivi si vita vyangu. Nakataa kuvichukulia kama vyangu.

Swahili / Afrikaans / Spanish / French / Dutch / Italian

Hisia zinachemka / Emosies kook / Emocions a flor de pell / Les émotions bouillonnent / Brandende gevoelens / Le emozioni ribollono.

Tutathibitisha kawaida ya wema  / Ons sal die norm van goedheid bewys / Validarem la banalitat del bé / Nous confirmerons la norme de la gentillesse / We zullen alledaagse goedheid bewijzen / Convalideremo la banalità del bene.

Hivi si vita vyangu! /  Dit is nie my stryd nie ! / Aquesta no és la nostra guerra ! / Ca c’est pas ma guerre! / Dit is niet mijn oorlog! / Questa non è la mia guerra!


We Lived Happily During the War

(Ilya Kaminsky)

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we



but not enough, we opposed them but not


enough. I was

in my bed, around my bed America


was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house —


I took a chair outside and watched the sun.


In the sixth month

of a disastrous reign in the house of money


in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,

our great country of money, we (forgive us)


lived happily during the war.


[Ilya Kaminsky is a Ukrainian American poet who wrote the poem ‘We Lived Happily During the War’  (in English) in his anthology of poems “Deaf Republic” (Graywolf Press, 2019)]

हम युद्ध के दौरान ख़ुशी से रहते थे

(इल्या  कमिन्स्की)

और जब उन्होंने दूसरे लोगों के घरों पर बमबारी की, तो हमने प्रतिवाद किया

लेकिन पर्याप्त नहीं,  

हमने उनका विरोध किया, लेकिन पर्याप्त नहीं। 

मैं अपने बिस्तर में था, और मेरे बिस्तर के आसपास अमेरिका गिर रहा था: 

एक अदृश्य घर के बाद, एक और अदृश्य घर के बाद एक और अदृश्य घर —

मैंने बाहर कुरसी  निकाली और सूरज को देखता रहा।

विनाशकारी शासनकाल के छठे महीने में

पैसे के घर में पैसे की गली में पैसे के शहर में पैसे के देश में,

हमारे पैसे के महान देश में 

हम (माफ़ कीजिएगा) युद्ध के दौरान ख़ुशी से रहते थे।


Header: 'Power of words' by Antonio Littero

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