When “burning the bridges” is not about broken relationships but about a destroyed road that cannot be used to deliver medicine on time. When “freedom” is not just an idea but the ability to escape from an occupied city or get out of a shelter. When wishing “a peaceful sky above your head” is not a reminder of childhood drawings but the option of not following the air raid alerts. When “I serve the people of Ukraine” is not only an answer to the commander prescribed in the drill regulations.

We are living in a time of aggravated reality when almost every word and every phrase acquires its original meaning. As if everything around is going through a reality check. In particular, our values and ideals.

By defending them, Ukrainian society reinstates the meaning of the concepts that we have often heard from the podiums, in speeches and lectures.

Because protection from torture and detention is the protection of human rights.

Fighting for the right to choose and make your own life decisions is fighting for democracy.

The decision to take responsibility and, despite all risks, to care about those who elected you is what they call “good governance”, and the response to criticism is accountability.

In times when totalitarian Russia desperately tries to prove that freedom of choice, openness, equality, and inclusiveness are markers of weakness, Ukrainians, on the contrary, felt their true power; understood how viable the system of horizontal interaction that does not depend on one person is, and therefore cannot be decapitated; realized how valuable and sustainable the decisions made as a result of heated disputes are.

However, we have not yet fully concorded our language and our practices.

The 11th Book Arsenal is a space for recognizing, as well as creating a new civic vocabulary for the things that we have not yet verbalized. This is a place where, by reflecting on our current experience, we will be able not only to comprehend, but also to word ourselves and what is going on with us, with society, with the country, and with the world.

Nataliya Gumenyuk