Victoria Amelina

1986 – 2023

At Frankfurt Book Fair. 2018. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A ¡Viva! here for Victoria Amelina, Ukrainian novelist and poet who died on July 1, 2023, aged 37, from injuries received in a Russian missile strike on RIA Pizza in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Well known within Ukraine and Europe as a writer, she was awarded the Joseph Conrad Literary Award and shortlisted for the European Union Prize for Literature.

After the Russian invasion she devoted her time and attention to documenting and researching Russian War Crimes. After the war began, she got her son to safety in Poland but returned, herself, to Ukraine.

As she watched the destruction of her country, she wrote: “The war is when you can no longer follow all news and cry about all neighbours who died instead of you a couple of miles away. Still, I want to not forget to learn the names.”

Poetry was one vehicle she found for describing the horror: “For Ukrainians, poetry isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity during war.” Below, we reproduce “Poem About a Crow,” inspired by her work interviewing women who have been living through Russian occupation. Translated by Uilleam Blacker, it was printed in The Guardian on July 4, 2023.

Poem About a Crow

In a barren springtime field
Stands a woman dressed in black
Crying her sisters’ names
Like a bird in the empty sky
She’ll cry them all out of herself

The one that flew away too soon
The one that had begged to die
The one that couldn’t stop death
The one that has not stopped waiting
The one that has not stopped believing
The one that still grieves in silence

She’ll cry them all into the ground
As though sowing the field with pain

And from pain and the names of women
Her new sisters will grow from the earth
And again will sing joyfully of life

But what about her, the crow?

She will stay in this field forever
Because only this cry of hers
Holds all those swallows in the air

Do you hear how she calls
Each one by her name?

— Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno