How to Remain Human on the Front Line

Original title: Mens blijven aan het front

Publication Date:

November 2024



Original language and publisher

Dutch | Hollands Diep

Territories Handled

Worldwide excl. Dutch


Literary Non-Fiction

How to Remain Human on the Front Line

Original title: Mens blijven aan het front


How do you ensure that you don’t lose yourself in times of war?

Immediately following the Russian invasion, historian and journalist Andrii Kobaliia reports to the Ukrainian army. Andrii, aged 23 at the time, has never held a weapon in his hands. He enjoys reading, walking along the river and having drinks with his friends on the roof at one of their dormitories. He travels a lot and often alone, which is how he met writer Gilles van der Loo by chance in Amsterdam, in 2017.

After his return to Ukraine, the friends kept in touch via social media, which very gradually died out as is the case with people who do not live in close proximity to each other. Only after the Russian invasion did Gilles seek contact with Andrii again.

‘My friend’ he texts ‘Jesus. How are you?’

Within half an hour, Gilles gets an answer: ‘I’m good. Joined territorial defence of Kyiv.’

With every word he writes, Andrii Kobaliia reaches for the boy he was before the invasion. ‘I used to like bright attic rooms’, he writes. ‘Now I like basements. I used to drink lattes by the river with my girlfriends, now only a warm sleeping bag counts.’

From then on, Gilles again regularly corresponds with his friend, sharing his experiences as a soldier on social media. What is striking is how Andrii always makes the link between his life before the invasion and his life now; through writing he tries to keep in touch with the boy he was, lest he be lost. In this war, how do I keep myself not only alive but also remain a sensitive human being?

Marketing Information

  • English synopsis & sample available