Peace prize winner Serhij Zhadan has emphasized the importance of culture in times of war. "Even during war, culture must have a voice. Culture must not be silent. When culture is silent, when writers are silent, when poets are silent, it means that fear has won," said the Ukrainian writer, translator and Musicians on Friday at the Frankfurt Book Fair. "Language is the overcoming of insecurity, the overcoming of fear."
Zhadan accepts the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade 2022 at the end of the book fair on Sunday. The award is endowed with 25,000 euros. Zhadan was born in 1974 in Starobilsk in the now Russian-occupied Luhansk region. He lives in embattled Kharkiv, where he and friends provide humanitarian aid. When asked what gives him and other Ukrainians the strength to stay, Zhadan replied: "Perhaps the feeling that the truth is on our side."
"Socially active literature" has always been interesting to him, not in the sense of propaganda, but in the sense of a human attitude, said Zhadan. It is a "luxury" to be a writer, to talk to readers and not take a clear position.
For Zhadan, the war of aggression on Ukraine is not just a war by Putin: "In my understanding, it is clearly a war by Russia against Ukraine." Putin was not personally in the places where massacres were committed, "they were young Russian men". The war also did not start in 2022, "the war has been going on for the ninth year" - since the annexation of Crimea.
There used to be a lot of good contacts between Russian and Ukrainian authors, now there are almost none. He himself has received exactly two messages from Russia since the beginning of the war: a colleague suggested surrendering, a colleague apologized for her country. "I won't name names."
He is happy to be in Frankfurt and to be honored with the Peace Prize, said Zhadan, but the joy is clouded by the news from home. However, the award also attracts attention: "But it is also very clear that any kind of support, any kind of attention that we get from the West is very important for all Ukrainians."