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"There's no such thing as a miracle, Maria said"

Introduction by Oliver Li

"There's no such thing as a miracle, Maria said" by Diana Kondratovets

Previously published in the Reflect Empathy Ukraine Anthology, October 2023


Call for Donations

The holiday season is now upon us. It has been about 8 months since Polyphony Lit first launched this blog feature on the Russo-Ukrainian War with the post "Emergency Backpack." And the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine still continues...

There's no such thing as a miracle, Maria said... but with your help, miracles may be possible. We hope that as loyal readers of this blog series, you might consider making a donation this holiday season to support Polyphony Lit, Teen Side, and Reflect Empathy. Donations made above will be divided three ways between the nonprofit organizations.

  • Donations to Polyphony Lit will help us to continue providing feedback and editorial training to writers around the globe, including regions like Ukraine, and support diverse students from low-income communities.

  • Donations to Teen Side will help to directly support youth refugees and writers from Ukraine.

  • Donations to Reflect Empathy will also help to support Ukrainian refugees and writers, and will help to raise awareness in the U.S. about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

With this blog series, it is our goal to offer readers in the U.S. and around the world, a closer and more-personalized understanding of the Russo-Ukrainian War than the media might offer.

What is the difference between watching the news and living an experience? Those who watch the news can turn off their TV, if the going gets rough, and the impacts of the war, beyond the incremental shift of gas prices, will largely disappear.

For someone living the experience, though, there is no escape. You live in dread of bombings and blackouts. You are always on edge. You wait, on the tips of your toes, knowing that at any moment, you might need to flee, carrying only what will fit inside your backpack. And even after you find safe refuge, the memory still tugs at you, because it is yours.

Remember: we are all writing history as we speak, and anyone can play a part, by showing support and empathy, even if they are far from the conflict itself. Someday, the world will look back on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and I hope that with the help of the memoirs in this blog series, we will not just remember the number of lives lost, but also the lives themselves.

So please show your support by clicking on the "Donate" button above.


Julian Riccobon | Managing Director of Polyphony Lit



In “There is no such thing as a miracle,” Diana Kondratovets skillfully weaves between multiple narratives—narratives that although may have been situated in the past, still resonate with the current situations in today’s world and the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. “It’s more of a collective image,” Diana told me, referring to the constellation of stories that weave into a larger, cohesive whole.

War separates families, lovers, and friends from each other; a reality that is explored in Kondratovets’ first section about a medic missing her lover, who had been drafted into the war, yet “always believed” he would return in secret. Her second section creates a sad lullaby for fallen soldiers, and the third and final section details a conversation between a soldier and god. Overall, Kondratovets’ writing style balances melancholy and hope in a striking way, never failing to end each section with a profound and impactful statement. Moreover, Kondratovets describes these realities in a vivid yet accessible way that readers not directly impacted by the Russo-Ukrainian war can still feel the emotional resonance. Straightforward, powerful images such as “cried at the death of Seryozha Lom” and “but he’s alive, that’s enough to know” showcase just how such simple statements could be so impactful.

There is no doubt that this collection of poems will surprise and move you, and you’ll be glad to have read through all of it. Despite the dark backdrop, threads of hope and unity throughout offer deeply humanizing and memorable portraits within otherwise horrific times. Kondratovets’ work will stick with you long after you finish her last line.


Art by Alex Riccobon

"There's no such thing as a miracle, Maria said"

there’s no such thing as a miracle, Maria said,

no one she knew had been marvelously cured.

I was lying there, listening to her vent

and thinking about how gorgeous she was.

every morning she changed the hospital sheets

and you’d never catch her mincing her words.

she brought the light to any place she went

and when she left, it was left dim.

once she brought the books that she had

so we wouldn’t bore ourselves insane

I am not of the reading kind, I confess

yet it was a thing that I craved.

she did often curse on the phone,

for us to have quickly delivered meds,

cried at the death of Seryozha Lom

then rubbed her eyes, swollen red.

she was madly in love with someone

and smiled every time he called

too little to have, two minutes of time

but he’s alive, that’s enough to know.

told us he was also a soldier, an ace

at the heart of the battle right now,

his Maria is here, protecting us

and we protect her in turn.

so royally we stood our guard

watched every step she’d take

and how many she, such a stubborn heart

smoked cigarettes in a day.

we asked her about her prayers and faith,

for what did she ask in a moment of need

there’s no such thing as a miracle, Maria said

yet in secret, she always believed.


they’ve been looking for corpses

for already three days on the swamps,

with lanterns and hope not to find one.

wind is striking you, leaving its kiss on your face,

bandages dissolved in dark waters,

traces washed over,

you are saved from harm.

wind is walking in sedges and reeds,

wind will gently plant touch on her cheek

and deliver the feel of your hand,

after that, vice versa, again

the moon is peering into the muddy deep,

its light poured all over, fatigued.

you’ve been lying here not for so long, so it seems

but it feels like two years or three.

mist is whispering prayers to you in your sleep,

the roots that entangle you feel too tight,

far away, you can hear it, they sing.

you’ll be found with the first spring’s light


“it will never be the same as before”

he spat out the blade of grass and lay down

“doubt that silence will calm you anymore,

but would leave your blood running cold

god won’t return those who came to him

that’s it. you won’t meet them again

no conversation for you, no shaking of hands.

that is war.

no place for an afterword

and the worldbuilding that you’d invented (already frail)

would crash brick by brick and would fail,

you believe in the good as the world’s base

and i can’t tell you how sorry i am

you, my boy, are not the fairy-tale Kai,

best hide your heart from this trap of ice

and please, make a promise to me then

to save the commandment of every event

promise to keep your hand steady

and to keep your decisive step

and, to stay out of trouble, be ready

not to miss any shot that you get

when the battle ahead gets hot

promise to keep a cool head,

don’t have any pointless hopes

care for these weapons of yours

promise to have a pure heart

and leave there some space for faith.

when you’ll be going into battle

you’ll understand the rest”

he squinted away from the sunshine

briefly, the rays left him blind

“remember, you’re a creation of mine


i do remember, Father

Translators: Julia Murashova

Content Editor: Ava Chen

Blog Writer/Editor: Oliver Li


Interview with Diana


Image Credits

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