More than 18 months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it’s easy to feel lost in a wash of news. One minute the media seems swept up in admiration for Ukraine’s military prowess or obsessing over a “game-changing” piece of military kit; the next lost in pessimism about Kyiv’s counteroffensive. In the middle of it all, Andrew Harding’s A Small, Stubborn Town stands out. The former BBC Africa bureau chief doesn’t try to decipher the Kremlin or make sense of the grand ebb and flow of the war. Instead he describes how one small farming town called Voznesensk held back an onslaught of Russian tanks, attack helicopters and Siberian soldiers in the first horrifying days of the invasion. Harding’s 140-page book reads like a daring tale from WW2. Locals and small army units realise they’re basically alone and band together to defend a critical bridge that would open up the Ukrainian army’s southern flank. It’s a story about how actions – both individual and communal – can do that little bit to nudge the dial of history.
Photograph Andrew Harding