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Victoria Amelina, an intellectual extraordinaire, the latest victim of the Executed Renaissance

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Liubov Abravitova is the Ambassador of Ukraine to South Africa.

Victoria Amelina was killed in a Russian terror attack. She died on 1 July in Dnipro, at the Mechnikov Hospital. She was a Ukrainian writer and public figure, the 13th victim of the horrific Russian missile attack on Kramatorsk.

 

‘…my worst fear is coming true: I am inside the new Executed Renaissance.

“As it was in the 1930s, Ukrainian artists are being killed, manuscripts are disappearing, memory is being erased. 

“It seems like times are merging and freezing in anticipation of resolution: I am searching in the black soil of Slobozhanshchyna not only for the notes of one of us but for all the lost Ukrainian texts at once: the second part of Khvylovy’s “Valdshnepy”, Kulish’s plays, Stus’s last poems, the diaries of the Holodomor times, Ukrainian incunabula burned in the Kyiv library in ’64. All our losses, from incunabula to Volodymyr’s diary, appear as one great text that can never be read again…”

This was written by Ukrainian poetess Viktoria Amelina in the preface of the found and published diaries of Volodymyr Vakulenko…

Volodymyr Vakulenko was kidnapped, tortured and killed by the Russians at the beginning of the war. His body was found in a mass grave after Izyum was deoccupied – 447 bodies were found and exhumed from numerous mass graves. Vakulenko was identified by DNA analysis.

Victoria Amelina found the diary Vakulenko kept during the occupation, and published it.

Victoria Amelina was killed in a Russian terror attack. She died on 1 July in Dnipro, at the Mechnikov Hospital. She was a Ukrainian writer and public figure, the 13th victim of the horrific Russian missile attack on Kramatorsk. 

Victoria Amelina the latest Ukrainian novelist killed by Russia – will SA heed her plea to ‘write, please’

A member of the Ukrainian PEN, as well as a documentary filmmaker of war crimes in the organisation Truth Hounds, Victoria was in Kramatorsk on 27 June with a delegation of Colombian journalists and writers. While they were having dinner at the RIA Lounge restaurant in the city centre, a Russian Iskander precision missile struck the building. Victoria sustained severe injuries. Paramedics and doctors in Kramatorsk and Dnipro did everything they could to save her life, but unfortunately, the injuries proved fatal.

Writers, activists, journalists and supporters of her work have all been writing and publishing obituaries in memory of Victoria. I’ve been reading their letters of love, their memories, their expressions of enormous grief, admiration and gratitude for this amazing woman.

“Vika left on July 1st. On the birthday of Volodymyr Vakulenko, who was executed by Russian occupiers, she personally searched for and published his diary.

“Yes, as if Volodymyr called her. As if his own strength – his own story – was not enough to testify before heaven and earth for future generations about the new Resurrected Renaissance. Vika was the first among all of us to recognise this new elitocide, to name it – in the same preface to Vakulenko’s Diary that is quoted by everyone today.”

Wrote Oksana Zabuzhko, a prominent Ukrainian writer, poet, essayist, and public intellectual:

“And now, Vika Amelina’s unwritten works are in the same row. And she is there among them: Kulish and Pidmohylny, Khvylovy and Zerov, Symonenko, Horska, and Stus greet her… And Volodymyr Vakulenko is the last in the row.

“May she have the highest heaven at the highest of Platonic banquets.

“And for all of us – strength to seek revenge until Victory”.

Victoria was known for her generosity, immense talent, and sense of humour. She was also admired for her remarkable moral compass and unwavering dedication, which were supported by her quiet yet profound courage. Her loss has left an indescribable void in the hearts of countless people both in Ukraine and around the world. The widespread love and admiration for her were a testament to her significance as a cherished Ukrainian figure.

Victoria had been gathering materials “for The Hague” since spring 2022: trips, meetings with people, recorded and unrecorded interviews. Following the Russian invasion in February 2022, she undertook training as a war crimes researcher. This required her to venture into active conflict zones and personally witness the harrowing scenes of severe violence and immense suffering.

I’ve already written about our Executed Renaissance. A very dark place in our history. This term was first proposed by the renowned Ukrainian literary critic Yuri Lavrynenko (who was also repressed in his time), using it as the title of a collection of the best texts of poetry and prose from the 1920s-1930s. But what does this term mean?

“Rozstriliane vidrodzhennia” translates to “Executed Renaissance” in English. It refers to the literary and artistic generation of the 1920s to the early 1930s in Ukraine, which produced highly artistic works that impressed the world with their novelty. Unfortunately, this generation was suppressed by the totalitarian Stalinist regime in a short period.

Soviets did all they could to eliminate Ukrainian identity then. Russians are doing all they can to eliminate Ukrainian identity now.

Time and time again, the Ukrainian people had to overcome the darkest of chapters. And I never had even a hint of a doubt that we will prevail once more. 

But the price we are paying is unbearable.

Victoria Amelina knew about the lists of activists and intellectuals targeted, but she had to be there, she had to help, to be an example for others.

She was an amazingly talented writer, war crimes investigator, a beloved wife, mother and daughter. She was also a great Ukrainian. DM

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  • Kevin Summerley says:

    My heart breaks for the Ukrainian people. The evil that has prompted this catastrophe on your land is satanic. Thank you for your regular reminders to us that this is not just some distant war waged on people who we don’t know. This abomination should touch all humanity, as should the tragedies in Sudan and Myanmar. I pray for you all.

  • Annette Lansink says:

    Thank you Mme Ambassador for providing South African readers on a regular basis with the necessary background information and insights into historical tragedies such as the Executed Renaissance. I was very saddened to hear the news at the time about the courageous Victoria Amelina and other civilians killed by a Russian missile in Kramatorsk. Victoria Amelina also documented war crimes for Truth Hounds and published the diaries of the writer Vakulenko. I hope that other writers will finish and publish her book Looking at Women Looking at War. The sacrifice of the Ukrainian people is huge and the price they pay for freedom is absolutely devastating. It shall not be forgotten. To the brave Ukrainian people: may Victory be yours very soon.

  • Ronnie van 't Hof says:

    Dear Liubov,
    This is just too dreadful. What would you like the ordinary, thinking South African to do to help Ukraine? Maybe write a response in the Daily Maverick. I’m sure they’ll publish it.

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