Tales of EUkraine

Tales of EUkraine Logo

The idea behind Tales of EUkraine is quite simple: to support the Ukrainian population and the Ukrainian publishing sector by publishing bilingual editions of Ukrainian children’s books and making them available to Ukrainian refugees in Europe. To achieve this goal, the project has created a catalogue of Ukrainian children’s books on the Frankfurt Rights portal (available here). Publishers can acquire the rights to any of the books featured in the catalogue and publish them in bilingual edition, one of the languages being of course Ukrainian, the other that of the publishers’ countries.

Joining TEUk is an opportunity for European publishers to support their Ukrainian counterparts and to display their solidarity to the most vulnerable victims of the conflict by building a bridge between cultures. By bringing together European and Ukrainian publishers to deliver bilingual children’s books to several communities in Europe hosting Ukrainian refugees, the project is fostering integration and mutual understanding among Europeans and Ukrainians: refugee children will be able to both retain a connection with the culture of their home country and share it with their peers in host countries; this will facilitate the Ukrainian children’s inclusion and increase knowledge of their culture across Europe. At the same time, the project will support Ukrainian authors, illustrators, and publishers in a time of dire need, facilitating their connection with European publishers.

Thanks to the European Commission’s support, the costs of rights’ acquisition, translation, and royalties are covered by the project through the purchase of a fixed number of copies to be distributed in countries hosting Ukrainian refugees, to reach displaced Ukrainian children. Publishers who bought the rights to the books will be free to publish more copies, or different editions of the books, provided they mention the project’s support (and will be encouraged to further contribute to the project’s goals while doing so).

To ensure that the books are distributed in the most effective way, TEUk project’s partners will arrange their dissemination via hubs, schools, cultural centres, and other entities in a position to help. The distribution effort will be handled by the project’s consortium and will be at no cost for the publishers, which will simply be invited to promote the books and the project to their national communities.

The project, co-funded in the framework of Creative Europe programme is coordinated by the Federation of European Publishers in partnership with several national publishers’ associations (from Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia) and the Ukrainian Book Institute. Many TEUk members are Aldus Up partners and many of the fairs belonging to the Aldus Up network are hosting Tales of EUkraine events (including the Frankfurt Book Fairand Bologna Children’s Books Fair).

The project will run until October 2025. Detailed information for publishers on how to join are available here

A look at the project’s catalogue

Tales of EUkraine’s catalogue features around 100 titles of Ukrainian children’s literature, selected by the Ukrainian Book Institute to represent its diversity and its uniqueness. It focuses on writers working in Ukrainian and on books written in Ukrainian to preserve a language and culture actively under threat. The catalogue offers a selection of books primarily dedicated to children from 3 to 8 years, but books aimed at older readers are featured as well. The catalogue covers a wide spectrum of genres and topics, including poetry, fables and fairytales, activity books, family and personal issues, and many more. Books span from having never been published abroad, to having been translated in several languages already.

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Tales of EUkraine catalogue, with books by category

Obviously, many books are dedicated to the war and the complex history of Ukraine. Without sensationalisms, many books such as Patron the Dog, We Don’t Need War, The War and Little Veera describe the hardships Ukrainians suffer and have been suffering well before the current invasion, highlighting their resilience in the face of Russian aggression. Other books focus on the culture and art of Ukraine, such as The Tale of the Old Lion, dedicated to the city of Lviv, and And This Maria Painted Beasts, which tells the story of internationally renowned artist Maria Prymachenko (1909-1997).

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Victoria Amelina, by Rafał Komorowski (CC BY-SA 4.0); Volodymyr Vakulenko by Марія Лисицька-Бескорса (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Two works hold a special place in the catalogue: Storie-e-es of Eka the Excavator by Victoria Amelina and Daddy’s Book by Volodymyr Vakulenko. Vakulenko (1972-2022), was a writer and activist who, among other activities, kept a diary documenting the Russian occupation of the Kharkiv Oblast, until his arrest by the occupying forces in March 2022, which left his autistic son and family without a clue on his whereabouts. Later, his body was found in a common burial site, with clear signs of a summary execution. Daddy’s Book is a collection of poems by Vakulenko to his son, and a well-known children’s book in Ukraine. Vakulenko was conferred the 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire Special Award, a posthumous prize by the International Publisher Association to honour individuals who have died recently for exercising their freedom of expression.

We suggest reading this interesting chronicle about Volodymyr Vakulenko, recently published in Chytomo, an independent Ukrainian publication on book publishing, literature and reading.

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Daddy’s Book, by Volodymyr Vakulenko

Storie-e-es of Eka the Excavator is a funny absurdist book by Ukrainian novelist Victoria Amelina (1986-2023). Amelina, an EUPL finalist, at the time of her death was working as war crimes researcher, documenting Russian abuses in occupied Ukraine. She managed to recover Volodymir Vakulenko’s diary with the help of the writer’s family, as Vakulenko hid it before being arrested by the Russians. The diary, after being donated to a Kharkiv museum, is being published at the time of writing this piece, along with an anthology of Vakulenko’s works. Sadly, on 27 June 2023, while dining in Kramatorsk, Amelina was one of the civilians hit by a missile attack from the Russian army, and passed away a few days later.

After such tragic attacks on Ukrainian culture, examples of what Amelina denounced as Russian “Execute culture,” the inclusion of the works of these two writers in the project’s catalogue seemed the least the consortium could do to help keep their memory alive, even beyond Ukrainian borders.

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Storie-e-es of Eka the Excavator by Victoria Amelina

A recap: what can publishers do?

Publishers interested in taking part in the project should first and foremost visit Tales of EUkraine’s catalogue. A brief synopsis, some sample pages, and all the relevant metadata, including the rightsholders’ contacts are available for each book. Publishers can contact the rightsholders for further information about the titles, their availabilities, etc. They should not sign any contract at this stage, as their participation in Tales of EUkraine should be greenlit by the project’s consortium, which is the sole responsible for managing the funding of the initiative.

After gathering the necessary information, publishers willing to participate in Tales of EUkraine should then either contact their publishers’ association (here the list of consortium members) or the Federation of European Publishers (at gquerini@fep-fee.eu). The consortium members will work with the publishers to agree on the best books’ designs, formats, and layouts for the project. During this phase, they will also decide the print run to be acquired by Tales of EUkraine and the timeline for the books’ delivery. The consortium will also help the publishers providing a list of available translators if needed.

After this, publishers just need to publish the books, while Tales of EUkraine will collect and distribute them. And that’s it!

To summarise:

  1. Go to catalogue and check the titles available for the project. If you want, you can already contact the rightsholders for information and availabilities. Do not sign any contract yet!
  2. Once selected the titles you want to publish, contact the most appropriate consortium member (list available here) to discuss your plans. Ideally, you will reach an agreement with the consortium to publish the books.
  3. If an agreement can be reached, the consortium will ensure the purchase of an agreed number of copies. You will be free to publish further copies of a title if you want.
  4. Tales of EUkraine will collect the acquired copies from you and take care of their distribution.

The team of Tales of EUkraine hopes that this article will inspire many publishers to get in touch to join the initiatives. Many publishers are already helping and eager to help even more, and this project is simply another way to do so. European publishers are already strongly supporting Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens, but with Tales of EUkraine they can do it the way they know best: by publishing books.

Updates on the project, news, and highlights from the catalogue are shown regularly on its blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. For information, you can contact gquerini@fep-fee.eu.

Tales of EUkraine is a Creative Europe project (101100131 – CREA-CULT-2022-COOP-2). The project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

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