House of Europe

How the world is helping a Ukrainian literature reach an international audience


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Ukraine continues to feature on the front pages of all influential media, and our writers and journalists gain prizes of renowned international competitions across the globe. Anthologies of Ukrainian prose or poetry appeared in foreign publishing houses almost every week last year. But is there still a sustained interest in Ukrainian literature, and what nourishes it?

How about distribution chains?

According to websites of book distributors that focus on “Slavic literature” in its original form, Ukrainian books have surpassed Russian ones in popularity for the first time ever. Notably, Ukrainian books or books about Ukraine are at top positions of the upfront pages of these distributors (as seen on the website of the distribution company Globus, for example).



In addition, the sections dedicated to Ukraine in catalogs are updated much more frequently. For example, the EastView updates information about Ukrainian books about once a month,  indicating that the assortment of Ukrainian books is being regularly monitored and updated.


Distribution companies gauge demand and therefore they are the first to react to the interests of their audience. There’s no need to create content; they simply need to identify relevant titles in the market they are focused on. That being said, the very presence of Ukrainian books titles on distributor’s top positions doesn’t guarantee sustained interest: another event will shake the world tomorrow, and Ukrainian books will leave the front  pages of the top media.


With publishing houses that acquire licenses for translations the situation is quite different. Their engagement implies a more enduring interest, as the investments into such projects are substantial.

An outside perspective

Chytomo has decided to ask representatives of foreign publishing houses, who previously won grants, whether the interest in Ukrainian books remains consistent  in their countries, and how to nourish it further.

“I think that during the last decade, and even long before that, Ukrainian literature was adequately presented to the Bulgarian reader, with at least half a dozen, if not more, titles in Bulgarian per year. I am extremely happy about this as it fills a decade long gap. In this regard I don’t think that more books have been published in the last year, rather the topic has shifted to the military theme, which is especially relevant today, given the aggression of Russia and the military actions on pristine Ukrainian territory.


At the same time, the programs to support the publishing of Ukrainian literature abroad stopped functioning, and this to some extent limited the opportunities of Bulgarian publishers as well. Another important point that may be missed by my colleagues. In contrast to Ukraine, the book market in Bulgaria is proportionally smaller, purchasing power has also decreased over time instead of increasing, and the habit for reading of modern generations has almost completely stagnated. That is, without external support, the publishing of Ukrainian authors in our country, in Bulgaria, would be extremely difficult.”

As for the topics that Ukrainian authors touch on and whose books are also available in our country, they are similar in terms of mentality and human attitude, that is, understandable and close to the Bulgarian reader.

“There are readers who find the war in Ukraine relevant in books, not least because the war is happening near us and it is easy for us to feel related to such themes.


There has been an increase in the number of translations from Ukrainian, and readers are interested in the topic of Ukraine.”

“From what we could see, the number of translations from Ukrainian language has increased. As there are many talented translators, Croatian readers have already been able to read and enjoy works by Ukrainian authors for the last 20 or so years. The parallels that can be drawn between the East European countries and the ex-Yugoslavia countries are part of the reason why the readers are drawn to these stories, but these books are enjoying success because they are well written, quality literature.”

“Currently, Poles are crazy about Ukrainian literature. I am waiting for recommendations, what else is worth showing to the Polish audience “

“The short answer is yes, but it’s purely a guess, I don’t have any numbers on it. When Russia invaded Ukraine many people here asked themselves what to do. How could we help besides of course donating directly to relief agencies and receiving Ukrainian refugees? In our line of business the answer was of course to publish (more) Ukrainian titles. I have personally experienced an increased interest coming from both media and readers regarding Romana and Andriys work but for me it’s also difficult to distinguish whether it’s because of the war or because of the sheer brilliance of their work. I would like to believe the latter actually. But when the invasion happened and in the following month it obviously played a huge part in the increased interest.”

Just a drop in the ocean, or something more?

How about Amazon?

Hundreds of book titles about or from Ukraine can be found on Amazon now. Not long ago, these were primarily specialized scientific studies, collections of folklore and exotic items from Ukraine. But now you can find Ukrainian modern literature in translation, non-fiction books, comic books, and novels featuring Ukrainian characters.


