People of Culture Taken Away by the War (updating)
Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, our heavenly defenders have been replenished with people of art: actors, artists, sculptors, and linguists. In this article, PEN Ukraine tracks losses among cultural figures, stories of which are becoming known to public. This is an unofficial monitoring: we realise that many more artists' lives have been taken by Russia since February 24. Unfortunately, we may never find out about some of them.
On January 24, Oleh Sobchenko, a well-known public figure, ATO veteran, air reconnaissance officer of the 72nd mechanised brigade named after the Chorni Zaporozhtsi, was killed in battle with the Russian occupiers in Vuhledar, Donetsk Region. He was fond of history and was involved in the restoration of memorials and graves of the officers of the Ukrainian People's Army (the UNR Army). He was an active participant in the Revolution of Dignity, took part in patriotic demonstrations and spoke in defense of the Ukrainian language.
On January 16, after 4 months of being in a coma as a result of a severe battle wound, Kharkiv historian and antiquarian Valerii Romanovskyi passed away. He was an associate professor of the Department of Cultural Studies of the Kharkiv State Academy of Culture and a member of the Kharkiv Historical and Philological Society. Valerii Romanovskyi taught the history of Ukrainian and world culture, worked on the memoirs of Pavlo Zholtovskyi, and wrote commentary on the memoirs of Yurii Shevelyov.
On January 6, 2023, Vitalii Pyvovarov, a Zhytomyr librarian, was killed near Bakhmut. He graduated from the history faculty of Zhytomyr Ivan Franko State University, and was pursuing a postgraduate degree. Vitalii worked in the State Archive of the Zhytomyr Region and Zhytomyr State Administration. He was a numismatist, philatelist, and collected books. At the time of the full-scale Russian invasion, Vitalii was working in the Oleh Olzhych Regional Scientific Library. He volunteered to join the ranks of the Armed Forces.
On December 30, editing director Viktor Onysko was killed at the frontline. He worked on dozens of Ukrainian movies and TV-series, including the films "Zakhar Berkut" and "Storozhova Zastava". Viktor joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine and took part in military operations on the territory of Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk Regions. He had the call sign "Tarantino".
On December 22, it became known that Oleksandr Snihurovskyi, an actor of the Kyiv Black Square theater, was killed at the frontline near Bakhmut. He lived in California for a long time, but returned to Ukraine after the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion. Oleksandr Snihurovskyi first became a volunteer, and later a soldier.
On December 20, film director Oleh Bobalo-Yaremchuk was killed at the frontline near Bakhmut. He was the commander of the first mortar battery and fought in the 23rd battalion. Oleh Bobalo-Yaremchuk was born in Lviv. He directed numerous television films, commercials, TV projects, and was the author of the feature-documentary film about Ukraine Heart of the Universe and the film Ukrainian Cinema: Becoming (2021).
On December 19, Serhii Shkvarchenko, Merited Artist of Ukraine, an artist of the Pavlo Virsky Ukrainian National Folk Dance Ensemble, was killed during a mortar shelling at the frontline. He defended Ukraine in the ranks of the Armed Forces.
On December 7, a comedian and presenter Yaroslav Harkavko lost his life defending Ukraine. He took part in the League of Laughter comedy show. With the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, he joined the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
On November 29, it became known that a historian and teacher of the Kamianets-Podilskyi Ivan Ohienko National University Vadym Stetsiuk was killed at the frontline. He taught history and was a researcher at the Kamianets-Podilskyi State Historical Museum. Author of more than 120 scientific publications.
On November 28, the DNA expertise confirmed that the body found in the grave №319 in the Izium woods was that of the Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Vakulenko. The news that the Ukrainian writer, activist and volunteer Volodymyr Vakulenko had been abducted near Izium in the occupied Kharkiv region, together with his son Vitalii, first emerged in April. Later it became known that Volodymyr 's son was released, yet neither his relatives nor his friends could reach Volodymyr’s parents in the occupied village of Kapytolivka; therefore, no information of the man’s whereabouts had been available. Vakulenko’s parents were finally located In September, after the Armed Forces of Ukraine had liberated Izium and its suburbs from Russian occupation. Then it became known that the Russian occupiers first entered the home of Volodymyr Vakulenko on March 22. The family was taken their phones, documents, and Ukrainian books away ‘for checking’. Next day, the Russians took Volodymyr Vakulenko and his son Vitalii, diagnosed with autism. The occupiers undressed the writer to inspect his tattoos and bashed him. Next day, Volodymyr and his son were allowed to return home. It was then that Vakulenko decided to bury his war diary under a cherry tree in the garden. At about 11 am on March 24, a bus marked with a Z-sign, with its sliding door pulled out, drove up to the house where Volodymyr Vakulenko lived with his son and his father. The occupiers shoved him into the bus and took off in the direction of Izium. None of Vakulenko’s relatives had seen him or heard from him since.
