The following is one of a series of interviews conducted by Chythomo, a project exploring writers’ contribution to the war effort in Ukraine.
The killing of Viktoria Amelina, who has died of injuries suffered during last week’s Russian missile attack on a restaurant in Kramatorsk, deprives Lviv, Ukraine and the world of an outstanding writer, an individual who reflected the best of modern Ukraine – humour, tenacity and warmth, coupled with a brilliantly open spirit and a courageous soul. Just a few months ago, at the Book Festival in Lviv, her beloved home city, she captivated us on life, love, family and crimes, her work on the coming War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War. ‘They are targeting all of us’, she said in our public conversation, ‘and for me that is a genocide’. Her life was emblematic of remarkable Lviv, her death is emblematic of a merciless and terrible war, prosecuted by men who feel no compunction acting in manifest violation of the most basic precepts of humanity. Victoria Amelina is gone, but she will always be present, her values embodied in the decency she represented and the accountability she sought. Her killing is a most terrible crime – her legacy will include a renewed and unbreakable commitment to accountability for those who perpetrate such horrors, in a land she cared for with passion and brilliance.
Philippe Sands, July 3, 2023, 08h00.
Ukraine: PEN International mourns the killing of writer and PEN Ukraine member Victoria Amelina
03 July 2023 – PEN International joins PEN Ukraine in mourning the killing of writer, PEN Ukraine member and human rights defender Victoria Amelina, following a horrific Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine on 27 June 2023. Amelina was seriously injured and rushed to hospital in Dnipro. She passed away on 1 July 2023. She was 37 years old.
In a statement published on 2 July 2023, PEN Ukraine said:
‘With our greatest pain, we inform you that Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina passed away on 1 July in Mechnikov Hospital in Dnipro. Her death was caused by injuries incompatible with life, which she suffered from during the Russian missile shelling of a restaurant in Kramatorsk on 27 June 2023. We are announcing this news now when all Victoria’s family members have learned about it and with their consent (…). Victoria Amelina, Ukrainian writer and member of PEN Ukraine, who has been documenting Russian war crimes with the human rights initiative Truth Hounds, was in Kramatorsk with a delegation of Colombian writers and journalists. As they were having dinner at the Ria Lounge restaurant downtown, Russians launched a missile attack on this restaurant. Victoria was severely injured. Doctors and paramedics in Kramatorsk and Dnipro did everything they could to save her life, but the injuries were fatal and incompatible with life. In the last days of Victoria’s life, her closest people and friends were with her (…). For us, Victoria’s friends, and colleagues, it is very important the cultural initiatives set up by her, could last. Very soon we will share with you information about the ways you can support her life’s work.’
Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director of PEN International, said:
‘We are devasted by the killing of our friend and PEN member Victoria Amelina. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones during these terrible times. Victoria’s strength, selflessness, and determination in the face of adversity have been an inspiration to us all. As we grieve her loss, her words, writings, and voice will forever resonate with us. Today is a tragic day for the PEN community, who stands with everyone at PEN Ukraine. Those responsible for her killing must be brought to justice.’
Born in 1986, Victoria Amelina was a prize-winning writer and poet, and founder of the New York Literature Festival in the Donetsk region, Eastern Ukraine. Since the Russian Federation’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Amelina had been documenting war crimes with the human rights initiative Truth Hounds, and notably uncovered the war diary of Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Vakulenko, who was abducted by Russian forces on 24 March 2022. On 28 November 2022, after the Ukrainian army recaptured Izium from Russian forces, DNA analysis confirmed that the body found in grave N.319 in the woods of Izium was that of Vakulenko. Amelina had recently taken part in the first presentation of his war diary at the Book Arsenal literary festival in Kyiv on 23 June 2023.
PEN International has repeatedly called on the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally end its devastating war against Ukraine, including through a Resolution adopted at PEN International’s 88th annual Congressin September 2022, a statement marking a year of war crimes and resolve in Ukraine, and a Declaration of PEN International’s Writers for Peace Committee issued in May 2023.
Full statement available here: https://www.pen-international.org/news/pen-international-mourns-the-killing-of-victoria-amelina
(Statement from PEN International)
Members and Board members of Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann are appalled and devastated by the news that our dear friend, award-winning writer and war crimes researcher Victoria Amelina, has been injured in a Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk. We wish, as hard as we have ever wished for anything, that Victoria will have a swift recovery. Here is a statement from PEN International:
29 June – PEN International joins PEN Ukraine in condemning the horrific Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine on 27 June 2023. Twelve people had been killed and more than 60 wounded at the time of writing, including writer, PEN Ukraine member and human rights defender Victoria Amelina, who remains in hospital.
Victoria was in Kramatorsk with Colombian writer Héctor Abad Faciolince, journalist Catalina Gómez Ángel and politician Sergio Jaramillo at the time of the attack. The Colombian delegates sustained minor injuries… more on the PEN International website.
Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann, supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, presents the Ukrainian writer and Human Rights activist, Victoria Amelina. Victoria has accepted our invitation to present two literary events in Dublin in October 2022, as part of the Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival. Victoria Amelina occasionally writes in English and her powerful essay on genocide and cultural memory, “Nothing Bad Has Ever Happened: a Tale of Two Genocides” was republished in the Irish Times earlier this year. “Homo Oblivious” was republished in the Dublin Review of Books in July.
On Thursday 20th October at 19:00, at the Smock Alley Theatre, Ms. Amelina, who is based in Kyiv, will discuss the role of artists and writers who chose to remain in Ukraine after the full-scale Russian invasion of February 24th of this year. She will also focus on the importance of preserving Ukrainian literature and culture, and will read from her own work. Her new project is entitled War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War.
Booking via the Smock Alley Theatre website: https://smockalley.ticketsolve.com/ticketbooth/shows/873629957
Victoria Amelina also writes for children. Her second Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival event is for Ukrainian children aged 4-10 and is held (in Ukrainian) in Pearse Street Library on the 22nd October at 14:00.
During this event, she tells stories from a writer’s life and teaches the children to draw characters from her latest book, Ten Ways for an Excavator to Save the World (Ееесторії екскаватора Еки).
Booking via Pearse Street Library Link to DAHRF programme: https://smashingtimes.ie/festivals/dublin-arts-and-human-rights-festival-2022/
The Dublin Review of Books has reprinted a brilliant essay, “Homo Oblivious” by Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina here. Victoria will be in Ireland in October for the Arts and Human Rights Festival. Information about her events will be published in our next Newsletter.
“Homo Oblivious” was originally published on the Arrowsmith Press Website