“Independence Square: Arkady Renko in Ukraine”, a new story by Martin Cruz Smith, an American mystery novelist known for his series of nine novels about Russian investigator Arkady Renko, is currently topping the bestsellers list. In second place is “The Lost Daughters of Ukraine” by Erin Litteken, an American historical fiction author. It is heartwarming to find the works by Anne Applebaum, Serhii Plokhy, Timothy Snyder and Serhii Yekelchyk among the most popular reads.


There are and will be many who seek to capitalize on trending issues , and since this process is beyond our control, it means Ukrainians must become more influential and work methodically.

How about grants for translations?

Among other systematic efforts to sustain  interest in Ukraine are, first of all, grants for the translation of Ukrainian literature into various languages. These grants effectively shape the content being translated and read abroad, and  thus contributing to the piecing together of Ukraine’s global prestige.


Two grant programs for translation of Ukrainian books were not launched last year because of the full-scale Russian invasion. Funds allocated for the Translate Ukraine program funds were redirected to protection of Ukraine against occupants. Additionally, the House of Europe contest was put on hold.  Last year there was a strong sense of solidarity, sympathy, and genuine support from our partners. This year however, Ukrainian literature has the opportunity to assert its presence like any other nation. The Ukrainian Book Institute has recently closed the application process for its Translate Ukraine translations support program, and a European Union program House of Europe announced a new round of translation grants for the publication of fiction and non-fiction books.

“One of the challenges is the lengthy  process of document approval by all concerned parties,which has caused  the program to be launched later than expected. This shortens the timeframe for translation and publication. We are currently working on announcing  the 2024 program, and will do so as soon as we secure funding. I hope it will happen not later than February,” says Olena Odynoka, deputy director for International Cooperation at the Ukrainian Book Institute.


The trajectory of this program from the Ukrainian Book Institute over the first two years was decidedly positive: we received 74 applications in 2020, of which 54 were chosen to be funded , and 52 projects were implemented. In 2021 we received 122 applications, and selected 90 projects for funding, of which  61 were implemented.


The Ukrainian Book Institute managed to make great changes this year, streamlining the participation and reporting process for publishers.They will only need to have an electronic book hosted on any platform. And the amount of grant funding increased from four to eight thousand Euros, which was caused by the worldwide price tendencies.


There were changes in the grant program supported by the House of Europe.

“We usually receive 10-12 projects per application period. This time, if we have enough high quality applications, we’ll be able to support up to 20. I am hopeful that both experienced grant recipients and first-timers will participate. Of course, Ukrainian publishers are working in extraordinary conditions today — some are at the frontline, some are very actively involved in volunteering, and there are constant security risks and emotional stress. Therefore, we have tried to provide as much time as possible for the project to be implemented — up to one year — and are trying to make reporting as convenient and clear as possible,” explains Tetiana Manziuk, manager of Grants and Stipends at the House of Europe.


To date, after five rounds of translation grants with the support of the House of Europe, 36 books have been published in Ukrainian and 16 in EU languages.

What’s the geography?

It is interesting that the geographical reach of both translation support programs is almost completely the same. The biggest number of translations, according to UBI data, is published in the countries that have a border with Ukraine — Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Czech Republic. Compared to others, a lot of translations are issued in the USA, Germany, France and a bit less in the UK and Canada.


“It is worth noting that readers in Lithuania and Latvia are interested in Ukrainian literature. Estonia, unfortunately, is greatly behind them,” Olena Odynoka adds.


So far, our closest neighbors have been more active in the House of Europe translation program: Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Germany. The program also includes one book each in Croatia, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Spain and Denmark.


“On the one hand, I think this geographic distribution is actually influenced by the heightened interest in Ukrainian books in these countries. On the other hand, it is also about having contact with Ukrainian publishers, understanding what titles of Ukrainian literature can and should be translated. The Chytomo catalog is very helpful with this, and we have already received feedback from foreign publishers attesting to its utility. Seventeen more countries of the EU and Great Britain are not covered by our program. And that is where we should focus our efforts!” Manziuk says.


