An evening in memory of Victoria Amelina, a Ukrainian writer who was to have begun a Harriman Residency in Paris in September 2023 but was killed by a Russian missile in June. The event will consider the profound impact of the writer’s work on Ukrainian literature.
Participating in the event will be Valentina Izmirlieva, Jennifer Helinek, Mark Andryczyk, Andriy Kurkov, and William Ronald Debnam.
Victoria Amelina (1986-2023) was the author of two novels Синдром листопаду, або Homo Compatiens (The Fall Syndrome: or Homo Compatiens, 2015 ) and Дім для Дома (Dom’s Dream Kingdom, 2017) as well as the children’s book Хтось, або водяне серце (Somebody, or Water Heart, 2016). She was the founder of the New York Literature Festival, which takes place in a small town called New York in the Donetsk region. Victoria also wrote poetry and was working on her next book, Looking at Women Looking at War, when she was killed in Kramatorsk while accompanying Colombian journalists with whom she was investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Valentina Izmirlieva is Director of the Harriman Institute and Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures. She is a scholar of Balkan and East Slavic religious and political cultures, with a focus on multi-ethnic and multi-religious empires and their successor states. The topics of her publications range from the medieval societies of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions, including Kyivan Rus’, to the post-Soviet cultural space. The recipient of many awards and distinctions, including the Fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Professor Izmirlieva delivered the inaugural memorial Shevelov lecture of Ukrainian Studies in 2018. She founded and leads Black Sea Networks, a global initiative to investigate the Black Sea as a hub of cultural, political, and historical interest.
Jennifer Helinek is a second-year Harriman master’s student who focuses on the literature, history, and contemporary politics of East Central Europe. Her thesis uses a Czech literary prize as a case study of the changing roles and perceptions of contemporary Eastern European writers.
Mark Andryczyk has taught Ukrainian literature at Columbia University and administered the Harriman Institute’s Ukrainian Studies Program since 2007. His is the author of The Intellectual as Hero in 1990s Ukrainian Fiction (2012). Andryczyk is editor and compiler of The White Chalk of Days, the Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series Anthology (2017). He has recently translated Volodymyr Rafeyenko’s novel Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love (2022) and is the editor and a translator of Ukraine 22: Ukrainian Writers Respond to War (2023).
Born near Leningrad in 1961, Andriy Kurkov was a journalist, prison warder, cameraman and screenplay-writer before he became well known as a novelist. He received “hundreds of rejections” and was a pioneer of self-publishing, selling more than 75,000 copies of his books in a single year. His novel Death and the Penguin, his first in English translation, became an international bestseller, translated into more than thirty languages. As well as writing fiction for adults and children, he has become known as a commentator and journalist on Ukraine for the international media. His work of reportage, Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev, was published in 2014, followed by the novel The Bickford Fuse(MacLehose Press, 2016). He lives in Kyiv with his British wife and their three children. Andriy is the Harriman Institute’s 2023 Writer In Residence.
William Ronald Debnam is a second year doctoral student at the Department of Slavic Languages. He holds an MA in Slavic Languages from Columbia University and a BA in Modern and Medieval Languages from the University of Cambridge. His current research focusses on Ukrainian modernist literature of the 1920s, and specifically how it engages with political questions around Ukrainianisation and Soviet nationalities policy more broadly. This year William is also the instructor for Columbia’s Elementary Ukrainian language course.