Andrew HardingJul 7, 2023
A Small, Stubborn Town
Life, Death and Defiance in Ukraine
From 2-13 March 2022 - only a week into Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine - Russian forces tried and failed to take and hold Voznesensk, a small but strategically important town 80 kilometres northwest of Mykolaiv.
Looking back, the commander of the 300 professional troops that repulsed the attacks with the help of civilian volunteers concluded that this "one small, decisive and improbable victory … almost certainly saved Ukraine from a larger encirclement and most likely from the prospect of defeat".
In A Small, Stubborn Town: Life, Death and Defiance in Ukraine (Ithaka, 2023), Andrew Harding tells the story of the battle for Voznesensk through the eyes of its participants - from commander "Formosa" to 32-year-old mayor Yevhenii to the "archipelago of stranded, pensionless pensioners" like Svetlana eking out a living and redefining their identities through war.
Although he has been reporting from the front line for the BBC since March 2022, Andrew Harding is the BBC’s Africa correspondent and has lived in Johannesburg since 2009. Africa was the subject of his two previous books - The Mayor of Mogadishu and These Are Not Gentle People - but he began his career in Moscow and Tbilisi and has covered conflicts in Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Abkhazia, and Kosovo.
*The author's own book recommendations are Invasion: Russia’s Bloody War and Ukraine’s Fight for Survival by Luke Harding (Guardian Faber Publishing, 2023) and Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov (MacLehose Press, 2021)