On November 17, it became known that Serhii Myronov, a Kyiv tour guide, activist, author of the blog Vanishing Kyiv, was killed at the frontline. At his own expense, he restored historical doors and windows in old Kyiv houses. From the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, Serhii defended Kyiv as part of the 241st territorial defense brigade. He was seriously wounded in the east of Ukraine, protecting his comrades. He died of wounds in the hospital.
On November 15, a 26-year-old ballet dancer Vadym Khlupianets was killed by an enemy sniper's bullet near Bakhmut. Born on June 4, 1996 in Donetsk, he left the city in 2014. A graduate of the Kyiv Choreographic College, Vadym started working at the Kyiv National Academic Operetta Theater in 2015. He enjoyed sports and played football and chess. At the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, he voluntarily joined territorial defense and then the Legion of Freedom of the National Guard of Ukraine. With the call sign "Magnum" he fought in Rubizhne, Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, and Zaitseve.
On October 18, historian Yurii Kostyk was killed at the frontline. An alumnus of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, after completing his studies he worked at the Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University. He taught the history of Ukraine in English for foreign students. Subsequently, he held the position of a researcher in the Lviv National Scientific Library of Ukraine named after Vasyl Stefanyk. Yurii defended Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk regions since 2014, was a company commander, and received the rank of captain. In 2016, he signed a contract with the AFU. In December 2021, Yurii Kostyk was awarded an order for "courage, devotion to the Ukrainian people and conscientious performance of duty." He had the call sign "Hero".
On October 13, information appeared that Russian occupiers shot dead the conductor of the Kherson Philharmonic Yurii Kerpatenko. They killed him in his own home in the occupied Kherson for refusing to cooperate with them. The connection with Kerpatenko was lost back in September. Yurii Kerpatenko was a Ukrainian conductor, orchestrator, accordionist, the chief conductor of the Kherson Music and Drama Theater named after Mykola Kulish.
On October 5, news emerged of the death of a revered historian and archeologist Viacheslav Zaitsev on the frontline in Donetsk region. He was the head of the information and publishing department of the Khortytsia National Reserve and a deputy of the Zaporizhzhia City Council of the last two convocations. In March 2014, Viacheslav was mobilised into the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He defended the Donetsk airport, took part in battles in Southern Encirclement and Debaltseve. He was wounded twice. For his military merits, he was awarded the state award, The Order For Courage, of the third degree.
On September 12, 47-year-old Oleksandr Shapoval, Merited Artist of Ukraine and a ballet soloist of the National Opera, was killed in battle near Maiorsk in Donetsk region. He performed in Carmen Suite, Julius Caesar and other plays. On February 25, he joined the territorial defense, then became a grenade launcher in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
On August 20, musician and soldier Roman Barvinok-Skrypal was killed at the frontline. He joined the ranks of the Armed Forces in 2016, hiding health problems that prevented him from being mobilised. "From time to time, in the trenches, he would pick up a machine gun, and then a violin. When he played, there were times when the firing would stop, because our soldiers were listening and so were the enemies," wrote the officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Olena Bilozerska, about Roman.
On August 9, it became known that poet and military serviceman Artem Dovhopoly was killed on the frontline in Donetsk region. Until February 13, he served under a contract in the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. Artem's contract expired 11 days before the full-scale Russian invasion. He volunteered to join the 58th brigade protecting the east of Ukraine. Artem was 28 years old.
On July 28, the author of the anthem of the Kolomyia 10th mountain assault brigade, platoon commander, poet Glib Babich was killed in the battle with the Russian occupiers. He was an author of more than 500 poems, some of them set to music. Babich's poetry collection Poems and Songs was published in 2021. As a serviceman, he went through five years of war and six combat rotations.
