(WASHINGTON)– PEN America, the literary and free expression advocacy organization, will host a delegation of noted Ukrainian writers on Monday and Tuesday May 16-17 for private discussions with the Biden administration and members of Congress and a presentations at a public forum.

In addition to human rights and freedom of expression concerns, the delegation will raise issues including preserving Ukraine’s literary and cultural heritage (publishing and related activities); support to writers in exile; and support for Ukrainian studies in American colleges and universities.

The delegation will include novelist and screenwriter Andrey Kurkov, President of PEN Ukraine; Tetyana Teren, journalist and executive director of PEN Ukraine; poet, journalist and critic Iya Kiva; writer, poet, translator, and critic Halyna Kruk as well as Kateryna Yesypenko, the wife of imprisoned Ukrainian journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko, who was sentenced by a court in February in Russian-occupied Crimea to six years in a labor camp on spurious espionage charges.

Journalists are invited to attend a public forum hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations and PEN America, which will be followed by the writers’ availability to meet with journalists. The forum will be at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 16 at the Council on Foreign Relations (1777 F Street, NW). Please RSVP to participate either in-person or online. This will be a hybrid event.

Kurkov was born in Russia and, in addition to his best-selling novels, is a commentator in Europe on Ukrainian politics and society. In a recent New York Times article, he said: “Putin has a dream of recreating the Soviet Union, and he considers everybody who doesn’t love Russia, but understands the Russian language, as traitors. And he loves to kill traitors.”

The writers are among international writers participating in PEN America’s annual  World Voices Festival May 11-14 in New York, which this year includes an Emergency Writer’s Congress May 13, in direct response to the Russian invasion. The forum focuses on free expression and the role of writers amid times of conflict and upheaval.

Kateryna Yesypenko is joining the delegation to appeal for help from U.S. government leaders in gaining the release of her husband, the Ukrainian journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko, who was working with Krym.Realii Project at the time, a Crimean radio program and news source run by  Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Yesypenko, imprisoned in Russian-occupied Crimea, will be honored by PEN America on May 23, as the recipient of the 2022 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. His wife will accept the award on his behalf. Yesypenko was detained in Crimea in March 2021 and, like other dauntless journalists exposing the occupying forces’ encroachments on everyday life in Crimea and now throughout Ukraine, was targeted to silence and crush a free press and open expression. After being tortured and forced to confess to baseless, politically motivated charges of espionage and weapons manufacturing, Yesypenko, who was working for with the Krym.Realii Project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and traveling into Russian-occuped Crimea from Ukraine at the time of his arrest, was sentenced to six years in a Russian labor colony. Kateryna Yesypenko said her husband was tortured with electric shocks and falsely accused of being a spy. Yesypenko was a freelance contributor to Crimea.Realities, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda.

Since the start of the Russian invasion, PEN America has worked closely with its allies to advocate for writers in Ukraine by raising their voices in public events and through the PEN America Endangered Writers Fund and the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center. PEN America has held a vigil for Ukraine with prominent writers in New York and online events with writers from Ukraine as they navigated the crisis, responded to dire conditions and documented the horrors of the war and the resilience of Ukrainians.

BIOS:

Andrey Kurkov is an author, public intellectual and commentator on Ukraine for global media, who writes in Russian, where he was born. He has been president of PEN Ukraine since 2018. Kurkov is the author of 19 novels, including the bestselling Death and the Penguin, nine books for children, and about 20 documentary, fiction and TV movie scripts. His work is currently translated into 37 languages, While at the PEN America World Voices Festival, Kurkov will deliver the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture on May 13.

Tetyana Teren is a journalist who previously served as director of literary programs at PEN Ukraine. She has worked as a television presenter; editor of the literary magazine “Berezil,” and written books, as co-author of “Simple Things. Eight conversations with Ada Rogovtseva” and author of the books and interview series with Ukrainian writers “The Anthology of Writers’ Voices.”

Halyna Kruk has written two volumes of poetry and children’s books, which have been translated into 15 languages. She is a professor of literary studies at the University of Lviv, where she earned the Ph.D. in Ukraine literature. She has been vice president of PEN Ukraine. Her poems have been translated into Russian and German.

Iya Kiva is a Ukrainian poet, translator, journalist, and critic who writes in Ukrainian and Russian, though at the start of the war she began writing in Ukrainian including poems, translations and reviews, published at home and abroad. She has written 3 books, including Further from Heaven, which was included in the list of the best books of 2018 from PEN Ukraine.

Kateryna Yesypenko studied and defended her thesis with honors at the Kyiv National University of Economics She worked in financial and credit institutions and local governmental entities. Since her husband, journalist Vladislav Yesipenko, was illegally detained by the Russian secret services FSB in March in the occupied Crimea, she has joined human rights activists, public figures and the Ukrainian authorities to advocate for the release of the Kremlin’s political prisoners.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057