Award-Winning Ukranian Novelist, Victoria Amelina, Dies After Being Wounded By Russian Missile...

Victoria Amelina, an award-winning novelist, essayist, and war crime researcher from Ukraine, passed away this week after being wounded last week in a Russian missile strike and succumbing to her injuries. 

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Victoria Amelina was honored and memorialized through multiple tributes this week, after the award-winning novelist, essayist, and war crime researcher passed away after being injured from a Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk. 

PEN Ukraine announced that Amelina passed away in a hospital in Dnipro, surrounded by her friends and family. Amelina, 37, won the Joseph Conrad literary prize in 2021 and has been nominated for multiple major awards throughout her career. 

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Amelina decided to put her writing on the back burner to document war crimes and work with children near the frontlines of the warzone’s in Ukraine. Novelist Andrey Kurkov honored Amelina on Twitter this past week.

“Victoria Amelina was one of the kindest and most charitable Ukrainian writers who did much more for others than for herself. She founded two literary festivals, in New York (Donbas) and in Kramatorsk, where her life was stopped by a Russian missile.”

One of Amelina’s most famous moments as a writer was unearthing the diary of Volodymyr Vakulenko, a fellow writer who was illegally detained and murdered by Russian soldiers in early 2022 in the city of Izium. The diary was buried in his garden, and worked to be a real-time documentation of Russian war crimes. 

Human rights groups have responded to Amelina’s death by calling out the attack as a war crime. Amelina was a victim of a Russian missile strike on a popular restaurant crowded with civilians in Kramatorsk. The strike killed 13 people and more than 60 were injured. 

Amelina unfortunately was vocal about knowing the risks that her career involved, especially regarding her work in Ukraine, where she was traveling with Colombian journalists and writers to document war crimes and build support for Ukraine overall. Seven months before she was killed, she stated: “We are, you could say, obsessed about our freedom, and we’re ready to die for it. Russians cannot forgive us for that.”

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“Now there is a real threat that Russians will successfully execute another generation of Ukrainian culture – this time by missiles and bombs.”

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While the work Amelina was doing was risky and dangerous, her commitment to gathering evidence of war crimes and improving human rights for the people of Ukraine surpassed any fear. 

She built networks of foreign journalists and intellectuals to raise support for Ukraine internationally. She had been working on a non-fiction book about Ukrainian women’s experiences of the invasion from the past year. The book will still move to publication, “Looking at Women Looking at War: War and Justice Diary.” 

In 2021, Amelina founded a literary festival in New York, Donetsk, a small town near the frontlines of the invasion in Ukraine. 

“When I founded New York literature festival in a small village called New York in the Donbas, I was, of course, being ironic. After all, irony is what makes literature great. Self-irony made the village of New York a fantastic place. Russians have no self-irony. They are so serious about themselves,” she wrote on Twitter, after Russian forces bombed the festival site.

“But Ukrainians will survive, laugh and make literature festivals, not war – in all possible New Yorks. I promise.”

PEN Ukraine made a commitment to keep the festivals going after Amelina’s death.  “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.”