Letter of an invisible life: Cyprus student’s winning letter celebrated at UPU ceremony

09.10.2018 - 13-year old Chara Phoka’s letter depicting the brutality of conflict and migrant smuggling receives gold medal during a moving ceremony at UPU’s Berne headquarters

Her letter—the letter of an invisible life—tells a harrowing story that speaks to this painful period in the 21st Century; a powerful modern allegory that informs as much as it distresses—a story of conflict, of migrant smuggling, of loss and finally of hope,” Deputy Director General of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) Pascal Clivaz said today.

Mr. Clivaz was speaking during the awards ceremony for UPU’s 47th International Letter Writing Competition for Young People. The awards ceremony was held on World Post Day, which raises awareness about the international postal sector’s role in the lives of people and businesses, as well as its contribution to global social and economic development.

“Through my letter, I wanted to express the way young people feel about instability, conflict and migrant smuggling. I hope that my letter sends a timely message that we need to solve these problems, not just for young people but for everyone,” Chara commented after receiving the gold medal.

Chara’s letter tells the story of a letter written following a violent event and how the letter is forced on a deadly journey. During its perilous travels, the letter changes hands several times: from its author to a courageous young refugee who dies in a harsh sea crossing and finally, in a positive ending, to a relative living abroad.

Mr. Clivaz told the audience of distinguished guests and staff, “The message is therefore not only a letter of our times, but also a lesson for our times: We must not give up on the “greatness of human life,” we must not give up our humanity, and we must not give up our hope…” The theme of this year’s competition was, “Imagine you are a letter travelling through time. What message do you wish to convey to your readers?”

“With my letter, I wanted to give a voice and an identity to refugee children and give meaning to their lives,” said Chara.

Other young writers also received awards. Ten year old José Duarte from Portugal received the silver medal, while third prize and the bronze medal went to 14-year old Nguyen Thi Bach Duong from Viet Nam. The following also received special mentions: Ivana Petrova Pojarska (aged 15) from Bulgaria; Clarice Rilyane Oliveira da Silva (aged 15) from Brazil, Brenda Wambui Mwangi (aged 13) from Kenya; Tereza Justina Vaneková (aged 13) from Slovakia; and Manja Klemencic (aged 15) from Slovenia.

The theme of this year’s World Post Day was how the Post is delivering good to the world. In a statement released for World Post Day, the UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein noted, “The Post has delivered good to the world for centuries – through the trusted postmen and postwomen in each community. As we mark World Post Day today, let us celebrate trust, reliability and security as the hallmark of postal services worldwide.”

Mr. Clivaz, at the end of the ceremony, read a message from the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on World Post Day, which said, “This network, through its international treaties and emphasis on universal service, is a constant voice for multilateralism and force for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.   

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The International Letter Writing Competition has since 1971 encouraged young writers aged 9-15 to write letters on a given theme to win exciting prizes. On average over 1.2 million young people take part and the competition is an excellent way of making young people aware of the important role postal services play in our societies. It develops their skills in composition and fosters enjoyment of letter writing and helps strengthen the bonds of international friendship. Read the gold-medal letter here: http://news.upu.int/outreach/letter-writing-competition/2018/gold-medal-winning-letter/

The Universal Postal Union is a UN specialized agency with its headquarters in the Swiss capital Berne. Established in 1874, it is one of the world’s oldest international organizations and is the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players.



Kayla Redstone

Communication Expert

Universal Postal Union (UPU)

Executive Office Directorate

T +41 31 350 34 92

E kayla.redstone[at]upu.int



Press release


Comments (1)

  1. Dirk at 19.01.2016
    Test comment.

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