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Kyiv says its last goodbye to Victoria Amelina, the writer who died recounting the war in Ukraine

The victim’s colleagues say the best way to honor her legacy is by investigating the crimes committed by the Russian invaders

Funeral for Victoria Amelina, a 37-year-old writer who died after the Russian attack on a restaurant in Kramatorsk.
Luis de Vega

There is a “special mystique” around the death of Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina, says Volodymyr Yermolenko, the president of Pen Ukraine, an association to which Amelina belonged that defends writers and fights for freedom of expression. “While she was carrying out her work investigating war crimes, Victoria was killed in one of those very crimes, because what happened in Kramatorsk undoubtedly is one,” he said, referring to the June 27 Russian bombing in the eastern Ukrainian city that cost Amelina her life.

Yermolenko, serene but grieving, was at his friend’s funeral at the Monastery of Saint Michael in Kyiv at noon on Tuesday. He adds that there is also a certain mystique surrounding one of Amelina’s most recognized works during the war. Writer Volodimir Vakulenko buried the manuscripts of his diaries at his home in the Kharkiv region before he was arrested and killed by the Russians last year. Amelina, who rescued those writings and promoted their publication, died last Saturday, July 1 — the same day as Vakulenko’s birthday. “They never met in person, but their lives have crossed paths,” said Yermolenko.

Two hundred people attended Kyiv’s last goodbye to Victoria Amelina. Many carried bouquets of all kinds of flowers that, after the ceremony, were deposited next to the coffin. The writer’s final farewell and burial will take place on Wednesday in her hometown, Lviv, near the border with Poland. A large group of colleagues will also accompany her there.

Victoria Amelina, 37, had traveled to the eastern region of Donetsk with a Colombian delegation that had come to Ukraine to present the Aguanta Ucrania (Stay Strong, Ukraine) solidarity campaign with the local population. On the afternoon of June 27, she was having dinner at the popular Ria restaurant in Kramatorsk with the writer Héctor Abad Faciolince; Sergio Jaramillo, a former peace commissioner in Colombia, the reporter Catalina Gómez and the group’s driver, Dima. He was one of those at Tuesday’s funeral who caressed the Ukrainian flag covering the writer’s coffin, his face bathed in tears.

Attendees at the funeral of Victoria Amelina on Tuesday.
Attendees at the funeral of Victoria Amelina on Tuesday.Luis de Vega

The feeling at the funeral was not only pain, but also of disbelief. Some of those present had rushed to get to the hospital in the city of Dnipro, where, after several days in a coma, it was confirmed that Amelina had died. Everyone is aware that they have been at war for almost a year and a half, since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But it is when death touches you personally that you are most able to recognize that no one can escape the macabre lottery of the bombings.

Amelina, like many other writers of the new guard in Ukraine, turned her life around last year following the invasion. Without putting aside her work — she has also written poems about the war — she focused her time on investigating the crimes committed by the invading forces, delving into the testimonies of the victims and on searching for evidence in places freed from the Russian occupation.

Some of Amelina’s colleagues say that, after her death, there is no other choice but to move on, and the best way of doing that is to honor her legacy by opening new investigations into those crimes and digging into every place where the war has left its mark.

A woman at the funeral of Victoria Amelina, this Tuesday, in kyiv.
A woman at the funeral of Victoria Amelina, this Tuesday, in kyiv.Luis de Vega

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