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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              I promised another post on Ukraine, and after the warm welcome I was given in Oxford, there may well be more. My on-going correspondence with translator Steve Komarnyckyj (right, in photo) has evolved into conversations with his partner S.J. Speight, with whom he runs Kalyna Language Press; and, in Ukraine, poet Ihor Pavlyuk (left, in photo) and his wife Lyudmyla Pavlyuk, herself a professor of journalism, so there is plenty to share. Today I’ll give some brief impressions of Ihor’s poetry and, at her request, reproduce a political article by Lyudmyla, published yesterday by The Wilson Centre. I am already convinced of her central point that the invasion of Crimea must cause the world to look very differently at Russia, and I was struck by her argument that Russia should pay reparation for its crime there. Like boycott, reparation is a non-violent response…

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          Given the current crisis in Ukraine, and my own lack of expertise in the country’s history and politics, it is humbling indeed to be included in English PEN’s Ukrainian Poetry Evening in Oxford this Thursday, featuring poet Ihor Pavlyuk and translator Steve Komarnyckyj reading from A Flight over the Black Sea, published this month by Waterloo Press. As well as an honour, it is also a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I therefore wanted to take the opportunity to publically thank Steve Komarnyckyj and Susie Speight of Kalyna Language Press for extending the invitation, and English PEN for approving it. I would also like to express some of my own thoughts and feelings about the worsening situation in Ukraine – an analysis that is indebted to Steve’s dedicated Tweets and personal emails over the last weeks. But to begin by introducing Ihor’s work, to…

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