In addition to grants for translations, interest in Ukraine and cooperation with Ukrainian publishers is fueled by participation in international events, both with a national stand and by individual publishers or writers.


Last year, thanks to free participation opportunities provided by organizers and partners, the Ukrainian Book Institute was represented in Bologna, London, Paris, Warsaw, Gothenburg and Frankfurt. In addition, the Book Arsenal and Meridian Czernowitz represented Ukrainian books at several literary festivals. This year, fairs with Ukrainian stands have already taken place in Vilnius, Bologna, London, Leipzig and Warsaw. Everywhere our country was the guest of honor. We are planning to visit Frankfurt by the end of the year.

Ukrainian publishers’ opinion

Ivan Fedechko, the head of the copyright department at the Old Lion Publishing House, is certain that interest in high quality books won’t disappear over time. Since the beginning of the year, the publishing house has signed 44 new agreements. “I’m especially delighted to be selling licenses not only for new books, but also titles from 2014-2017. In some cases, agreements with foreign publishers expired and we had to renew them or try to find new publishers for these books. To maintain the momentum of right sales, the Old Lion Publishing House continues to actively participate in  international events that are dedicated to books, establishing contacts with agents, scouts and translators,” Ivan Fedechko shared with us.


But even small publishing houses see that there’s still demand, if we’re talking about high quality and competitive products. Books of the їzhakultura project are sold on Amazon.

The most successful title is “Ukraine. Food and History”. Back in 2021, the publishing house signed a contract for this book translation with a major French publishing house, “Editions de La Martinière.” Since 2022, it has been published in French, as well as in German, Italian, and Japanese. “This book is not only about Ukrainian cuisine, it introduces readers to our history, favorite flavors, regional products and presents Ukrainian dishes as modern, refined, and beautiful. Analyzing the requests of publishers and media in different countries, there is still a need for stories about what Ukrainian culture is and what Ukraine is like. This book also helps to visualize the damage that Russia is doing to our country. For example, the book contains references to Melitopol sweet cherries, Kherson watermelons, the history of salt mining in Ukraine and the largest salt mine in Eastern Europe. All this is our heritage which Russia is furiously destroying,” remarks Olena Braichenko, publisher.


A high-quality book about Ukraine in a foreign language is a powerful instrument of public diplomacy today. That is exactly the role of a series of albums from Ukraїner, a young publishing house that hasn’t experienced a drop in  demand for its products so far.

The publishing house also produces English versions of their own books, in particular “Country from the inside”, “Who Are We? National Communities and Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine” (version in English is out of print), and also photobook “Ukraine from Above” which consists of pictures of Ukraine from a bird’s-eye view published in 2022 only in English and which had several reprints ever since. “These books are bought mostly by Ukrainians who go abroad. The most frequent inquiry goes like this: “I need a book about Ukraine as a gift to my foreign friends.” Or something of the kind: “I need a book very quickly. I’m having a meeting with attorney general of International Criminal Court and I want to gift them something about Ukraine” (the court that created tribunal for Putin),” comments Yevhenia Sapozhnykova, the editor in chief of Ukraїner publishing house.


At the end of 2022, the British publishing house Batsford Books acquired the rights to Ukrainian Insider. It happened after an incredibly heartbreaking story about how a copy of the book came into the hands of Batsford Books owner and publisher Paula Powell from a Ukrainian woman who evacuated to the UK after Feb. 24, 2022. In February 2023, the book was published in London under the title “Inside Ukraine. A Portrait of a Country and its People.” In a short time, it became a bestseller on Amazon.

This article has been produced in cooperation with the House of Europe, who has recently opened a call for grant applications aimed at translating Ukrainian books.


House of Europe is a program financed by the European Union, created to foster professional and creative exchange between Ukrainians and their colleagues in EU countries and Great Britain. It is focused on the culture and creative sector, education and work with youth, social entrepreneurship and media.


Read also: The Ukrainian book was published abroad. It was a triumph! What will happen to it later?