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Ukraine mourns novelist Maksym Petrenko, latest cultural figure killed by Russia08.11.2023
The death of Maksym Petrenko, a Ukrainian novelist who was serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, was confirmed on Monday. He joins a long list of at least Ukrainian literary and cultural figures to fall victim to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Petrenko had been missing since last summer, and his family initially thought he was in captivity, but his death was confirmed recently through DNA testing, according to a Facebook post Monday by his friend and literary critic Ganna Skorina.
A computer programmer and professor, Petrenko participated in the 2014 Revolution of Dignity and subsequently volunteered for Ukraine’s defense. He served in the National Guard’s 2nd volunteer battalion during the conflict with Russian-led forces. After being demobilized in 2016, he wrote ‘Quiet Night,’ a novel in diary format detailing the 2014 events, including the Revolution of Dignity and his experiences in combat during the liberation of Sloviansk
Skorina told Chytomo she first encountered Petrenko four years ago while researching books written by veterans of the Russian-Ukrainian war. She said that his work was particularly notable because prior to the war, he was not a professional writer or soldier, but rather a programmer who had participated in international robotics competitions as both a competitor and instructor.
“When the war began, he picked up a machine gun for the first time and stood up for the defense of Ukraine in the ranks of the National Guard of Ukraine. And this enables the international community to understand that the people fighting for Ukraine are ordinary civilian men and women who decided to fight for their right to live in a peaceful country.”
Per data provided by the Ukrainian Book Institute data at the Frankfurt Book Fair last month, over 80 writers are serving in the Armed Forces, and more than 30 writers have been killed by Russian aggression since the full-scale invasion began. Just last week, Taras Davydyuk, founder and editor-in-chief of the Rivne-based Horyn.info, was killed on the front near Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, according to Ukrainska Pravda.
Skorina added that she hopes more books by Ukrainians serving in the armed forces will be translated and read by international audiences.
“Because at the heart of many texts there is a person, humanity at war. Hundreds of stories in books from our military, about how an complete civilian finds himself in the war, what he feels, what he thinks about, reflects. And although sometimes painful, these are very humane texts. Perhaps through these books the English-speaking audience will be able to understand us. Why we fight, why we don’t give up,” she said.
RELATED: Read more about Ukrainian writers serving in the Armed Forces in Chytomo’s Words and Bullets series.
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