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Victoria Amelina

I had the pleasure of meeting Victoria Amelina only once, at a charity concert to raise funds for Irish Red Cross and Ukraine Action in Dublin's Vicar Street Theatre, back in April of this year.

During one of the intervals, we sat and talked about everything and anything.  Victoria told me about her life as a children's author, she told me about her son, who was safe in Poland with family, she told me about her new role, as a War Crimes Investigator after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she told me of the horrors of war, the friends and families destroyed by the Russian invasion and life on the front line.

We shared a laugh when she told me that, whilst in London a few weeks previous, she couldn't buy fresh strawberries or avocado in her local market, yet when on the front line with the Ukraine forces, they were eating the freshest fruit daily, then the realisation hit me that those soldiers were living every day s their last, because it just might well be.  We talked about Ireland, we talked about music, we talked about photography... We talked, for what seemed like ages...

Victoria was, as anyone who met her can attest to, a proud and strong woman, she wanted to document the atrocities she saw so that those responsible would be held to account and punished.  That was, for now, her job, and she did not back down from it.

As I said, I only met Victoria once, on that day back in April in Dublin's Vicar Street Theatre.  Over the course of a long, tiring day, we shared a few laughs as we kept bumping into each other. Then, when it was time for her to go on stage, I sat, in awe, with tears in my eyes as I listened to her passionately recite Poem About a Crow.

In a barren springtime field
Stands a woman dressed in black
Crying her sisters’ names
Like a bird in the empty sky
She’ll cry them all out of herself

The one that flew away too soon
The one that had begged to die
The one that couldn’t stop death
The one that has not stopped waiting
The one that has not stopped believing
The one that still grieves in silence

She’ll cry them all into the ground
As though sowing the field with pain

And from pain and the names of women
Her new sisters will grow from the earth
And again will sing joyfully of life

But what about her, the crow?

She will stay in this field forever
Because only this cry of hers
Holds all those swallows in the air

Do you hear how she calls
Each one by her name?

I'd like to think that we left that day as friends.  I'd hoped to get a chance to meet her somewhere along the way again, listen to her talk, get a copy of her soon to be published book "War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War" and maybe, post war, share a laugh or two again.

Last week, on June 27th, Victoria was injured in a Russian missile strike on a restaurant in Kramatorsk where she was dining in with friends and colleagues. She subsequently died of her injuries on July 1st 2023. In total, 13 people were killed in that attack, including two 14 year old twin sisters and a 17 year old girl.

Victoria was just one more name added to the list of senseless deaths caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but it was made all the more personal to me becuase of the time I was lucky enough to have spent in her company. 

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