‘Peace is volatile and has to be constantly protected’: Ix Shen on his memoir on Russia-Ukraine war
When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24, 2022, all that former Singaporean actor Ix Shen could think about was how he and his Ukrainian wife could stay alive.
He was not sure they would live to the next day, as bombs fell over the capital, Kyiv, where they had been living for four months.
Terrified by what he was seeing, Mr Shen, 51, managed to regain his composure only after he fled to Poland in March and started journaling about his experiences in Ukraine.
On Thursday, he launched his 232-page autobiography, Impressions Of An Invasion – A Correspondent In Ukraine.
When Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine and missiles rained down on the country, Mr Shen and his wife, Natalia, hid in a bunker with frightened Ukrainians for several weeks.
He said: “When I was at home, I watched air strikes from my balcony, and was afraid of the possibility of Russian soldiers coming to do door-to-door checks.”
When he was in the bunker, he recalled: “There was this old man who brought an accordion, and because of his music, he gave all of us a sense of calm and strength.”
Mr Shen said he and Natalia, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and a Ukrainian reservist medical officer, were always anxious about surviving, and told each other to live one day at a time.
In March, they drove to Poland, which was accepting several million Ukrainian refugees. But while driving through western Ukraine to Poland, their car ran out of petrol, and he was afraid they would be caught by Russian soldiers.
They eventually made it to Poland, and that was where he found some peace to write his memoir, which is in English.
“I started to record... all these thoughts only after we had evacuated to Poland, because at that time, my mind was stable and not so overwhelmed by trying to stay alive,” said Mr Shen, who is writing a Chinese version which he said should be out by the end of 2023.
His book launch was held at a historical bunker here, and attended by Ms Kateryna Zelenko, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Singapore.
Mr Shen told the media he chose the bunker for the launch as it allowed attendees to immerse themselves in what he had experienced in Ukraine.
Ms Zelenko said Ukrainians had spent 456 days in basements and bunkers, but had not given up. She said: “They have all been resilient because there is only one choice, our choice to protect our country.”
She thanked humanitarian and governmental organisations for providing Ukrainian hospitals with medical supplies and equipment.
Reflecting on his experiences, Mr Shen said: “Peace is volatile and has to be constantly protected.”
Mr Shen said he approached private donors and corporations in Singapore and gave them a list of hospitals in Ukraine which needed supplies and equipment. So far, seven hospitals have received help.
Impressions Of An Invasion – A Correspondent In Ukraine is published by Marshall Cavendish International and will be available at major bookstores at $23.35 (before GST) from Friday.