White or Black – President of PEN Ukraine in reply to PEN Germany’s letter
We are criticized for campaigning to boycott the entire Russian culture until the war is over. We are libeled for our addresses and discussions allegedly containing elements of hate speech. International organizations still suggest that we arrange online discussions with representatives of Russian culture and literature, to talk about the war and Ukraine’s problems in particular.
Now we may only find complete understanding among residents of Sarajevo, Dubrovnik and aged inhabitants of Coventry, a city turned into ruins by German bombers during WWII. I have not found any information about discussions concerning reconciliation between Soviet and German writers during the Second World War. There were none. As long as the war in Ukraine continues there will be no such discussions between Ukrainian and Russian writers.
Yes, the "black list" is not the best practice. Even more so, we know that not all Russian writers signed the open letter in support of the aggression in Ukraine which has recently been published by Literaturnaya Gazeta in Moscow. Therefore, I would suggest making a "white list" with names of Russian culture figures who have not been afraid to raise the voice against Putin and the war in Ukraine. Let’s support those who support us.
With regard to Tolstoy, Pushkin and Dostoyevsky — nobody burns their books in Ukraine. In Ukraine books are not burnt at all. Instead, the Russian army burns and bombards Ukrainian museums, churches, memorial sites, including Babyn Yar, and the Kharkiv Slovo House, a house-monument to Ukrainian writers of 1920-1930s who were practically all executed by NKVD. This generation of Ukrainian writers is known as "Executed Renaissance".
If you want to read and know more about the "mysterious Russian soul" — carry on! If I were you I would be now reading books about Ukraine. Everyone already knows very much about Russia anyway. The time has come to find out about the history and culture of Ukraine, about life and thoughts of Ukrainian citizens of different nationalities, about their dreams, the realization of which also depends on you, citizens of the European Union, and the democratic world.
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