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A Story That Will Never End; An Obituary, for Victoria Amelina

The Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina died at the weekend from injuries she sustained following a Russian missile attack on the pizzeria where she was dining on 27 June 2023. Her death, which was announced on 3 July 2023, brings the total number of casualties from the strike to 13, including four children. Victoria, who was 37 at the time of her death, was a brilliant novelist and poet; she had already won the Joseph Conrad Literary Award and been nominated for the European Prize in Literature. After the beginning of the full-scale invasion on 24 February 2022, she had largely set her writing aside, working to support Ukrainians affected by war and to investigate war crimes. However, she had graciously agreed to write a blog for Stanzas for Ukraine and sent the poems below, that would have accompanied the prose text. That blog will never be written now.

It was Victoria Amelina who found the diary of Volodymyr Vakulenko, which he had hidden under a cherry tree, after his murder by Russian occupiers. She later published the text as a book with an introduction and worked to ensure he was not forgotten. The care she showed for her deceased colleague was an important part of her legacy: she saw herself as part of a history which included the Executed Renaissance, a whole generation of Ukrainian authors destroyed by Russia in the nineteen-thirties. This is partly why she worked tirelessly to support Ukrainian literature and to ensure it thrived despite the damage done by Russia’s historic genocide of Ukraine. She founded two literary festivals in Ukraine and as I can testify was kind and supportive to those who reached out to her. Ukrainian literary social media today is flooded with memories of her and her work, reading poems, trying and succeeding in making children, traumatised by war, laugh. She investigated the worst of humanity yet, despite that, managed to lift the spirits of so many she encountered with her writing and her tenacious compassion. The title of the first poem ‘A Story That Will Not End’ (and here the word used – Istoriia

can also mean -history’) is fitting. She may no longer be with us physically but, like the authors of the Executed Renaissance and Volodymyr Vakulenko, whose legacy she so valued, her work and her example will speak to us forever.  

Poems by Victoria Amelina, translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj


коли прийшла зима, вони цілили у мій дім
а тріщини раптом зʼявлялися в її домі
у домі над морем на вічних скелях 
«Що діється із її будинком?»
перешіптувались її сусіди, дивились скоса

а мій дім стояв уцілілий серед хаосу

коли вони цілили у мої дерева
каштани, тополі і особливо вишні
дерево, яке вона принесла в сад дитинчам
і виростила разом зі своїми дітьми
впало затуливши собою весь її світ— 
і моє далеке місто з його деревами

жодне моє тоді не впало, стоять зелені

коли вони цілитимуть у мене завтра
вона вже вкотре ладнатиме стіни дому
писатиме історію про далеку жінку
садитиме нове дерево в центрі саду
як в центрі світу, всіх його слів і воєн

а я з усмішкою вистою в синім полі 

коли вони цілитимуть у мене завтра
вони не знають: вони зв’язались і з нею

з її будинком над морем на вічних скелях
з її деревами, її морем, її словами
з її історією про мене, яка триває

так само, коли вони цілять в тебе
вони не знають, що мають справу зі мною
з моєю історією про тебе, що не минає
а значить вони мають справу також і з нею
з її кам’яним будинком на вічних скелях 
з деревом, яке не вмирає — стає Землею

з історією, яка не скінчиться
з усіма нами 
з тим, сестро, що ніколи не проминає


they targeted my house when winter came,
but cracks suddenly appeared in her house
in that house above the sea on the eternal rocks:
“What’s happening to her house?”
her neighbors whispered and looked askance,

but my house stood unscathed amid the chaos

when they aimed at my trees
the chestnuts, poplars and especially the cherries
that tree she had brought to the garden for her kids
and grown with them
fell and covered her whole world with itself,
and my distant city too with its trees

but none of my tree fell then, they are still green

when they aim at me tomorrow
she will once again put the walls of the house in order
and write a story about a woman who lives far away
she will plant a new tree in the centre of the garden
as if it were the centre of the world, with all its words and wars

and I am standing in the blue field with a smile

when they aim at me tomorrow
they don’t know but they have connected to her too

with her house above the sea on the eternal rocks
with her trees and her sea and her words
and with her story about me continuing

it is the same when they aim at you
they don’t know what they are dealing with me
with my story about you that never passes away
and that means they also deal with her
with her stone house on the eternal rocks
with a tree that does not die and becomes the Earth

with a story that will not end
with all of us
with that, my sister, which never passes


в цьому дивному місті свідчать лише жінки
одна говорить мені про зниклу дитину
дві говорять про закатованих у підвалі
три кажуть, що не чули про згвалтування й відводять очі
чотири говорять про крики з комендатури
п’ятеро про застрелених на подвір’ях
шестеро говорять, але нічого не розібрати
семеро досі вголос перераховують запас їжі
восьмеро кажуть, що я брешу і справедливості не існує
дев’ятеро говорять поміж собою йдучи на цвинтар

я теж іду, бо вже знаю всіх в цьому місті
і всі його мертві — це мої мертві
і всі вцілілі — це мої сестри

