Voices from an Endangered Culture: University bringing Ukrainian wartime poetry to London, Manchester and Exeter 

Ukrainian poet Yuliya Musakovska

Language experts at the University are orchestrating a series of events that will showcase Ukrainian wartime poetry to audiences across the UK.

Academics in the Department of Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies are working with Exeter and Manchester UNESCO Cities of Literature and the Ukrainian Institute London to host a series of readings, discussions and workshops focused on the outpouring of new writing in the country.

Yuliya Musakovsa, Olena Huseinova and Hanna Khriakova will present examples of Ukraine’s new wave of poetry, written in defiance of Russia’s illegal invasion, to audiences in London, Manchester and Exeter.

They will also engage with refugees through a series of workshops, as well as translators, publishers, and journalists in another.

“Ukrainian war poetry has become a symbol of resistance and national pride because Russia’s illegal war is a hybrid one, targeting their language and culture alongside their territory,” says Professor Hugh Roberts, project lead at Exeter. “The work we have been doing at the University, translating Ukrainian war poetry into English for the first time and promoting it, is a small but important step in opposing this cultural assault. Now, with funding for these events, we can provide an even bigger platform for Ukrainian voices to reach new audiences.”

Olena Huseinova

More than 100 writers and artists are known to have been killed during the invasion, including author Volodymyr Vakulenko, executed by Russian forces; novelist and poet Victoria Amelina, killed during a missile strike; and solider poet Maksym Kryvtsov, who was killed shortly after the publication of his collection Verses from the Trench.

Some of their work will be shared by poets Musakovska and Huseinova, as well as Khriakova, International Manager of the Lviv UNESCO City of Literature, during the tour. This begins on Saturday 27 June with readings and a discussion at Manchester Poetry Library, supported by Manchester UNESCO City of Literature. Postgraduate Publishing students at Manchester Metropolitan University will be supporting the event, producing a limited edition art book of the poetry.

On Tuesday 2 July, there will be a reading and discussion at Exeter Phoenix, in collaboration with Exeter UNESCO City of Literature, and two days later (4 July) the Ukrainian Institute London will be host to the poets.

Creative writing workshops with Ukrainian refugees will be held in Manchester and Exeter and a workshop for translators, publishers, and journalists in London.

The University has played a leading role in providing a public platform for Ukrainian war poetry, including in the translation and publication of soldier poet Artur Dron’s collection of work, hosting poetry workshops for refugees living in Devon, and releasing recordings of poetry readings on YouTube.

“Poetry is one of the means through which Ukrainians are resisting Russian cultural oppression,” adds project co-lead Professor Helen Vassallo. “We are witnessing a generation of artists whose work is being shaped or brutally cut short by these appalling events and it is essential that their voices are heard as widely as possible.”

Lviv UNESCO City of Literature International Manager Hanna Khriakova