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The Only Question: Durban-Ulyanovsk – Adiela Akoo and Sergei Gogin


The Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Program Directorate continues publishing The Only Question - new international project - materials. 40 authors from 18 UNESCO literary cities (or related cities) participate in the project.  Authors from Durban and Ulyanovsk – Adiela Akoo and Sergei Gogin – are the new guests of the project.

The organizers invited writers, poets, playwrights, translators from UNESCO literary cities to imagine they have the opportunity to ask just one question to an author from any other literary city. The initiative will help to introduce the authors from the literary cities to each other and establish their dialogue. The project will also let to understand what issues are of concern to authors from different countries today. Besides, it will provide an opportunity for readers to get to know new writers and poets.

Questions and answers by the authors (in Russian and English) along with a short biography of each participant and links to their publications will regularly appear on the Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Website, other literary cities' websites, and social media, etc. Writers' dialogs will also be offered for publication on the project partners' platforms (literary magazines, libraries, literary media, and mass media). As a result of the project, in summer 2022 an online anthology will be released (in Russian and English) with all the conversations.

Durban and Ulyanovsk – Adiela Akoo and Sergei Gogin

Adiela Akoo

Having trained in various modalities of comprehensive healing, I find that I very often, subconsciously, meld healing into my writing. Readers tend to respond to this thus bringing it to my attention. How does your training as a healer influence your writing?

Sergei Gogin

Dear Adiela, nobody called me a healer yet! Yes, I have received training in gestalt therapy and I have an experience in applying it in real practice, although training is a never-ending process. I wonder if some of my readers (I wish I had more of them) can discover any gestalt in what I write (there is definitely some Zen into it). Anyway, it’s a coincidence: Fritz Perls, the founding father of gestalt therapy, spent 12 years in the /Republic/ of /South Africa where he established an institute of psychoanalysis and wrote his first book. And – this is where you live!/

/I am still shy to call myself a writer since I haven’t written much, although I keep writing poetry when it comes to me. Gestalt therapy is based on the idea of contact, which seems to be a prolific concept when it comes down to writing. In order to write, you contact with the language, with your creative part of self, you respond to the impressions that emerge in you as a result of your contacting the world outside, including people. So writing is inseparable from contacting (even in the physical sense when you scribble on paper or pound away on the keyboard), but I probably knew it before I got to be trained in “healing”, this knowledge only became more conscious and structured. What could be even more interesting is how writing contributes to healing. A few years ago I did a presentation on psychotherapeutic effects of poetry for a small group of listeners. A therapeutic session does have something (maybe, a lot) in common with creating a text in how it evolves. Another aspect here is: writers use imagination, they are supposed to be good at creating images and bringing up metaphors. The metaphor often helps in healing sessions, it may cause an aha-effect, an insight, even a cathartic feeling, whether joyful or sad: ”Now I know what it was all about!”/

/To summarize, both writing and healing share the idea of contact, awareness, relationality, being imaginative and metaphorical. By virtue of this, writing is healing and healing is writing, in a sense. When you heal, you write the history of your relationships with whom you heal. I have just come to this idea, but I think it’s worth further developing./


Adiela Akoo

Adiela Akoo


Adiela Akoo was born on the 4th of May in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, though mostly raised and educated in the neighbouring city of Durban, where she also received the prestigious Dux Award.

Apart from writing, she has a background in banking and comprehensive healing and in her spare time loves creating art and crafts using mixed media, watching movies, playing scrabble and chess, creating in the kitchen, or chatting to the birds out in the garden, among other things.

She was nominated as one of the Top 7 ‘Most Promising Literary Influencers’ in the GBC Awards 2020 and received the Silver Star Award from the Global Literary Society for her 'excellent contribution to world literature', among others. She was included in the Best Emerging Poets of 2019 series, has won poetry contests, and been published in a variety of journals and anthologies across the world. Her poems have been translated into four languages to date. She has also represented the Durban UNESCO City of Literature in collaborations with other cities of literature.

‘Lost in a Quatrain’, her deep, soulful, debut collection, was written over a period of 18 years and is a thought-provoking read on a journey to becoming, a journey of hope and healing. The book was the first runner-up for poetry in the South African Independent Publishers Awards 2021. The poem “Whiplash” from the book was quoted in The House of Parliament. ‘Pre Natal’ was nominated “Poem of the Day’ on the popular poetry platform, PoemHunter, and the poem 'Within' (English with Russian translation) received a Certificate of Excellence from Demo Gog, St. Petersburg, Russia & Everychild Lifeline Foundation International Literary Award 2020, among others. Her second collection will be released in 2022.

As an ambassador of literacy, she volunteers her time in the position of Vice-Chair of Litasa, KZN – The Literacy Association of South Africa. She is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the new literary journal, The Quilled Ink Review.

Adiela is married, to a medical doctor, and they have three children, a son and two daughters.

For more info visit:


Сергей ГОГИН портрет

Poet, freelance journalist, theatre critic, translator, gestalt therapist, singer/songwriter. Born in 1964. Graduated from a technical university in 1986, but since 1989 worked as journalist, stuff writer in local print and broadcast media in Ulyanovsk. Received MA in journalism at The American University (Washington, DC) in 1996. Published three books of poetry. Stories and poems of mine have been published in literary journals. Translated a play by Emlyn Williams (the translation was published in 2020).Translated from English five books on gestalt therapy. Translated lots of texts contributed by authors from UNESCO cities of literature. A poetic cycle of verses libres “A small person with a big heart” was staged at the local theatre and was on show for five years. I contribute articles to print and online publications, write book reviews. He also works as a moderator at a literary club and an English-speaking club. He lives and works in Ulyanovsk.

Previous issues:

  1. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk – Şafak Sariçiçek and Sergei Gogin
  2. Melbourne - Heidelberg – Christopher Raja and Klaus Kayser
  3. Calgary-Mannheim - Kelly Kaur And Claudia Schmid
  4. Melbourne And Ulyanovsk - Rijn Collins and Gala Uzryutova
  5. Heidelberg - Nottingham – Ingeborg von Zadow and Leanne Moden