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Ukrainian libraries to receive 25,000 books from Book Aid International

UK charity Book Aid International has joined English PEN and PEN International in supporting PEN Ukraine’s Unbreakable Libraries project with a donation of 25,000 brand-new books, all of which have been generously provided free of charge by leading UK publishers. The books will support libraries throughout Ukraine including in front-line and liberated territories, and are expected to arrive in Kyiv in September 2023.  

Since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the library network across all regions of Ukraine has been systematically suffering from heavy bombardments. More than 570 Ukrainian libraries have been damaged and completely or partly lost their book collections. Some of them have been forced to move to safer regions of Ukraine. 

The increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDP) — some 5 million people at the end of June 2022 — and the frequent power outages in all the regions of Ukraine, have affected the work of libraries, with a growing public interest in printed books, and a lack of them. 

In response PEN Ukraine launched the Unbreakable Libraries project in June 2022 to support Ukrainian libraries. Since then, with the support of international partners, Ukrainian publishers and Ukrainian citizens, PEN Ukraine has collected and sent books in Ukrainian and English to libraries the Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Sumy, Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Donetsk regions. This additional donation of 25,000 books will enable PEN Ukraine to expand its campaign and support more institutions.  

The use of English language is today a significant part of daily communication in Ukraine. More and more people use it daily for work, leisure, or learn it from scratch, explains Tetyana Teren, Executive Director of PEN Ukraine. The English language is integrated into Ukraine’s educational and cultural processes, and as a result, there are plenty opportunities for international partnerships and projects. Unfortunately, acquiring new English books is challenging in present-day Ukraine. Hence, our objective is to assist libraries in fulfilling readers’ aspirations to learn, improve and practise English. Jointly with Book Aid International, PEN International, and English PEN our initiative aims to make English books accessible in libraries all around Ukraine. 

The libraries PEN Ukraine is supporting have become far more than places to read. They are social hubs where people can spend time with their community, and some even serve as shelters during bombardments. Access to books in those libraries helps Ukrainians living in the war cope with the challenges they face. English language books in particular provide a sense of connection with the outside world and international solidarity with Ukraine. 

Book Aid International’s Chief Executive, Alison Tweed, spoke of the charity’s commitment to supporting Ukrainian libraries: 

When PEN Ukraine reached out to Book Aid international at the London Book Fair this year, we knew we had to support this very important and courageous initiative to donate books to libraries across Ukraine and give readers access to books in English. We hope that these books will provide comfort and escape to Ukrainians who are facing the realities of war, particularly to so many children whose lives have been overturned and hugely impacted by the war. We warmly thank all our book donors and financial supporters for making this book donation possible.

The books will be shipped overland from Book Aid International’s South London warehouse to a central depot in Kyiv, and from there to libraries by PEN Ukraine in partnership with the New Post Company. Book Aid International’s shipment will be made up primarily of children’s books, as well as classics, art and leisure books, and English as a Foreign Language texts. Each will be carefully selected in response to PEN Ukraine’s requests.  

Bloomsbury is one of the publishers supporting this shipment. Bloomsbury founder and Book Aid International president Nigel Newton spoke of his support for the campaign, saying:  

This is an incredibly important book donation which will create access to books for Ukrainians who have been through unimaginable challenges since the Russian invasion. I’m urging more publishers to get behind this shipment however they can – whether by donating books, funds or spreading the word. 

Publishers interested in contributing books to the September shipment should contact Mark Simpson: Mark.Simpson@bookaid.org.  

To find out more about the Unbreakable Libraries campaign, please visit https://pen.org.ua/en/nezlamni-biblioteky

Note to editors: 


High resolution images can be downloaded here https://bookaid.dash.app/sharing/type/collection/skgq2-ukraine-press-release  

Further information  

Journalists are welcome to visit Book Aid International’s South London warehouse and can also help select and pack books for the shipment.  

PEN International, PEN Ukraine, English PEN and Book Aid International representatives are all available for interviews.  

For more information or to arrange an interview or visit, please contact:  

Emma Taylor, Book Aid International Head of Communications, emma.taylor@bookaid.org, 07582 402446 

Book Aid International provides over one million new books every year in the places where they will make the biggest difference and sets up libraries, trains people to run them and works with its partners to spark a love of reading. Together with its 185 partners worldwide, the charity provides books everywhere from refugee camps, prisons and hospitals to remote schools where there has never been a library before. Last year, the charity provided books to readers in 12 conflict affected countries and gave 131,452 refugees the opportunity to read. To find out more about Book Aid International visit bookaid.org 

PEN Ukraine is a cultural and human rights NGO uniting Ukrainian intellectuals – writers, journalists, scholars, publishers, translators, human rights defenders and culture managers. With 159 members, it is a co-founder of the Vasyl Stus Prize, the Yuri Shevelov Prize, and the George Gongadze Prize. Since February 24, 2022, we have been working to support the Ukrainian literary community, inform foreign audiences about the impact of Russian aggression on Ukrainian culture, document the experiences of Ukrainians during wartime, and restore cultural life in Ukraine. After the full-fledged war started, besides Unbreakable Libraries, we launched such projects as Literary Volunteering Trips to liberated and frontline territories, Here-and-Now. Stories of Journalists at the War, Charity Intellectual Evenings, photo exhibition The War Is Not Over Yet dedicated to media workers who have been killed, wounded, taken captive or persecuted since the beginning of Russia’s  full-scale war against Ukraine, etc. 

English PEN is one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations, championing the freedom to write and read. We are the founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association with 147 centres in more than 100 countries. With the support of our members – a community of readers, writers, and activists – we protect freedom of expression whenever it is under attack, support writers facing persecution around the world, and celebrate contemporary international writing with literary prizes, grants, events, and our online magazine PEN Transmissions

PEN International is the foremost and largest association of writers which stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression around the world. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International – PEN’s Secretariat – connects an international community of writers. PEN operates across five continents through 147 Centres in over 100 countries. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. PEN International works to promote the PEN Charter to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to impart information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. We champion the freedom to write, recognising the power of literature to transform the world. In 2021, PEN International celebrated its Centenary. More than one hundred years since its foundation, today PEN International is recognised as a leading international charity and expert on freedom of expression.