Nora Krug’s graphic novel “In War” is about the Ukrainian war – culture


Nora Krug traces two personal accounts from everyday war life: one from Ukraine, one from Russia. The illustrated diary entries provide surprising insights.

On February 24, Russia attacked Ukraine. A few days later, the German journalist and illustrator Nora Krug contacted two people – a Ukrainian journalist and a Russian artist. She asked them both to provide a weekly report on their experiences from their respective perspectives.

Insights into difficult everyday life

K, the Ukrainian, is a journalist in Kiev who reports from the front. K is married. She sends her two children, aged two and six, to live with their mother in Denmark. In addition to the stress of everyday war life, there are now regular flights to visit the children.

D is a Russian artist from Saint Petersburg. He also has children, they are nine and ten. At the time, he saw the fall of the Soviet Union as a liberation. Today he struggles with what his homeland has become. He rejects Putin and the war.


In the graphic novel “In War,” D describes everyday situations from his life that are marked by war.

Nora Krug / Penguin Hardcover Publisher

D would prefer to emigrate: He travels to various EU countries, but no country wants to accept his family. Ultimately, he stays abroad for fear of being recruited.

Clear and effective drawings

Nora Krug compares the notes of K and D: K on the left on yellow paper, D on the right on blue paper.

An illustration of people wearing protective vests, one of which says “Press”.


Krug, who describes herself as a “visual journalist,” illustrates each page with drawings.

Nora Krug / Penguin Hardcover Publisher

Sometimes the illustrator interprets the psychological state of K or D. Elsewhere She finds images for particularly painful experiences – or, on the contrary, for one of the rather rare beautiful moments. The images never push themselves into the foreground. Because: The experience reports are the main thing.

Exciting juxtaposition

The juxtaposition of a Ukrainian and a Russian perspective creates a special tension.

Illustration: Fighter jets fly in the sky.  You can also see clouds and a church tower.


D describes the eerie atmosphere that prevails in Russia.

Nora Krug / Penguin Hardcover Publisher

For K, it’s a matter of life and death right from the start – whether she reports from the front or whether she doesn’t sleep at home for fear of bombs. In D, after the initial panic, a certain distance sets in. He complains that his children will miss the next Nintendo games because the video game manufacturer is withdrawing from Russia.

Paradoxical effects

So far everything is as expected. What is interesting, however, is the development of K and D.

K, the Ukrainian, always knows why she does what she does: she reports on the war, she worries about her children, and she is increasingly committed to the well-being of soldiers and her fellow citizens. She continually reaches her limits, but she fights for clear goals. She hardly has time for doubts.

An illustration: A boy blows out the candles on a round cake.


One of the few carefree moments: K’s son’s birthday party.

Nora Krug / Penguin Hardcover Publisher

D, on the other hand, is caught between his desire to find a future for his family outside of Russia and his powerlessness at home. The longer the war lasts, the more his passivity, his fear of Putin’s repression and his suspicion of complicity in the war weigh on him.

He suffers psychologically and mentally from the war no less than K, perhaps even more – because of this paralyzing feeling of powerlessness.

Survival behind the front

Nora Krug’s “In War” is not a breathless live ticker from the front. On the contrary: it is calm, quiet, intimate. The focus is on the question of how two people affected from the two countries deal with the war, but also with their responsibility.

This makes the book “In War,” which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2023, a haunting document of everyday life in the Ukraine war.

Radio SRF 2 Culture, cultural news, February 23, 2024, 7:06 a.m.

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