Ukrainian novelist participates in a digital residency at University of Chichester

In October, a digital writer's residency from the University of Chichester, the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Stephen Spender Trust started. Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Rafeienko is a participant of the residency; he will be sharing his experience and knowledge with students as part of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture, organised jointly by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute.
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Novelist Volodymyr Rafeienko had to flee his hometown Donetsk after the beginning of the war in 2014 and settled near Bucha, Kyiv. Due to the full-scale war, the writer had to leave his home for the second time. Before, Volodymyr wrote in Russian and was even a laureate of Russian literary prizes. However, after the beginning of the war, he switched to the Ukrainian language. In 2019, his first novel in Ukrainian Mondegreen. Songs about Death and Love was published by Harvard University Press, with whom he will be publishing a new book next year. 

The book was shortlisted for the most prestigious Ukrainian award in the field of art and culture — the Taras Shevchenko National Prize. Volodymyr Refeienko also translated the book of the Nobel Prize-winner Svetlana Alexievich’s famed War’s Unwomanly Face.

“In times of peace and hours of war, literature retains its constant purpose. It is the means of recreating and preserving the human in humanity. It’s harder to write in war, but that’s because living through war is also much harder. There are two important parts to the residency: the first is to write and work, perhaps to teach. Secondly, it gives me a chance to be heard by students, colleagues, people who are not indifferent to Ukraine and the problems of culture in Europe – that is people who are open to understanding,” says Volodymyr Rafeienko.

His digital writer in residency, hosted by the University of Chichester’s humanities department, was organised by Reader in Creative Writing Suzanne Joinson, herself a prize-winning novelist and non-fiction writer.

“We are delighted to welcome Volodymyr to our University. As he cannot leave his country we have created remote ways of engaging that include video link-up events. He will meet MA and UG creative writing and literature students to share ideas and thoughts on his essays and novels and writing in general. This is a unique residency and his incredible literary talent and passion for writing will prove inspirational not only for our students – who will learn directly from him – but anyone who has become engaged in Ukraine since the start of the devastating conflict,” says Suzanne Joinson, prize-winning novelist and non-fiction writer.

The University will host a public talk with Volodymyr in November in partnership with Rathbones Folio Prize, Suzanne Joinson and Stephen Spender Trust. Stephen Spender Trust is developing a series of workshops for primary and secondary schools in which children of all backgrounds will read and translate Ukrainian poems and picture books. Alongside these workshops, Stephen Spender Trust’s translators will work with young Ukrainian refugees in schools. 

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