Victoria Amelina

Ukrainian writer

Victoria Amelina (Ukrainian: Вікторія Амеліна, née Shalamai; 1 January 19861 July 2023) was a Ukrainian writer. She was the author of two novels and a children’s book, a winner of the Joseph Conrad Literary Award, and a European Union Prize for Literature finalist.

Amelina Victoria in 2015

Quotes edit

2020–2022 edit

  • Має бути саме внутрішня готовність жити текстами, перетворювати себе на тексти, писати навіть тоді, коли ніхто не читатиме. У цьому не може відмовити жоден видавець. Якщо література – ваш спосіб взаємодії зі світом, то ставатимуться дива.
  • Now there is a real threat that Russians will successfully execute another generation of Ukrainian culture – this time by missiles and bombs.
    For me, it would mean the majority of my friends get killed. For an average westerner, it would only mean never seeing their paintings, never hearing them read their poems, or never reading the novels that they have yet to write.
  • So maybe it is time to shift the debate from whether the world should 'forgive' Russian imperial art and literature, to how to prevent one of Europe’s cultures from becoming another Executed Renaissance.
    I was never a fan of Cancel Culture. But maybe the Execute Culture that Russians have repeatedly practiced on free Ukrainians is something the world would like to stop before it’s too late again.
  • Often we succeed, but not always. As I write this, on my way to Izyum to document war crimes, the occupiers may well be destroying the evidence of genocide in Mariupol. Despite all our efforts, too many stories will never be known. As a human rights activist, I document war crimes and advocate for justice. Yet, as a writer, I know there are wounds only stories can heal.
  • [The changing borders of Ukraine during the Soviet period] Under any [totalitarian] regime you get used to it, and you more than cooperate. You become part of this regime. In my novel Dom’s Dream Kingdom, I used the story of my grandfather. He was a Soviet military pilot. He became part of the Soviet regime. But he was from the east of Ukraine, where the Holodomor [now recognised in Ukraine as an act of genocide] occurred. His family were victims of the that man-made famine, and he had terrible memories about that. I also remember my grandfather explaining to me the fear he felt if the Soviet army could potentially send him to Czechoslovakia in 1968.
    But regimes force people to do terrible things. As a Ukrainian I felt there was something wrong with that, and I should be somehow even ashamed. This is not what is happening in Russia today. There is no shame.
  • [On being chosen to represent Lviv in a Russian language contest aged 15] At the contest in Moscow I met kids from all those countries Russia would later try to invade or assimilate: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova. The Russian Federation invested a lot of money in raising children like us from the "former Soviet republics" as Russians. They probably invested more in us than they did in the education of children in rural Russia: those who were already conquered didn't need to be tempted with summer camps and excursions to the Red Square. Hopefully I will have turned out to be one of the worst investments of the Russian Federation.

2023 edit

  • We should talk about reconciliation and forgiveness, of course. But, before talking about it to Ukrainians, it’s crucial to let Russians know that they have to do lots of work on their end.
    So I’d rather postpone the discussion until one side is not being bombed by the other.
  • As for me, I don't hate Russians at all; I'm so exhausted by the war they have waged on us that I cannot feel anything. I am numb. There’s a beautiful song by the Ukrainian band Kozak System, a wartime song with many profanities but no hatred. It starts like this: "Our national idea— fuck the hell off!"
  • I know a little bit too much as I was brought up to be Russian: I attended a Russian school in Lviv, a Russian Orthodox church, a teens’ summer camp in Russia, etc. When I was 15, I was even chosen to go to Moscow to represent my city at the international Russian language contest. Hopefully, I turned out to be a terrible investment for Russia.
  • It's me in this picture, I'm a Ukrainian writer. I have portraits of great Ukrainian poets on my bag. I look like I should be taking pictures of books, art, and my little son. But I document Russia's war crimes and listen to the sound of shelling, not poems. Why?

About Amelina edit

  • She largely set aside her writing after the full-scale Russian invasion of 2022, to focus on documenting [alleged] war crimes and working with children on or near the frontline.
  • Her work included unearthing the diary of Volodymyr Vakulenko, a fellow writer who was illegally detained and killed by Russian soldiers in the city of Izium in early 2022. The diary, which was buried in his garden, served as a real-time document of Russian atrocities.
  • Amelina put her commitment to her country and its most vulnerable people ahead of her personal safety, training to gather evidence of [alleged] war crimes that could be used in future prosecutions.
  • To investigate [alleged] war crimes, Victoria had joined an organisation called Truth Hounds, acquired a flak jacket, helmet and camera and started travelling to places from which the Russians had been driven out.
  • Terrified that the pages of the diary [of Volodymyr Vakulenko] were wet and might not survive, she gave it to the Kharkiv Literary Museum. That experience led her to focus on what she called "cultural war crimes".
    On her phone she showed me photos of bullet holes in library walls in Kherson. "It's important to see for yourself and write down the stories," she said. "The way you see it from afar is very different to on the ground."

External links edit

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