десятеро говорять про вцілілого чоловіка
його також забирали
він може бути за свідка

я стукаю в його двері, але виходить сусідка
говорить за нього:
лише здається, що він вцілілий—
іди, говори з жінками


only the women testify in this strange town
one tells me about a missing child
two talk about those who were tortured in the basement
three say they haven’t heard of any rapes and look the other way
four speak of shouts heard coming from the commandant’s building
five tell of those shot in the yards
six are talking, but nothing they say can be understood
seven are still reckoning the food they have in stock out loud
eight say that I am lying and there is no justice
nine people talk among themselves while going to the cemetery

I’m going there too, because I already know everyone in this town
and all its dead are my dead also
and all of the survivors are my sisters

ten people talk about a man who survived
he was taken away also
he could be a witness

I knock on his door, but a female neighbour comes out
and speaks for him:
he only seemed to have survived she says
go and talk to the women


у мене син і у неї син
у неї до війни було два
у мене завжди був один

і спробуй комусь іще поясни
що в неї і досі ще два сини
що той ясноокий не вмер, не зник
вона його родить щодня під крик
але крик жінки, не немовля
а хлопчик усе не кричить ніяк
хоча вона родить його щодня

він дивиться мовчки із темноти
так ніби благає їй помогти
але вона родить його сама
між нею і мною тепер пітьма

бо в мене син і у неї син
у неї до війни було два
а в мене завжди був один

і спробуй комусь іще поясни
що з нею на двох у нас три сини


I have a son and she also has a son
she had two sons before the war
but I always had one

and just try to explain still to someone else
that she still has two sons
that the bright eyed one did not die, and did not disappear
that she will give birth to him every day with a scream
but it is the scream of a woman and not a baby
and the boy does not scream at all now
although she will give birth to him every day

he watches her silently from the darkness
as if begging her to him help
but she will give birth to him herself
and now there is darkness between her and me

because I have a son and she has a son
she had two sons before the war
and I always had one son

and just try to explain to someone else
that I and her have three sons altogether


тільки ж вчилася відпускати чоловіків
а тепер відпускає цілі міста
вулиці, площі, мости і стіни
як кораблики, відпускає в пітьму
 – Пливіть, – каже їм
рахує їх у пітьмі до ста

і чує над містом новий літак —
не встигає дорахувати до середини


she was just learning how to let men go
and now she releases entire cities
their streets, squares, bridges and walls
as if they were ships, released into the darkness
  “Swim,” she tells them
and counts them in the dark up to a hundred

when she hears a new plane above the city —
and does not have time to count to the middle


Бачиш жінку з простягнутою назад рукою?
Вона ніби тягне валізу або веде когось за собою
Невидима валіза важка, бо жінка іде повільно
Такі жінки загалом називаються божевільні

Їй нічого було брати з її згорілого дому
І хто там із нею жив, невідомо тепер нікому
Але вони йдуть за нею і молодший все не встигає
І жінка тоді зупиняється: вона завжди на нього чекає


Do you see that woman with her hand stretched behind her?
She is seemingly dragging a suitcase or leading someone,
That invisible suitcase is heavy, because the woman walks slowly,
Such women are usually called crazy.

There was nothing she could take from her burned down home
And no one now knows who lived there with her
But they still walk with her and the younger one struggles to keep up
And the woman stops then. She always waits for him.


Victoria Amelina, who has died aged 37 of injuries sustained following a Russian missile strike, was a Ukrainian novelist, essayist, poet and human rights activist based in Kyiv. She was a winner of the Joseph Conrad Literature Prize for her prose works, including the novels Dom’s Dream Kingdom and Fall Syndrome, and a finalist for the European Union Prize for Literature and the UN Women in Arts Award. She also founded the New York Literature Festival, which took place in a village called New York in the Bakhmut area, Donetsk region. From 2022 onwards Victoria Amelina collaborated with Ukrainian NGOs, including Truth Hounds and the Centre for Civil Liberties, to document war crimes and advocate for accountability for the international crimes committed in Ukraine. At the time of her death, she was working on a non-fiction project, Looking at Women Looking at War: War and Justice Diary.

Poetry School is proud to have partnered with tutors Steve Komarnyckyj and Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese, and PEN International’s Judyth Hill to publish

Invitation to Donate

This project aims to support refugees displaced by the conflict through raising funds for the World Central Kitchen. Please consider donating via their site here.

One Comment

  • Jane Macdonald

    On Thursday 20 July, 2023, in the city of Kingston, in Ontario, Canada, we will be holding a poetry fundraiser for women poets of Ukraine. We will read Victoria Amelina’s poems, along with an introduction concerning Victoria Amelina’s life and work. In addition to readings by local Kingston poets, the program will feature two women poets from Ukraine who are currently living in Ottawa, Canada. In this small way we hope to continue the work of Ms Amelina and that of her writer colleagues to keep alive the flame of Ukrainian culture.

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