On May 29, it became known that Roman Zhuk, a photographer, videographer and environmental activist from Mukachevo, was killed on the frontline.
On May 28, it became known that a pyrotechnician and director of battle scenes, Oleksandr Suvorov, was killed defending Ukraine.
On May 14, it became known that a Korean language teacher and translator, Denys Antipov, was killed in a battle with the occupiers near Izyum in the Kharkiv region. An ATO veteran, he returned to the frontline as the Armed Forces of Ukraine serviceman. Denys Antipov worked at the Department of Languages and Literatures of the Far East and Southeast Asia at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. He taught Korean language and repeatedly did internships in South Korea.
On May 8, a writer, doctor of sociology and professor of Mariupol State University Bohdan Slyushchynsky was killed in Mariupol. There, he founded the literary and artistic almanac Mariupol, headed the student literary association Pearls of the Word. Author of the books Tired Hope, Echo, In the Embrace of Time, Autumn Windmill, Sources, Dawn Dew, Breath of the Wind.
On May 7, Ilya Chernilevskyi, a poet, screenwriter, musician and translator was killed in Avdiivka area as a result of mortar shelling of the enemy. He went to the front as a volunteer. On May 7, the connection with him was lost. The information about his death was released on May 13. Ilya Chernilevskyi is the son of the famous poet, film director and member of PEN Ukraine Stanislav Chernilevskyi.
On May 3, it became known that Natalia Kharakoz, a journalist, writer, member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and the National Union of Writers of Ukraine, and head of the Azovia Literary Club, passed away in blockaded Mariupol. Her house was destroyed. The woman was forced to live and hide in the basement. Natalia Kharakoz died in early April, but due to the lack of mobile connection, it was difficult to obtain any information about the circumstances of her death.
On April 30, Lyubov Panchenko, a Sixtier artist, died at the age of 84. For a month, she was starving in occupied Bucha. Exhausted, she was taken to one of Kyiv’s hospitals on April 2. Lyubov Mykhailivna Panchenko was a professional Ukrainian designer, an honorary citizen of Bucha, a laureate of the Vasyl Stus Award, and a member of the Ukrainian Women’s Union. Lyubov Panchenko belongs to a group of artists of the sixties who revived Ukrainian culture during the Khrushchev thaw. Before the war, she managed to save her creative heritage by passing it to the Museum of the Sixtiers Movement.
On April 23, two young actresses of the local Concept Theater, Elizaveta Ochkur and Sonya Amelchykova, were killed during the shelling of Mariupol’s residential areas by the Russian occupiers. They both played Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe play, based on the book from The Chronicles of Narnia series.
On April 22, it became known that Serhii Skald, a poet, a serviceman and a public activist, was killed in Mariupol. He took part in the Revolution of Dignity and the ATO. Serhii Skald is the author of poetry collections Navylit. Rhymes of Caliber 5.45 (Orientir publishing house, 2018) and Other (2021), and a co-author of the nationalist poetry collection Voice of Blood.
On April 21, historian and writer Serhii Burov died in besieged Mariupol. He devoted his life to researching the history of the city, and was its honorary citizen. Burov’s first book Mariupol. The Past was published in 2003. In 2011 his second book Mariupol and Its People was released. The circumstances of Serhii Burov’s death are currently unknown.
On April 3, Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius was killed in blockaded Mariupol. In 2016, he directed the film Mariupolis about the war in Donbas. The film was regarded as "human history against the background of historical upheavals." The premiere took place in 2016 at the Berlin International Film Festival.
In the evening of the same day it became known that Ukrainian poet and the member of National Union of Writers Nadiia Agafonova was among those killed during the Russian missile strike on the Mykolayiv Regional State Administration.
On April 2, journalist Yevhen Bal died in Melekine near Mariupol. On March 18, he was illegally arrested by the Russian soldiers. Yevhen’s house was searched, and he was tortured. Severely beaten, he was released three days later. The death of Yevhen Bal is a consequence of the injuries inflicted by the occupiers. Yevhen did not live to his 79th birthday for only six days. Bal was the author of numerous reports about the war in Ukraine, a member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, a writer, and a volunteer.
