The Orphanage is a 2017 novel by Serhiy Zhadan, recently published in English translation. It explores the experiences of civilians in wartime, specifically in the Donbass region of Ukraine. Pasha, a rather impotent teacher, journeys across enemy lines to retrieve his nephew from an orphanage/boarding school in an unnamed city that has already fallen. The city teems with military checkpoints, artillery fire, grifters, and civilians doing their best to survive and hold on to something in this environment.
Throughout his journey, Pasha meets other civilians, soldiers, and even a journalist. These encounters enable rich exploration of a variety of themes: language, identity, authority, education, nostalgia, and the indifference of war towards the neutrality of civilians. During these encounters, Pasha generally does his best to help others around him, even though this distracts him from his goals.
Who needs cold medicine in a city getting pounded by heavy artillery, a city that’s going to fall any day now? (18)