PEN Ukraine

Book Aid: 25,000 English-language books have arrived in Ukraine


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Ukraine has received over 25,000 books in English intended for libraries, including those that have been affected by the Russian invasion, as part of a joint initiative with the charity foundation Book Aid International, English PEN, and PEN International.


The books, delivered with the help of logistics partner Nova Poshta, were from leading UK publishers, including Penguin Random House, Oxford University Press, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Unbound, will be distributed by PEN Ukraine among libraries based on their requests and the evaluation of the application.


Over a three-month period, the team received more than 800 requests from Ukrainian libraries seeking books in English. The most in-demand categories include literature for children and teenagers, English language learning textbooks, and non-fiction publications for adults.


Well-known Ukrainian authors, such as Sofia Andrukhovych, Andriy Bondar, Svitlana Taratorina, and the director and actor Akhtem Seitablaiev have become ambassadors for the initiative in Ukraine. They actively took part in the initial sorting and packaging of books for libraries.



“This is a story of individual decisions and contributions that collectively make a significant impact,” says Volodymyr Yermolenko, president of PEN Ukraine, philosopher and writer.


Ukrainian libraries will receive a part of the books during literary-volunteer trips organized by PEN to the deoccupied territories and territories close to the front lines.


“For people living amidst the war in Ukraine, we know that libraries have become places of safety and refuge for communities, as well as havens where reading and learning can continue. I would like to warmly thank all the publishers who have supported this shipment and donated books to support all the work we do,” says Alison Tweed, Book Aid International Chief Executive.


Authors Alexander McCall Smith, Edmund de Waal and Elif Shafak became ambassadors of the initiative in Great Britain. “Maybe books cannot fight against guns or bombs, but they can do something incredibly powerful: they help us realise that we are not alone. That we are not forgotten or forsaken. That our voices matter. That we have brothers and sisters, we have kindred spirits all across the world. Inside the pages of a book we find the whole humanity,” states writer and columnist Elif Shafak.


In the near future, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the initiative thanks to Eastman Film Production, which is currently working on a documentary in collaboration with TRO Media and the Crimean House State Enterprise.


In Ukraine, the budget funds have never been allocated for the purchase of books in English, except in specific cases. As of 2024, the issue of allocating funds to replenish library collections remains unresolved, even for books in the Ukrainian language.


As we previously reported, the interest in learning English in Ukraine had increased. According to the USAID study ‘Communication Transformation,’ conducted in collaboration with the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS), there has been a strategic shift in Ukrainians’ perception of the English language. However, as of the beginning of 2023, KIIS reported that nearly one-third of Ukrainians do not know any foreign language.



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Photo: Mykhailo Palinchak