Victoria Amelina, award-winning Ukrainian writer, dies after Russian missile attack

Award-winning Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina was among those killed by a deadly Russian missile attack on a popular restaurant frequented by journalists and aid workers in eastern Ukraine, PEN America said.

Amelina, 37, who had turned her attention from literature to document Russian war crimes after the invasion, died from her injuries after the June 27 strike in the city of Kramatorsk, the literature and human rights organization said Sunday in a statement.

Ukraine's Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko expressed condolences to Amelina's family, adding that Russia bears the responsibility. "For every crime on our soil, for every interrupted life and unspoken word, the terrorist must bear the harshest punishment," he said.


FILE - A woman dressed in mourning clothes holds a portrait of the late Victoria Amelina during a funeral ceremony in the St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery on July 4, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Vitalii Nosach/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Friends, colleagues and admirers of Amelina mourned her, with many saying hers was a life full of potential that was tragically cut short. "So many books unwritten, stories untold, days unlived," tweeted journalist Olga Tokariuk, a friend of Amelina's.

"Victoria was documenting war crimes perpetrated by the Russians. She was killed in yet another such war crime. We bear witness to her death and that of thousands killed in Ukraine," tweeted historian Olesya Khromeychuk.

At least 11 others were killed and 61 were wounded in the attack around dinnertime, when the restaurant was usually busy. Ukrainian authorities arrested a man a day later, accusing him of helping Russia direct the strike.

The attack and others across Ukraine that day suggested the Kremlin is not easing its bombardment of the country, despite political and military turmoil at home after a short-lived armed uprising in Russia on June 24.


FILE - Friends, standing near a coffin with the body of Viktoria Amelina, pay their last respects to the late on July 4, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine.  (Vitalii Nosach/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

PEN Ukraine announced Amelina's death after her family was informed of it. Amelina was in Kramatorsk with a delegation of Colombian writers and journalists. She had been documenting Russian war crimes with the human rights organization Truth Hounds.

"Victoria Amelina was a celebrated Ukrainian author who turned her distinct and powerful voice to investigate and expose war crimes after the full scale military invasion of Ukraine in February 2022," said Polina Sadovskaya, Eurasia director at PEN America. "She brought a literary sensibility to her work and her elegant prose described, with forensic precision, the devastating impact of these human rights violations on the lives of Ukrainians."

Amelina was born Jan. 1, 1986, in Lviv. In 2014 she published her first novel, "The November Syndrome, or Homo Compatiens," which was shortlisted for the Ukrainian Valeriy Shevchuk Prize.

She went on to write two award-winning children's books, "Somebody, or Waterheart" and another novel, "Storie-e-es of Eka the Excavator." In 2017, her novel, "Dom's Dream Kingdom," received national and international accolades — including the UNESCO City of Literature Prize and the European Union Prize for Literature.

A popular young writer, her fiction and essays have been translated into many languages, including English, Polish, Italian, German, Croatian, Dutch, Czech, and Hungarian.

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In 2021, she founded the New York Literature Festival, which takes place in a small town called New York in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

Since the start of the invasion, Amelina devoted herself to documenting Russian war crimes in eastern Ukraine, PEN America said. In Kapytolivka near Izium, she discovered the diary of Volodymyr Vakulenko, a Ukrainian writer killed by the Russians.

In a powerful essay, Amelina described the plight of Soviet era conformists caught in the crossfire of the 2014 Russian invasion by focusing on the sad tale of Hanna, an elderly woman evacuated from the Donbas to the relative security of western Ukraine. Until her death Hanna expresses her desire to go back home, even after it is explained to her that there is a Russian tank possibly parked in her garden.

"I did what I could: I’m a writer, and writing the truth is perhaps my best way of defending Hanna’s garden. I could not protect anyone from the Russian artillery, so I tried to take up arms against their lies," Amelina wrote.

She also began writing her first work of English nonfiction shortly before her death. In "War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War," Amelina recounts stories of Ukrainian women collecting evidence of Russian war crimes. It is expected to be published soon, according to PEN Ukraine.