Laryssa Denyssenko


May 17, 2022

Larysa Volodymyrivna Denysenko (Ukrainian: Лариса Володимирівна Денисенко, scientific transliteration Larysa Volodymyrivna Denysenko, born June 17, 1973 in Kyiv, Ukrainian SSR) is a Ukrainian writer and human rights activist. The lawyer and declared feminist is also known in her home country as a TV and radio journalist. In 2017 she was attacked and threatened by right-wing nationalist groups because of her children's book "Майя та її мами" ("Maja and her mommies"), which also shows one with two "mommies" among various family forms. Translations of the book into English, Swedish and Polish were published in spring 2022. A German edition has been announced by Rowohlt for September 2022. Denyssenko is a Tolerance Envoy (“Ambassador for Tolerance”) in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and co-founder and board member of ЮрФем (JurFem. Ukrainian Lawyers Women Association) based in Lviv.


Laryssa Denyssenko's family of origin has branched European roots in today's states of Lithuania, Greece and Hungary. Laryssa grew up in Kyiv. Even before she started school, a Jewish librarian introduced the girl to the world of literature. Looking back, she identified the puppet theater in the Brodsky Synagogue and Babyn Yar, which she learned about as a student, as key elements that made her aware of the Jewish history of her city and her country. From 1990 to 1995 Denysenko studied law at the National Taras Shevchenko University. An internship took her to the Netherlands in 1996, after which she continued her education at the Central European University. From 1997 to 1999 she headed the Ukrainian department of the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International. From 2005 to 2006 she was an advisor to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine. In an interview with Високий Замок Vysokyj Samok (2016) she explained that a legal education is the best basis for any profession in the humanitarian field. And from the history of literature we know of a number of writers who were also lawyers. In this context, Denyssenko mentioned Bernhard Schlink, who she values ​​very much, using current examples. In 2014 she started working for Hromadske Radio: she hosted a talk show and wrote and created the series Gen Sprawvedlywosti (“Justice Gene”) and Chainyk (“Dummy”) Dedicated to film portraits (Ukrajinská čítanka: Ukrajina, davaj, Ukrajina). In 2018 she took part in the Queer*East Festival in Berlin. Literature, music and performance from Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. In 2019, Laryssa Denyssenko was one of the people portrayed in a photo exhibition on Human Rights Day organized by the UNDP in Kyiv: Just Like You presented ten Ukrainians whose commitment particularly stood out. Journalistic texts and columns by Denysenko appeared in Ukrajinska Pravda and Нового времени Nowoho wremeny (NV), among others. In 2019, she expressed skepticism about Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an op-ed for Die Tageszeitung six months after his election. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, she was one of the leading representatives of Ukraine's civil society who initiated and signed the appeal The Kyiv Declaration.

Literary work

Denysenko has published over a dozen books in Ukraine, some for adults and some for young readers. The 2008 novel Сарабанда банди Сари Sarabanda bandy Sary (The Sarabande of Sa