Jen Stout, "Night Train to Odesa: Covering the Human Cost of Russia's War" (Polygon, 2024)


As a teenager in Shetland, Jen Stout fell in love with Russia and, later, Ukraine – their languages, cultures, and histories.

Although life kept getting in the way, she eventually managed to pause her BBC career and take up a nine-month scholarship to live and work in Russia. Unfortunately, this dream only came true in November 2021, as Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders. Three months later, she left Russia but only got as far as Vienna before heading back into Ukraine via Romania with a rucksack and a handful of freelance contracts.

In Night Train to Odesa: Covering the Cost of Russia’s War (Polygon, 2024), we experience Europe’s biggest land war since 1945 through the eyes of a war reporter, photographer, and cultural observer during tours in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv, and close to the frontline in Donbas. 

Via railway workers, soldiers, writers, activists, and old women sleeping in bunkers, we encounter stoical resistance. Stout writes: "I was finding warmth and determination all over the place when what editors expected was fear and despair. I tried to explain that the resilience I described wasn't an individual phenomenon but society-wide. The more Russia attacked Ukrainian society; the less inclined people were to anything remotely resembling despair. They only got angrier".

A freelance journalist, Jen Stout was a reporter at CommonSpace in Glasgow and for the Stranraer & Wigtownshire Free Press before joining BBC Scotland in 2018.

*The author's book recommendations are The Face of War: Writings from the Frontline 1937-1985 by Martha Gellhorn (Eland, 2016 - first published in 1959), The Letters Of Martha Gellhorn selected and edited by Caroline Moorehead (Chatto & Windus, 2006), and Island by Aldous Huxley (Vintage Classics, 2005).

Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Advisors, who also writes the twenty4two newsletter on Substack and hosts the In The Room podcast series.

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Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Advisors .

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