Earlier today, May 22, at the World Expression Forum in Lillehammer, Norway, the International Publishers Association presented a Prix Voltaire Special Award for murdered Ukrainian children’s book author and poet, Volodymyr Vakulenko.
Prix Voltaire nominees are publishers – individuals, groups, or organizations – who have typically published controversial works amid pressure, threats, intimidation, or harassment, be it from governments, other authorities, or private interests.
Accepting the 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire Special Award on behalf of Volodymyr Vakulenko was the Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina, the author of two novels and a children’s book. Amelina received the Joseph Conrad Literary Award from the Polish Institute in Kyiv in 2021 and was a European Union Prize for Literature finalist in 2019. She is a member of PEN International and currently works as a war crimes researcher.
Click below to listen to the latest episode of the Velocity of Content podcast.
As an author, publisher, and organizer of festivals and reading, the late Volodymyr Vakulenko had many roles in Ukrainian publishing, Amelina tells me.
“First of all, Volodymyr Vakulenko was very honest and very passionate, exactly the kind of person who wouldn’t be able perhaps to survive the Russian occupation without being arrested, without being questioned, and perhaps, as we can see, without being killed, because he was always honest, and it was important for him to have his freedom of speech, freedom of expression. It was very difficult for him to hide his views anywhere, and it was particularly difficult for him during the time of occupation of his native village, Kapitolivka,” she explains.
“I have to say that we all call him Volodymyr Vakulenko, but his pen name was Volodymyr Vakulenko-K., and this K stood exactly for the name of his native village, Kapitolivka. So he was not only a patriot of Ukraine, but also, he had very warm feelings about his village, and other writers also knew that.”