Andrii Kurkov
Writer, journalist. President of PEN Ukraine, author of more than twenty novels, and also numerous works for children and scripts for several films. His most famous works are the novel 'Death and the Penguin', which has been translated into more than 30 languages, and also the collection 'Ukraine Diaries', dedicated to the events in Kyiv during the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 (the mass protest movement in 2013-2014 against corruption and in support of European direction in Ukraine's foreign policy).
Language dictates both the theme and the relation to it, and even the mood. In poetry this is especially perceptible, therefore my poems in Ukrainian differ from the poetry which I would write in Russian or English. The dialects of Ukrainian dictate the mood and the music of the text even more powerfully. For example, in Lviv or in Bukovyna you see that the dialect influences differences in personality types, the relation of people to one another. Ukrainian dialects really interest me. I consider the best Ukrainian books to have been written under their influence. These are the works of Maria Matios, Yurii Vynnychuk, Taras Prokhasko, and Yurii Andrukhovych.

In order to create prose fiction in Ukrainian, one has to have this language in their blood. In my creative work it remains the language of essay, documentary writing, poetry and children's prose.

Already since the late 1990s I have been trying to speak as much as possible about Ukraine during my appearances abroad. To explain where our roots and history are from. I write a lot on the request of foreign media: feature articles, essays about Ukraine and its culture.

In 2013 I offered my Austrian publisher to write a collection of essays to explain to foreign readers how we differ from Russia, the Ukrainian national character and the Ukrainian history which they do not know in the West. It so happened that Maidan (the mass protest movement in 2013-2014 against corruption and in support of European direction in Ukraine's foreign policy) started soon afterwards, and the plan changed.

I offered to write entries every day, to document the events of the Revolution of Dignity which I became a witness of. And we decided that the last day of the diary, regardless of when and how it all ended, would be the 24th of April 2014: the day after my birthday. And so the collection 'Ukraine Diaries' was born.

The book came out in French and German earlier than in Ukrainian. The Ukrainian version subsequently appeared in Kharkiv. It was translated in Japan, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands. I was invited to appearances in many cities and countries. I didn't even count on such an international resonance. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Carl Bildt said to me that from 'Ukraine Diaries' he understood what was going on in Ukraine much better and more clearly than from journalistic materials in newspapers.
Since then a lot has changed, but the main dreams and goals of Ukrainians for an independent, free and modern state have stayed the same.

I began to write very early, my first poems were at the age of about seven or eight. And from the age of 15 I already dreamt of becoming a professional writer. However, not a Soviet one, so I wrote 'for the desk drawer'. My early texts also came out as 'samvydav' (a form of dissident activity across the socialist Eastern Bloc in which individuals reproduced censored and underground makeshift publications, often by hand, and passed the documents from reader to reader), my associates and I made appearances at unofficial readings, apartment parties. Underground literary life was much more interesting than the official one in the Soviet Union.

I had a defined goal: to become a writer, who is independent both economically and politically. Not just to be published, but to earn enough to live from my labour, retaining freedom of expression at the same time.

I was less than two years old when our family moved to Kyiv from Russia. I lived with my grandma Oleksandra in Pushcha-Vodytsia, and my earliest childhood memories are connected for me with precisely this place and the No. 12 tram, going from Pushcha to Kyiv. It is still going today.

In school we were taught Ukrainian, but this seemed insufficient to me, and I started to study it independently. Consequently, since 1983 I have edited Ukrainian translations of foreign works for the Dnipro Publishing House. Our community was like a separate Ukrainian-speaking world in the midst of what was then a mainly Russian-speaking Kyiv.
Ukraine is only just starting to consciously develop its cultural image in the world. The time and effort of many people is needed, but we are on the right track. Our goal for Ukraine is to develop as a civilised state, and be accepted into the European Union. So that the EU considers us to respect ourselves and be respected by others.

The Faraday/Vernadsky Research Base (the only Ukrainian Antarctic station, located at Marina Point on Galindez Island, a meteorological and geographical observatory) is an important symbol for me in this lengthy process. It is one of the brightest examples of the success of Ukrainian science and international collaboration. When on the 6th of February 1995 at the Faraday Station Captain Hague took down the British flag and raised the Ukrainian one in its place, it was very symbolic.

Antarctica is a childhood dream for many, like spaceflight but more real. Only around thirty countries have their own stations on Antarctica, and we are among them. I portrayed this station in several of my works, for instance in my famous novel 'Death and the Penguin'. I would like to visit it one day, and I am very happy for everyone that has managed to.

To be a Russian-language writer in Ukraine is a doubly complicated task, I have been denounced for this time and again. However, I write about Ukraine and from the point of view of a Ukrainian, and my mentality is purely Ukrainian

I hope that I was able to do all I could to familiarise the global community with contemporary Ukraine. During my travels foreigners have repeatedly come up to me with words about how they found out about Ukraine and its culture through my books
A feeling of changes that would affect not only Ukraine but the whole world arose in the air. I had a lot of optimism regarding them, especially at the moment when independence was announced
During a creative journey it is important not just to attain a certain amount of fame and gravitas, but also to not lose them later on. For we forget many names soon after their first successful book. This, I suppose, is the hardest thing for professional writers, regardless of whether they have reached the national or international level. After your first successes a sense of obligation to your readers arises, you cannot disappoint them.

There is no general plan for this. Every writer should figure out their own tactics and strategy. Of course, a successful book is the foundation of it all. However, an understanding of the context in which you create it is important, as well as an ability to foresee its reception in society.
A writer or a journalist does not exist without freedom of speech, he does not have the right to give up on his thoughts and principles