Ukraine honors its own Tortured Poets Department.

Drew Broussard

April 24, 2024, 3:32pm

Today on Xwitter, Ukraine offered up their own version of The Tortured Poets Department, honoring three Ukrainian writers who have died in the 790 days so far of the country’s war with Russia: Victoria Amelina, Maksym Kryvtsov, and Volodymyr Vakulenko.

Amelina, a celebrated novelist and winner of a UNESCO City of Literature Prize as well as a European Union Prize for Literature, died due to injuries suffered during a Russian missile attack last summer.

Kryvtsov, whose 2023 collection of poetry was named one of the best Ukrainian books of the year by PEN Ukraine, was killed in action fighting at the front in January. The Wall Street Journal helped memorialize him and his verse.

Vakulenko, who wrote poetry and fiction for children and whose diary was salvaged by Victoria Amelina just before her death last year, was murdered by Russian paramilitary forces sometime in early 2022 and his body was found in a mass grave near his village later that year.


There’s a simplicity to this memorial that helps me put into words something I’ve been pondering since the announcement of the album. I want to be clear that I’m not against hyperbole, or even just playful language—Taylor Swift is certainly a tortured poet, in several meanings of the phrase—but there’s something about this brief Twitter memorial from Ukraine that resonates with me, that puts so much of the performative suffering of so many artists in perspective.

It is easy for artists in let’s-broadly-say-the-West to call themselves tortured, or tormented, or suffering: I do it, you probably do it, Taylor does it, the “tortured man club” does it. And yeah, making art can sometimes feel excruciating in outsized ways. But at a time of unparalleled-in-my-lifetime global suffering and violence, I’m once again reminded to feel grateful that I have the chance to make art at all—and to feel such sorrow for the artists I haven’t heard of (let alone the ones I’ll never get to hear of) who’ve died because of jingoistic monsters who would rather set the world on fire than contemplate its beauty.

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