Recalling Ukrainian Writer and Activist Victoria Amelina

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The writer and war-crimes researcher Victoria Amelina has died of wounds sustained in the June 27 Russian attack in Kramatorsk.

Victoria Amelina accepted the International Publishers Association Prix Voltaire Special Award for the late Ukrainian children’s author and illustrator Volodymyr Vakulenko at the World Expression Forum (WEXFO) in Lillehammer on May 22. She died on July 1 of injuries sustained in the June 27 Russian missile strike on the Ria Lounge in Kramatorsk. Image: IPA/WEXFO

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

IPA Includes Amelina in Its Prix Voltaire Special Award
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, when Ukraine’s Victoria Amelina gave us her thoughts on the slain children’s author and illustrator Volodymyr Vakulenko, she said, “Everyone in Ukraine, including Ukrainian writers, keeps losing their loved ones.”

Now, Amelina herself has been lost. She died on Saturday (July 1) of injuries sustained in the June 27 Russian missile strike on the pizza restaurant in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Victoria Amelina was 37.

In the spring, she had made the trip to Lillehammer to be at the World Expression Forum, WEXFO, on May 22 and accept the International Publishers Association‘s 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire Special Award for Vakulenko. One of the things she told Publishing Perspectives about the slain children’s author was that “Vakulenko believed we are to make history. He always responded to the challenges of his time.”

Today (July 3), the IPA’s offices in Geneva have reported that the Prix Voltaire Special Award now honors Amelina as well as Vakulenko. In a tweet on May 28, Amelina announced that she’d delivered the IPA’s special Prix Voltaire to Vakulenko’s mother.

Baturevych: ‘Victoria Was Courageous’

Iryna Baturevych at Ukraine’s publishing-industry news medium Chytomo writes to us, “We are shocked. [Amelina] has a little son, almost the same age as my son. He will be 12 in July. Victoria was courageous.”

Chytomo

As Chytomo’s article notes, Amelina was working with a watchdog organization called Truth Hounds, which monitors and documents details of potential war crimes.

Reported today (July 3) by CNN’s Svitlana Vlasova, Claudia Rebaza, Sahar Akbarzai, and Florencia Trucco, Amelina has become the 13th person now known to have died from that attack Kramatorsk–which is close to the front lines in the Donetsk province. The attack was timed to a particularly busy moment when the Ria Lounge near Vasyl Stus Street was crowded with evening diners. At least 61 people are reported to have been wounded when what analysts say was a Russian short-range ballistic missile called an Iskander hit the restaurant.

In BCC’s write-up, George Wright reports that Amelina’s first English-language nonfiction book, War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War, is expected to be published, although no time frame for that release is mentioned.

PEN International on June 29 had reported Amelina’s presence on the site at the time of the attack. She had been moved to a hospital in Dnipro, and PEN confirmed that at the time of the Russian assault, she had been accompanying a group of Colombian journalists and writers. The Colombian visitors sustained minor injuries, as PEN has it. They, too, have tweeted about the incident:

Jobava: ‘This Is What War Crime Looks Like’

Truth Hounds and PEN Ukraine have issued a joint statement, relating the Kramatorsk missile strike with other lethal Russian assaults on civilian targets.

“In our opinion,” the statement reads, in part, “the attack on the Ria Lounge restaurant may qualify as a war crime pursuant to Article 8(2)(b)(ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Alternatively, such an attack may be qualified under Article 8(2)(b)(i) or Article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute of the ICC. …

“PEN Ukraine and Truth Hounds appeal to the citizens of all countries, human rights and cultural organizations of the world: use every platform to spread the information about Russia’s crimes and call on your national governments to activate extraterritorial justice mechanisms in order to bring justice to all victims of war crimes. Let’s put an end to Russia’s impunity together.”

In a compelling message on her LinkedIn account, International Publishers Association vice-president Gvantsa Jobava recalls meeting Amelina first in Norway at WEXFO for the Prix Voltaire ceremony, and then again during the Book Arsenal festival in Kyiv in June.

“Now I realize that by going to Ukraine,” Jobava writes, “I was given a chance to hug this talented, brave, dear woman one last time. My heart is totally broken with this terrible news.

“Russia should pay for the faded life of my dear Victoria, for the faded lives of the wonderful Ukrainian people. This is what war crime looks like, this is a story which touched me personally, but every day there are so many other dreadful stories.”

In its article today on Amelina’s death, the Associated Press reports that fiction and essays by Amelina have been translated “into many languages, including English, Polish, Italian, German, Croatian, Dutch, Czech, and Hungarian. In 2021, she founded the New York Literature Festival, which takes place in a small town called New York in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.”

On her Twitter feed, Amelina pinned this tweet on June 7, 2022:

https://twitter.com/vamelina/status/1534053310113714176


Our coverage of the Russian war’s impact on Ukraine’s publishing industry is here, along with international reactions. Our special thanks to Iryna Baturevych at Chytomo for her assistance in preparing today’s report. 

More from Publishing Perspectives on the freedom to publish and the freedom of expression is here, more on the International Publishers Association is here, more on its Prix Voltaire is here, and more on the World Expression Forum (WEXFO) is here. The chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee, which awards the Prix Voltaire, is Kristenn Einarsson, and the director of the Prix Voltaire program is James Taylor.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.