‘They burned books, like the Nazis did 80 years ago’: Russia’s deadly attack on Ukraine’s biggest printing house | Ukraine

Olena Ninadovska was inside Ukraine’s greatest printing home when the Russian missile hit. She was working within the binding division. It was 10.20am. Two colleagues – Tetaina Khrapina and Olha Kurasova – stood subsequent to her. The ladies have been working a row of book-sewing machines. One other worker, Sveta Arestova, had simply stepped away to take a phone name.

The S-300 missile got here by way of the roof. There was no warning. It immediately killed Ninadovksa and the others at her workstation. Arestova was injured however survived. The blast flipped over a 10-tonne book-­ending machine, killing Svitlana Ryzhenko, who was sitting on the finish of the meeting line. Two extra employees died at an adjoining desk. One other, Roman Stroyhi, was killed by shards from a guillotine machine.

Tetiana Hryniuk, common director of the printing home. {Photograph}: Jedrzej Nowicki/the Guardian

Seven individuals died within the assault on 23 Might on the Issue Druk printing home in Kharkiv. Twenty-one have been injured. 9 stay in hospital. Two are in intensive care. The agency’s common director, Tetiana Hryniuk, mentioned the strike occurred on a sunny Thursday on one of many greatest printing complexes in Europe. Kharkiv, the second metropolis after Kyiv, is Ukraine’s publishing hub.

On the time Hryniuk was in a neighbouring constructing. “I noticed smoke and fireplace. These close to the epicentre stood no likelihood,” she mentioned. “My reminiscences are fragmentary. Everyone was in shock. I bear in mind bandaging any individual with a T-shirt.” Hryniuk mentioned she recognized Stroyhi and Ryzhenko when their our bodies have been pulled from the wreckage. However 5 individuals, together with Ninadovska, have been so badly burned they have been unrecognisable.

Issue Druk Ukraine publishing home map

“You couldn’t inform if it was a person or a girl. We would have liked DNA checks,” she mentioned. Their stays have been launched final week. What did she say to her lifeless colleagues’ relations? “We hugged and cried collectively,” she replied. Posting on Fb, Anna Gyn paid tribute to Ninadovska, her ­murdered good friend. “I at all times adored the scent of books. Now, most likely, they may at all times remind me of ashes and blood,” Gyn wrote.

Hryniuk mentioned she didn’t know if the Russian army had intentionally focused her office or had tried to hit a practice restore workshop subsequent door. Three extra S-300 missiles fell on the identical time. One crashed on to an previous railway line; one other landed subsequent to a fringe wall. No matter Moscow’s intentions, the end result, Hryniuk mentioned, was the identical: “They destroyed Ukrainian historical past and tradition.”

In occupied areas, the Kremlin has forbidden the Ukrainian language, eliminated books from colleges and imposed a patriotic pro-Russian curriculum. Statues of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko have been torn down. Vladimir Putin insists Ukraine doesn’t exist. Its land, he says, is part of “historic Russia”.

The strike on the manufacturing unit worn out 50,000 books. Amongst them have been works of youngsters’s literature and Ukrainian college textbooks – 40% of them have been printed by Issue Druk – resulting from be despatched to lecture rooms for the brand new September tutorial yr. Additionally destroyed have been younger grownup novels and bestsellers. They included a Ukrainian translation of The Marriage Portrait, a historic novel about an Italian duchess by Maggie O’Farrell.

Charred pages at Issue Druk. {Photograph}: Jedrzej Nowicki/the Guardian

“For me it’s so symbolic. They burned books, just like the Nazis did 80 years in the past. We now have so many historic examples of Russia making an attempt to kill off Ukrainian tradition,” mentioned Oleksiy Sobol, the pinnacle of the pre-press division. The Russian empire banned Ukrainian-language texts from the seventeenth century onwards, with follow-up edicts. Beneath Stalin, within the Nineteen Thirties, Ukrainian poets and writers have been shot – a technology often called the “executed renaissance”.

