In Ukraine, a bookseller keeps children’s books threatened by war

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Lviv (Ukraine) (AFP) – In the basement of her library in Lviv, western Ukraine, Romana Eremin displays hundreds of books stored almost to the ceiling, evacuated from areas devastated by fighting with the Russian army.

Packed in white bundles, the addresses were rescued from Kharkiv, the main city in the northeast, partly surrounded and bombarded almost daily by troops from Moscow.

Now stored in a children’s reading room, it’s just a fraction of what the publisher was able to salvage from the bombings.

“Our warehouse workers tried to evacuate at least some books. They packed them into a truck and everything was delivered via a mail company,” explains 27-year-old Romana Erimen, with her yellow cap.

They started with the newest and most popular editions, mostly children’s books.

Wrangel Romana Yarmin on the shelves of her library in Lviv, April 20, 2022 Yuriy Dyachyshyn AFP

Lviv, a major city in western Ukraine, has been relatively spared the fighting since the Russian invasion began two months ago, with the exception of a few deadly air raids.

Thousands of people, mostly women and children, have fled to Lviv or crossed the city into Europe since the fighting began.

“I don’t know how my colleagues managed to stay in Kharkiv,” Romana said. “Those who fled and stayed with me said they felt the city would be razed to the ground.”

The authors are in the foreground

The young woman says the library reopened immediately in the wake of the invasion, provided shelter in the basement when anti-bomb sirens sounded, and organized readings for children for the displaced.

In the first wave of arrivals, parents who fled their homes leaving almost everything behind swarmed to find fables to tell their children to entertain.

A bookseller displays a children's book in Lviv on April 20, 2022.
A bookseller displays a children’s book in Lviv on April 20, 2022. Yuriy Dyachyshyn AFP

Some bought “Polinka”, the story of a girl and his grandfather, published just before the invasion and now written by its writer in the foreground.

“He wanted to leave something for his grandchildren,” says Romana Iaremyn.

On the shelves of the adult section, the bookseller displays a collection of articles about Ukrainian women forgotten by history. Its writer is also fighting Russian forces.

“A lot of our writers are in the military today,” Romana asserts.

need to read

As sirens go off in Lviv to signal the end of the morning alert, baristas return to their coffee shops to heat up their espresso machines until the next panic.

The sun begins to fade in the blue sky and a young man and woman embrace on the balcony. Many bookstores in the city are open.

At the pedestrian crossing down a central road, many small stalls sell translations of foreign classics like George Orwell’s “1984” or even Japanese manga.

Romana Yarmin Library in Lviv on April 20, 2022
Romana Yarmin Library in Lviv on April 20, 2022 Yuriy Dyachyshyn AFP

Near the Arsenal Museum, a dove sits on top of a large statue of Ivan Fyodorov, a 16th-century stamp stamp from Moscow who was buried in Lviv.

At his feet, when the sirens neither hear nor rain, a few sellers offer used books.

Irina, 48, wears a light blue coat and woolen hat, along with rows of literature and history books for sale or rent, the latter option being especially popular with older clients.

Romana in her library storage in Lviv on April 20, 2022
Romana in her library storage in Lviv on April 20, 2022 Yuriy Dyachyshyn AFP

Irina, who did not want to reveal her surname, explains that she stopped working for more than a month after the start of the war.

When she returned to the field in early April, many parents came from the East to fetch books for their children.

“I gave them a lot,” she says, “because the kids want to read.”

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