7 November: Today 25,000 brand-new books left Book Aid International’s London warehouse bound for libraries across Ukraine.
Since Russian forces invaded Ukraine the library network has suffered systematic heavy bombardments. More than 570 Ukrainian libraries have been damaged and completely or partly lost their book collections. In response, PEN Ukraine launched its ‘Unbreakable Libraries’ project to support Ukrainian libraries, and this shipment of books supports their courageous initiative. Book Aid International is delighted to be a part of the programme, alongside PEN International and English PEN.
All of the books being sent have been donated by leading publishers and selected to provide opportunities to learn English, read for pleasure and find respite in libraries. A number of publishers stepped forward to support the shipment following an appeal from Book Aid International. One of these was Hachette UK who donated 15,000 books. Ukrainian author and former president of PEN Ukraine Andrey Kurkov, who is published by Hachette UK, spoke of the shipment saying:
“Russian aggression tore us out of normal life, but it did not take away our desire to engage with world culture and world literature. Ukrainians are curious and multilingual readers. This campaign from Book Aid International is of great importance for the whole of Ukraine and for all Ukrainians.”
Oxford University Press (OUP) made a financial donation to support the shipment. OUP CEO Nigel Portwood commented saying:
“We are proud to support Book Aid International, sharing the belief that books have the power to transform people’s lives and unlock opportunities. Having seen the impact of Book Aid International’s work over many years now, we know that this initiative with PEN Ukraine will make a real difference to those who have faced immeasurable challenges as a result of the war.”
Award-winning author Elif Shafak is a supporter of PEN’s work around the world and Book Aid International. She said:
“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.”
The shipment includes a range of titles, including board books from the My Little Pony series, Alexander McCall Smith’s The Discreet Charm of the Big Bad Wolf, Edmund De Waal’s The White Road, Katherine Rundell’s The Zebra’s Great Escape and Michael Morpurgo’s Owl or Pussy Cat?.
Book Aid International’s Chief Executive Alison Tweed spoke of the shipment saying:
“For people living with 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 Hachette UK, OUP and other publishers who have supported this shipment and all the publishers who donate books to support all the work we do.”
The books on this shipment should reach Kyiv in November. From there, PEN Ukraine will distribute them to libraries across Ukraine, including to frontline and liberated territories. Tetyana Teren, PEN Ukraine’s Executive Director said:
“Since the start of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the libraries have lost over 187 million books. But even in such circumstances, society demonstrates unity and resilience. Thus, our joint initiative together with Book Aid International, PEN International, English PEN and leading publishing houses received a big response in Ukraine. Just in the first days after the project announcement, over 300 libraries from different parts of Ukraine sent us book requests. It emphasizes the importance of the project for the entire country. And I want to thank everyone who makes this initiative possible.”