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Ukrainians honour award-winning writer killed in missile attack

KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Dozens of people with flowers, many unable to hold back tears, bid farewell yesterday to an award-winning Ukrainian writer who was among those killed by a missile attack on a popular restaurant in Ukraine.

The memorial service for Victoria Amelina, 37, was held in the crowded main hall of Saint-Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv, where ceremonies are usually held for soldiers who were killed on the battlefield.

Amelina died in a hospital from injuries sustained in the June 27 strike on a popular restaurant frequently visited by journalists and aid workers in the city of Kramatorsk. Twelve other people also lost their lives in the attack.

“Usually, we gather here to say goodbye to the most deserving,” said Archimandrite Lavrentii, the Orthodox priest leading the service. “Considering the times we live in, leading a worthy and dignified life for each of us is the best tribute we can offer in memory of those who have passed away.”

Around 100 people, including representatives from the Ukrainian literary community, relatives, and residents of Kyiv gathered at the church to honour Amelina, a prominent writer who had turned her attention from literature to documenting war crimes after February 2022.

Demonstrators hold a Ukrainian flag as they march outside of the White House in Washington, United States. PHOTO: AP

Mourners approached the closed casket, gently touching the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag covering it. Many couldn’t hold back tears. To the left of the casket, people laid flowers, some of which were adorned with ribbons in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. At the end of the farewell, a mountain of flowers stood next to a portrait of Amelina, a red-haired woman with a pale face and a penetrating gaze pictured against a dark background.

A funeral will be held today in Amelina’s hometown of Lviv.

Dmytro Kovalchuk, 31, was having dinner with Amelina at the restaurant when an Iskander missile struck the building. He worked as a producer for a team of writers – Amelina and a group of Colombian authors.

He said Amelina was the first one to be evacuated to the hospital. She sustained an injury when the roof collapsed, and a piece of iron reinforcement struck her head. “Victoria remained in her seat as she was,” recalled Dmytro. It seemed like she was fine, but she didn’t respond when called by her name.

After the service, the coffin and the flowers were loaded into a long black vehicle that departed for Lviv amid the strong and haunting sound of the trembita, a Ukrainian alpine horn made of wood.

Victoria Amelina is one of over 60 artists killed in Ukraine since the start of the full-scale war, said the head of PEN Ukraine Tetiana Teren.

“She had doubts about whether literature and culture could have an impact and support the country during such a horrific genocidal war. And she began to search for her own role, what she could contribute,” said Teren, holding a Ukrainian flag, about Amelina’s decision to document war crimes.