Since 2022, Russia has erased 172 libraries and almost 2m books, in response to the Ukrainian Ebook Institute. Final week employees cleared rubble from Issue Druk’s shattered 4,000 sq metre advanced. Rain fell. Charred books have been piled in sodden yellow heaps. There was particles in all places: twisted sheet steel from the roof, tossed-around air flow tubes, and charred printing presses. Blood was seen on plastic door curtains.

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Additionally misplaced was the whole first print run of Phrases and Bullets, a group of interviews in regards to the struggle with Ukrainian writers together with Victoria Amelina. It was resulting from be printed this week. Amelina, a novelist and poet, was killed in June 2023 by a Russian missile strike on the jap metropolis of Kramatorsk. She was sitting in a pizza restaurant. A struggle crimes researcher, Amelina regularly referenced the executed renaissance in her work.

“The cycle of horror continues,” mentioned Emma Shercliff, Amelina’s literary agent in London. “That is but extra proof that one other technology of writers and cultural producers are being systematically focused and eradicated.” Yuliya Orlova, the chief govt of Vivat, one in every of Ukraine’s main publishers, mentioned Moscow needed to “erase who we’re”. Vivat’s titles have been printed at Issue Druk. Work would proceed with manufacturing moved to different printers, she mentioned.

Emily Finer, who heads a analysis staff engaged on Ukrainian kids’s literature on the College of St Andrews, known as the assault a tragedy. “The precedence given to publishing trauma-informed kids’s books in wartime Ukraine is unprecedented,” she mentioned. “Over 120 image books in Ukrainian have been printed since 2022 to assist kids address their wartime experiences now and sooner or later.”

The writer Sergii Polituchyi taking a look at broken kids’s books within the destroyed manufacturing unit. {Photograph}: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

The strike happened per week earlier than the Arsenal e-book competition, Kyiv’s greatest literary occasion. Lots of the destroyed books have been resulting from be offered there. This yr 1000’s queued to get in. Burnt copies of Issue Druk titles have been exhibited underneath the slogan: “Books destroyed by Russia. Help bookish Kharkiv – purchase books!” The Vivat stall was packed. Gross sales have been brisk. Clients expressed assist for an business underneath fireplace.

“The message to Russia is: ‘Fuck off. We’ll purchase extra books now,’” mentioned Mykyta Lazarenko, a artistic director. He mentioned the temper amongst Ukrainians was one in every of offended defiance, much like that proven by New Yorkers after 9/11. One other buyer, Ihor Vynokurov, held up a bag of nonfiction titles. “We need to present the world our tradition is actual and necessary. Thirty years in the past we had largely Russian-language books. Now we learn Ukrainian ones,” he mentioned.

A day after the strike, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy toured the Issue Druk web site. He mentioned it demonstrated that Russia was “at struggle with humanity and all elements of regular life”. The Howard G Buffett Basis, in the meantime, final week pledged €5.1m (£4.3m) to revive the printing home. “They’ll destroy books however not Ukrainian resilience and dedication,” mentioned Buffett, the son of the billionaire US investor Warren Buffett.

Burnt books on show at Kyiv’s greatest literary occasion, the Arsenal e-book competition. {Photograph}: Ukrinform/Rex/Shutterstock

Hryniuk was assured the work might be accomplished in six months. For now, although, Kharkiv has misplaced a big a part of its printing assets, which is able to make it troublesome to print textbooks and different books. Three years in the past, Issue Druk produced greater than 1,000,000 books a yr. In February 2022, when Russian troopers tried unsuccessfully to grab town, it closed for 4 months. Final yr it made 420,000 titles. Now it prints none.

Hryniuk mentioned she was however optimistic in regards to the future. “We now have one,” she mentioned. She dismissed Russian claims that Issue Druk had produced drones. “We’ve had lots of of journalists right here. They’ve even checked out the bathroom. It’s laughable.” She added: “Historical past reveals that each 100 years somebody tries to extinguish Ukraine. Regardless of this we stock on residing. We would think about this an odd stage of growth.”

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