Writing in Prison


Writing in Prison – a Russian PEN Project:
It began long ago. So long ago that I don’t even know when. Maybe with Dostoyevskiy, maybe with Solzhenitsyn. Somehow I always treated writers who had completed Higher Literary courses suspiciously. Not everyone has the opportunity to sit in a drawing room and write something interesting for the “contemporary reader”. I don’t know about the others but for me the untrained author still remains the most astonishing artist. Real life stories with human fates that are impossible to be artificially constructed, capture me more than adventures of today’s literary characters in bestsellers.

Those of my colleagues who know what it means to be deprived of liberty, what it means if the door is to be opened only either to let you go out for a walk or to take you to an interrogation or to let you get the food – they know very well that then one has much time which has stopped, then there is no present, only the past and sometimes the future. Those won’t blame me for my project.

I get letters from different people – from crime victims, from prison officers and the convicted themselves. I still keep getting letters with threats. But I’m convinced my mission is useful and good.

A couple of years ago I approached the Chief of the penitentiary service of Ukraine with a request for assistance. We met in the general’s office. He listened to me and began to think. From my point of view, one of my main arguments was that I’d like to create a door which a person can open. It’s his personal choice – whether he opens it or not. Whether he goes in and is able to discover a new world for himself? Whether the world will discover him? I don’t know. But I know exactly: when a person gets a sheet of paper and something to write with – he will find the liberty in spite of the barbed wire and barred windows around him.

Dear Friends, on 15th September 2013 at the publishers’ forum in Lvov at 5:30 p.m. in the White hall of the Revival Theatre I am planning to present a collection of poems written by people serving now their sentences in the Ukraine. They are jailed.

Please, let me know through the BBCberlin@gmail.com email address if you would be interested in supporting this project as we would like to continue it in the future as well.

Sincerely yours,
Vladimir Sergijenko
Russian PEN Centre