The Universal Postal Union (UPU) has announced the 49th winner of its annual International Letter-Writing Competition (ILWC).
Volha Valchkevich, aged 11 from Belarus, took the top prize for her letter reflecting on the lessons she learnt from her late grandfather.
In her letter Volha, who lives in the city of Grodno, explains how it has been six months since her grandfather passed and how when she is sad and confused about life and the complicated world around her, she remembers his wise words. In the letter, Volha shares her grandfather’s advice, “Granddaughter, do you remember that a medal usually has two sides? Do you remember that the side of the medal that you are wiping shines more?”
She continues, “My dear grandfather, you have taught me to believe in miracles, and even now, after you have gone, I am learning from you to love this world!”
Volha’s letter was one of more than 1.2 million entries in the ILWC competition this year. “The news that I won the competition came as a big surprise to me,” Volha says. “When I applied to participate, I did not think it would be such a large-scale event – victory at the regional, republican and international stages. Today I am proud to have represented our country, and I succeeded.”
The ILWC encourages children aged 9-15 to write a letter about a different theme each year. The aim is to improve literacy through the art of letter writing and to encourage participants to express their creativity and refine their language skills. This year’s theme was to “write a message to an adult about the world we live in.”
Bishar A. Hussein, the UPU Director General says, “Volha has done this with great power. I find the letter extremely uplifting and thought provoking: the letter is telling us to see the world in a positive light; and that, in doing so, we are perhaps taking the first step toward positive change.”
Volha will receive a gold medal for the winning letter and she will be invited to the UPU headquarters in Bern, Switzerland, to make a speech and to hang a framed quote from her winning letter on a wall containing a quote from every winner since the start of the competition.
The ILWC awarded silver and bronze medals to Jana Popovska, aged 12 from North Macedonia, and to Phan Hoang Phuong Nhi, aged 13 from Vietnam, respectively. Special mentions also went to letters from Bangladesh, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Central Africa.
“Each one of the letters contains a bright spark of innovation and creativity, which I believe exists in every child and the way he or she sees the world,” Hussein adds. “A spark inviting us to listen closely and to pay attention. This year’s winners are no different.”
In 2021 the UPU will celebrate 50 years of the ILWC and to mark the occasion it hopes to hold a special celebration to promote the competition and more importantly, to promote literacy among the world’s children. Hussein adds, “It would be wonderful if [next year] every one of our 192 member countries took part.”