Ukrainian writer, publisher receive threats from far-right groups over children’s book
A new children’s book that encourages tolerance is a good thing, right?
Wrong — if you’re a supporter of one of the dozen-or-more groups that threatened to use force to prevent the presentation of the 64-page book called “Maya and Her Moms” by famous Ukrainian writer and human rights activist Larysa Denysenko.
The book tells the stories of 17 different families, including those of refugees, Crimean Tatars, Romani people, kids born via in vitro fertilization, and adopted children.
But it was the same-sex family that apparently provoked the far-right activists’ ire the most, as the stories are told from the perspective of a fourth grade schoolgirl called Maya, who’s being raised in a family of two moms.
According to Denysenko, her book teaches children not to put labels on people.
“Families can be different, and they already are different; some people label families as non-traditional, incomplete, restructured. They label children as well: as orphans, parentless, a Skype child, a formula child,” she said on Facebook.
“I try to convey the message that a child needs a loving family where they feel protected, and it does not matter how it is labeled by anyone.”
A presentation and discussion about the book was planned for Sept. 15, the third day of the Lviv Publishers Forum, the country’s largest book fair.
However, days before the start of the fair, the organizers published a statement saying that the book discussion had been cancelled, as a number of organizations, including nationalist Pravy Sector, nonpartisan group Sober Halychyna, self-defense group of Lviv Oblast Administration and others had sent a letter claiming that it was “immoral to popularize a non-traditional family in times of war, when hundreds of Ukrainian families are losing sons, fathers, and husbands.”
Members of these groups have also threatened Denysenko in social media because of her book, the writer said. Their main concern is that the book includes “destructive principles” that contradict the values and traditions of Ukrainian families, she said.
Artem Skoropadsky, a spokesperson for Pravy Sector, told the Kyiv Post that they will “constantly fight against LGBT ideology becoming the norm in society.”
“It doesn’t matter which form it takes — presentations, gay parades or anything else,” Skoropadsky said.
The letter was also sent to the head of the Lviv branch of Ukraine’s SBU security service, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy, and head of Lviv Oblast Adminіstration Oleh Synyutka. The authors of the letter promised to “take matters into their own hands if the provocative event wasn’t canceled.”
Oleksandra Koval, the president of the Lviv Publishers Forum, warned that any attack on forum events would have “a very negative effect on the image of Ukraine in the world.” She also stressed that the forum organizers are ready to have talks with those concerned about the book.
Even though the book discussion was canceled, the publishers, Illya Strongovsky and Liliya Omelyanenko, sidestepped the threats on Sept. 11 by giving the public free access to an electronic version of the book. They added that the book “was the first children’s book in the history of Ukrainian literature to provoke threats against the author and the publishers.”
Ukrainian ombudsman Valeriya Lutkovska has already stated that all such threats and intimidation should not be tolerated, as they “encroach on freedom of speech and contain signs of incitement to discrimination.”
Denysenko herself urged people to read the book and try to understand why “certain parts of society react violently to such stories.”
“I won’t hide my face, nor will I hide my principles and opinions,” Denysenko said.
A picture shows a book called “Maya and Her Moms” that has caused an outcry from several Ukrainian far-right groups. (Oleg Petrasiuk)