With pleasure, and no small amount of astonishment, I announce today that for my ‘poetry and essays about Ukraine’ – the latter published here on the blog – I have earned a place on the list of recipients of the 2014 Hryhorii (Gregory) Skovoroda Award (honestly, in section 7, there I am: Наомі Фойл). Hryhorii Skovoroda was a 18th century Cossack poet, philosopher, teacher and composer. Born in what is now East Ukraine, and known as ‘the Russian Socrates’, he was a thinker who believed both that ‘the Kingdom is within us’ and ‘the Sanctity of human life lies in doing good to others’. According to Wiki, his philosophy found political expression in his support for the serfs, with ‘sharp hostility to the Muscovite oppressors’. He was a gentle person, so considerate of others that he literally dug his own grave – showing up at a friend’s house to stay…

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As I discussed in my last blog, for various reasons I don’t want to discuss my inner world in detail online. But the current moment, however, feels like the right time to at least publically acknowledge that, like so many others, I am affected by mental health issues. While I’m not a particular fan of Robin Williams, as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, I was sad to hear of the circumstances of his death. I have since found the public response to his suicide moving and, in a quiet way, hopeful. While, predictably, some mainstream reaction to the tragedy has been cruel and ignorant, blaming the man for his illness, other media outlets – The Guardian, Facebook, Twitter, writers’ blogs – have hosted compassionate and informed discussions about the nature of depression. This is a conversation that we need to…

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