Prize-winning Ukrainian writer dies of injuries in Russian missile strike on restaurant

Restaurant destroyed by a Russian attack in Kramatorsk, Ukraine
Ukrainian emergency workers respond to a deadly Russian missile attack that destroyed a restaurant in Kramatorsk on Wednesday.
(National Police of Ukraine)
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Victoria Amelina, a prize-winning Ukrainian writer, was among those killed by a deadly Russian missile attack on a popular restaurant frequented by journalists and aid workers in eastern Ukraine, PEN America announced in a statement.

Amelina, 37, who had turned her attention from writing literature to documenting Russian war crimes in Ukraine, died from her injuries after the strike Tuesday on the city of Kramatorsk, the literature and human rights organization said Sunday. At least 11 others were killed and 61 were wounded in the attack, which occurred around dinnertime, when the restaurant was usually busy.

Ukrainian authorities arrested a man a day later, accusing him of helping Russia direct the strike.


The attack and others across Ukraine that evening suggested that the Kremlin is not easing its aerial onslaught over Ukraine, despite political and military turmoil at home after a short-lived armed uprising in Russia last week.

PEN Ukraine announced Amelina’s death after her family was informed of her passing. Amelina was in Kramatorsk with a delegation of Colombian writers and journalists at the time of the strike. She had been documenting Russian war crimes with the human rights organization Truth Hounds.

“Victoria Amelina was a celebrated Ukrainian author who turned her distinct and powerful voice to investigate and expose war crimes after the full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February 2022,” said Polina Sadovskaya, Eurasia director at PEN America. “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.”

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Amelina was born Jan. 1, 1986, in the western city of Lviv. In 2014, she published her first novel, “The November Syndrome, or Homo Compatiens,” which was shortlisted for the Ukranian Valeriy Shevchuk Prize.

She went on to write two prize-winning children’s books and another novel. In 2017, her novel “Dom’s Dream Kingdom” received a slew of national and international accolades — including the UNESCO City of Literature Prize and the European Union Prize for Literature.

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Amelina devoted herself to documenting Russian war crimes in Ukraine’s east. In Kapytolivka, near Izyum, she discovered the diary of Volodymyr Vakulenko, a Ukrainian writer killed by the Russians.


She also began working on her first work of English nonfiction shortly before her death. In “War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War,” Amelina recounts stories of Ukrainian women collecting evidence of Russian war crimes. It is expected to be published soon, according to PEN Ukraine.