(Dinara Khalilova’s article appeared in the Kyiv Independent, 10/25/23; Photo: Ukrainian ballet dancer Oleksandr Shapoval (top left), artist and researcher of Ukrainian cuisine Olha Pavlenko (top right), film editor Viktor Onysko (bottom left), artist and fashion designer Liubov Panchenko (bottom center), conductor Yurii Kerpatenko (bottom right). All of them were killed by Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. This audio is created with AI assistance.)
“My worst fear is coming true: I’m inside a new Executed Renaissance. As in the 1930s, Ukrainian artists are killed, their manuscripts disappear, and their memory is erased,” Ukrainian writer Viktoriia Amelina penned in the foreword to the published diary of another author, Volodymyr Vakulenko, murdered during the Russian occupation of Izium.
Amelina, who dug up Vakulenko’s notes he had hidden from the Russians in his yard and initiated the diary’s publication, was also killed by Russia’s war. She died on July 1 after being critically injured in a Russian missile strike on Kramatorsk.
Vakulenko and Amelina are among dozens of Ukrainian cultural figures killed by Russian aggression. There is no official record of such losses, but two lists compiled by PEN Ukraine suggest that the full-scale invasion has claimed the lives of at least 65 Ukrainian cultural figures.
Some were killed as civilians in missile attacks or in occupation, others as service members after joining the Armed Forces to defend their country. But all of these deaths have contributed to what experts call Russia’s hundreds-year campaign against Ukrainian culture.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin has said that Ukraine has no right to exist as a state, so they (Russians) are trying to erase all evidence of this existence,” Olha Honchar, director of Lviv’s Memorial Museum of Totalitarian Regimes, told the Kyiv Independent.
“If you have a pro-Ukrainian position, engage in culture, language, literature, history — then you are a target for destruction on the occupiers’ lists.”
The Kyiv Independent tells the stories of five cultural figures Ukraine has lost to Russia’s war since Feb. 24, 2022.