Ukrainian Writer Victoria Amelina Dies After Kramatorsk Strike

KYIV, Ukraine — Victoria Amelina, one of Ukraine’s best-known young writers, has died from injuries sustained in a Russian missile strike on a crowded restaurant in eastern Ukraine. She was 37.

Her death brought to 13 the number of civilians killed in the attack on the Ria Lounge restaurant in the city of Kramatorsk on June 27. Ms. Amelina was dining with a Colombian delegation when the missile ripped into the restaurant. She was treated for severe injuries and died on Saturday.

“Doctors and paramedics in Kramatorsk and Dnipro did everything they could to save her life,” the writers’ group PEN Ukraine said in a statement late Sunday. It added: “In the last days of Victoria’s life, her closest people and friends were with her.”

The news jolted Ukraine’s writing and journalism community — which has lost dozens of its own since Russia’s full-scale invasion began last year. Days before the attack, Ms. Amelina had attended the Kyiv Book Arsenal, a large literary festival in Ukraine’s capital.

“So many books unwritten, stories untold, days unlived,” Olga Tokariuk, a Ukrainian journalist, posted on Twitter in tribute.

Born in Lviv, Ms. Amelina was widely known in Ukraine for her novels, children’s books, poems and essays. After publishing her first book in 2014, she left a job in information technology the following year to fully devote herself to writing.

She received awards and acclaim for her work. In 2021, she won the Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski Literary Prize, given to a Ukrainian writer under 40, and started a small literature festival in the Donetsk region.

The following year Ms. Amelina joined a human-rights organization, Truth Hounds, to investigate Russian war crimes in areas reclaimed by Ukrainian forces. She also was working on her first nonfiction book in English, about Ukrainian women documenting war crimes, PEN Ukraine said.

“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,” the organization’s U.S.-based arm, PEN America, said in a statement.

Ms. Amelina had regularly chronicled the experience of living amid war.

“I’m a Ukrainian writer. I have portraits of great Ukrainian poets on my bag. I look like I should be taking pictures of books, art, and my little son. But I document Russia’s war crimes and listen to the sound of shelling, not poems. Why?” she wrote on Twitter in June 2022.

In a flood of tributes after the attack, friends and colleagues cited her words — first in prayers for her recovery, and again upon the news of her death.

One verse, in particular, seemed to strike a chord:

An air raid across the country
each time like going to everyone’s
yet they aim at only one.

Days before the strike in Kramatorsk, Ms. Amelina wrote about hearing the sound of explosions from her balcony.

“The war is when you can no longer follow all news and cry about all neighbors who died instead of you a couple of miles away,” she tweeted. “Still, I want to not forget to learn the names.”

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