The books have been delivered to PEN Ukraine through a partnership between Book Aid International, PEN Ukraine, English PEN, and PEN International, and are now ready for distribution to libraries across Ukraine.
Over 25,000 (12 tons) publisher-donated books, including children’s, adult, and young adult books in English, were shipped at the end of November 2023 from London to Kyiv, where the office of PEN Ukraine is located. From there, the books will be distributed to Ukrainian libraries via Nova Post. Some books will be distributed during literary volunteering trips to frontline and de-occupied territories.
“The promotion of books will be directly targeted at the audience for whom we are requesting the books, including students of philology, children attending English classes, and the participants of English-speaking club. Information will be disseminated directly and to a wider audience through social media and the library website. Season ticket holders will have the option to read the books at home,” explains Inga Khorzhevska, director of Mykolaiv L. Kropyvnytskyi Central Adult Library.
“For people living amidst the war in Ukraine, we know that libraries have become places of safety and refuge for communities, as well as havens where reading and learning can continue. I would like to warmly thank all the publishers who have supported this shipment and donated books to support all the work we do,” says Alison Tweed, Book Aid International Chief Executive.
Authors Alexander McCall Smith, Edmund de Waal and Elif Shafak are ambassadors of the initiative in the UK. “Maybe books cannot fight against guns or bombs, but they can do something incredibly powerful: they help us realise that we are not alone. That we are not forgotten or forsaken. That our voices matter. That we have brothers and sisters, we have kindred spirits all across the world. Inside the pages of a book, we find the whole humanity,” states Elif Shafak.
Authors Sofia Andrukhovych, Andrii Bondar and Svitlana Taratorina, along with filmmaker and actor Akhtem Seitablaiev, are ambassadors of the initiative in Ukraine. All participated in sorting books and collecting packages for libraries. Photographer Mykhailo Palinchak has documented the books’ arrival at the warehouse.
Eastman Film Production, jointly with the TRO Media and the Crimean House State Enterprise, is producing a documentary about the initiative.
“The social project which has united hundreds of people, arose from a spontaneous conversation. The idea came instantly, and our British partners expressed their sincere desire to help. After six months of joint work of PEN Ukraine, Book Aid International, PEN International, English PEN and dozens of publishing houses, thousands of English-language books are now being transported from London to Kyiv, with dozens of writers personally packing, sending, and delivering books for hundreds of libraries across Ukraine. This is a story of individual decisions and contributions that collectively make a significant impact,” says Volodymyr Yermolenko, president of PEN Ukraine, philosopher and writer.
Photo by Mykhailo Palinchak