Remembering Victoria Amelina: the award-winning writer and war-crimes investigator killed in Ukraine

Victoria Amelina was an award-winning Ukrainian novelist, poet and a children’s book author. After Russia’s full-scale invasion began in 2022, she also undertook training to investigate and document war crimes, working with SRT grantee Truth Hounds. She also worked with children impacted by war, and organised aid and cultural activities. One journalist described her as having, “extraordinary moral clarity and commitment, underpinned by vast reserves of unshowy courage”. Amelina was 37 and a mother to a 12-year-old son, when she was killed in a missile strike on a pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk, which killed 13 people and injured around 60.

Amelina became a full-time writer in 2015 after the publication of her debut novel, The Fall Syndrome. Her second novel, Dom’s Dream Kingdom, was shortlisted for several awards, including the European Union prize for literature. In 2021 she established a literary festival in Donetsk, as well as being awarded the Joseph Conrad literary award. In 2022 she started writing poetry, about which she said; “That’s what war leaves you. The sentences are as short as possible, the punctuation a redundant luxury, the plot unclear, but every word carries so much meaning. All this applies to poetry as well as to war”.

It was also in 2022 that she travelled with Truth Hounds to areas previously under Russian occupation, to record the testimonies of witnesses and survivors. Amelina had written about the importance of documenting Ukrainian history and the people’s ‘true stories’. Her essay, Ukraine and the meaning of home, about her early life and the evolution of Ukrainian identity, had reflected this; “There were silences instead of the much-needed stories. And where there’s a lack of true stories, there is a lack of trust.”

Amelina also wrote about the need to protect Ukrainian culture. Her 2022 essay Cancel Culture vs Execute Culture, states that, “there is a real threat that Russians will successfully execute another generation of Ukrainian culture – this time by missiles and bombs”. (This was in reference to the murder of a generation of Ukrainian writers during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s.) Her desire to protect Ukrainian culture was noted when, during her work documenting war crimes, she managed to locate the diaries of the murdered writer Volodymyr Vakulenko. They were written while under Russian occupation, and he had then buried them in his family’s garden. Amelina found them and helped to get them published.

She was due to start a fellowship in Paris with Columbia University, where she would finish her latest work, a non-fiction book titled, War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War. This is still due to be published.


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