‘As long as a writer is being read, they are still alive’: PEN Ukraine and the Ukrainians media commemorate fallen cultural heroes in new online project


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A project documenting the art and lives of the dozens of Ukrainian cultural workers who have been killed in Russia’s war against Ukraine has been launched by two Ukrainian organization — PEN Ukraine and The Ukrainians

Called “People of Culture Taken Away By The War” the  online project consists of a series of written portraits that delve into the art created by these fallen heroes, while engaging with their families and colleagues to craft narratives honoring their memory. The initiative seeks to preserve the legacy of those lost to Ukrainian culture due to the war and stands as evidence of Russia’s intent to commit genocide against Ukrainians.


“Among people of culture, killed during Russia’s full-scale invasion against Ukraine,there are dozens of writers, musicians, actors, translators, librarians, artists, sculptors, photographers, archaeologists, and conductors, both men and women. Sometimes these are famous and public figures, sometimes — known only to a narrow circle of colleagues. But of course they are united by two things: first, their work creates the fabric of Ukrainian culture, and second, they were killed by Russia,” wrote (text in Ukrainian) Sasha Dovzhyk, researcher and curator of People of Culture Taken Away By The War special project.


This series was sadly prompted by the death of Victoria Amelina, who was killed by a a Russian missile strike. In the preface to the diary by Volodymyr Vakulenko, who was tortured by the Russians, she wrote: “As long as a writer is being read, they are still alive.”


Daria Kovtun creates illustrations for the project. Written portraits are made by Sasha Dovzhyk, Olena Kozar, Mariana Matveichuk and Hanna Ustynova.


“We often say that knowing and remembering the names of the fallen is our duty. But it is also important that they do not become barely a list or names in statistics, there are human destinies, dreams, unrealized plans and unfinished business behind every name. Collecting and sharing the stories of the victims, so that their voices can continue to be heard among us and their work can continue, is the goal of the project. I often tell people how many projects and initiatives Victoria Amelina encouraged me to do. This project also happened with her invisible support and constant presence to large extent: her voice and advice, still resonating with me, helped us launch this special project, which is based on our pain, our memory, our love and our gratitude,” Tetyana Teren, Executive Director of PEN Ukraine and initiator of People of Culture Taken Away By The War special project, told Chytomo.


RELATED: Victoria Amelina: No words are needed after a tragedy, all words slide into a whirlpool


The first five stories about writer Victoria Amelina, photographer Denys Kryvyi, historian Vyacheslav Zaytsev, conductor Kostyantyn Starovytskyi and Ukrainian cuisine researcher Olha Pavlenko-Kolyorovo are already available on the website both in Ukrainian and English.


Since the start of the full-scale invasion, PEN Ukraine has been monitoring losses among cultural figures, gathering stories that emerge in the media or are reported by relatives and colleagues. This data, covering 2022 and 2023, is continuously updated. As of the latest count, at least 76 cultural figures have been killed in Ukraine since Feb. 24, 2022. This monitoring, however, is not comprehensive. PEN Ukraine stresses that the actual number of deceased artists is likely higher than reported, as complete data is unattainable due to the information void in Ukraine’s occupied territories.


People of Culture Taken Away By The War special project is realized with the support of National Endowment for Democracy (NED).


PEN initiated the information campaign in memory of artists killed in the war. In 2021 and 2022, Chytomo and PEN Ukraine implemented the media project #EmptyChairPeople, about authors who are political prisoners in Ukraine and around the world.



Main image: PEN