On April 1, Ukrainian writer, poet, and public activist Yurii Ruf was killed in battle in the Luhansk region. He joined the Armed Forces on the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Among Yurii Ruf’s publications are "Crimson Lyric" (2012), "Time of the Revolution" (2014), "At the turn of the ages" (2015). Yuri’s poetry was included in the contemporary poetry collections "Voice of Blood" (2013) and "Echoes of Lead Thunder" (2015).
On March 27, Sviatoslav Pashinsky, a teacher at the Poltava Children’s Art School, a sculptor and ceramist from Poltava, was killed by an enemy bullet. Pashinsky was a member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine and a laureate of the Yaroshenko Sculpture Prize.
On March 24, Ukrainian historian, translator, and publicist Serhii Zaikovsky was killed during an assault on the Lukyanivka village in the Kyiv region. He was a graduate of Kharkiv National University named after Karazin and specialised in the history of the ancient world and the Middle Ages.
Ballet soloist of the National Opera of Ukraine, 43-year-old Artem Datsyshyn died on March 17 in hospital. On February 26, he came under enemy fire in the capital of Ukraine and has since fought for his life in hospital. Artem Datsyshyn was a laureate of the 1996 International Serhii Lyfar Ballet Competition and 1998 Rudolf Nuriev International Ballet Competition. He performed leading roles in the ballets "Swan Lake", "Nutcracker", "Sleeping Beauty", "Giselle", "Don Quixote", "Bayaderka", and "Romeo and Juliet" and others.
On March 16, 67-year-old Oksana Shvets, a Kyiv National Academic Molodyy Theater actress, was killed in the shelling of a residential building in Kyiv. She was awarded the title of Merited Artist of Ukraine in 1996. She graduated from the Theater Studio at the Ivan Franko Theater (1975) and Faculty of Theater Studies, Kyiv State Institute of Theater Arts.named after I. Karpenko-Kary (1986). She worked at the Ternopil Music and Drama Theater, Kyiv Satire Theater and the Molodyy Theater (1980-2022).
On March 12, 24-year-old social theatre actor and sound director Pavlo Yeremenko died. Together with his father, he joined the Territorial defence forces on the first day of the war. His girlfriend Oksana followed him to defend the country. On March 11, Pavlo and his father guarded the Yuri Gagarin Stadium in Chernihiv and came under morning shelling. Pavlo was crushed down with a slab and died within a day in the hospital. His father survived.
On March 7, artist and volunteer Artem Azarov was killed in the battle for Kharkiv. He came under mortar fire, helping the Armed Forces to carry out combat missions. He had the callsign "Artist".
On March 6, 33-year-old Ukrainian actor Pavlo (Pasha) Lee died defending Irpin. He joined the defence forces on March 1. He died rescuing children during the evacuation. Pavlo put his bulletproof vest on the child he was carrying and was mortally wounded. The hero was buried in Vorokhta in the Ivano-Frankivsk region on March 18. Actor Pavlo Lee was known for his roles in the films "Gallery", "Shadows of Unforgotten Ancestors", "Meeting of Classmates" and others. He also worked as a voice actor.
On March 5, in Bucha near Kyiv, Russian occupiers shot dead Church Slavonic and Greek language teacher, historian, and translator Oleksandr Kisliuk. He worked as a teacher of ancient languages, translated classical texts to modern language, and had publications on the history of the Cossacks based on Latin sources.
On March 3, Ukrainian artist Oleksandr Tarasenko died at the Poltava Military Hospital. Serving in the territorial forces of defence, he suffered severe shrapnel wounds in the battle of Okhtyrka. Oleksandr Tarasenko was an associate professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Poltava University of Civil Engineering and a member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine. He is the author of the iconostasis of the Church of Simeon in the Mykhailyka village of Shyshak district, and the iconostasis of the Trinity Church in the Velyki Budyshcha village of Dykansky district.
On the night of March 2, Serhii Pushchenko, a graphic artist, painter and volunteer, was killed in a battle against Russian troops near Vasylkiv. Honoured Artist of Ukraine, author of over 900 paintings. The main theme of Pushchenko’s work was the Ukrainian Cossacks: he created a series of paintings between 2015 and 2018, and he painted portraits of volunteer soldiers from nature. The series includes 113 works.
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