Still from CNN broadcast, 18 February 2014.
Sound recorded in Десятинный монастырь’s church, Kyiv, 27 August 2014.
August 21, I met Vitaliy in a small coffee shop in Khreshatyk, 200 meters away from Independence Square. We sat inside for a chat – I had this very pleasant cold raspberry tea with cream – and to discuss the project, as he wasn’t sure how he could help. We then decided to walk down to the square to make some portraits. He was visibly moved – he told me he had not been there since February. As I listened to him speak I felt a growing sense of respect and almost silent reverence while we walked past dozens of makeshift memorials.
I was 19 when I packed my suitcase and left to Kiev. When I was living in Kharkov I sometimes worked as a model and in Kiev I got a modelling offer to Asia. I said yes, as it would be my first time abroad. It was a great experience for me. I spent some of my free time in different schools which specialized in the fine arts. It was a shock to me that education was done in a completely different way. I loved those methods of training. I became more independent and, because now I travel a lot, my understanding of art has been developing as I gain skills and knowledge from different geographical and philosophical points of view. When I returned to Kiev, I started to develop new programmes to train students in art studios. I showed my new concept to my big friend, and now partner, Yuriy Petrov, owner of Open Art Studio. This became the school’s new course in fine arts, aimed at the creative development of children. I’ve been teaching there for more than two years now and I have many students eager to learn. We also organize exhibitions, photo shoots, workshop evenings for charity, and much more.
I have plans to open my own fine arts studio and expand to other disciplines like sculpture, study of architecture, study of anatomy, digital art and more. I want education in Ukraine to be at a high level. The system needs to be reloaded everywhere: kindergartens, schools, universities and academies. So, without a doubt, it is necessary to raise the salaries of civil servants and workers in the areas of education and training.
In the face of what is now happening in the country, artists stepped up and began to organize activities and creative interventions. It is hard to talk about the situation in Ukraine. As a creative person I feel it all very emotionally. I love my country. The only thing I want to say right now is that in our country live lovely people. We can see how a new generation is growing who deserves peace and prosperity. I would like to see more jobs in different areas of business as it will help us avoid unemployment. Ukrainians are hardworking people and if they get such opportunities, Ukraine will flourish soon.
August 22, we visited an old abandoned school construction site just nearby Serj’s home, in the left bank. He used to spend a lot of time there with his friends when growing up. The overcast sky added to the concrete greyness of the landscape that surrounded us. Nonetheless, I think there is a certain contrasting and indefinable friendliness to that neighbourhood. Serj is a university student and he also works at Domino’s Pizza. A couple of months later he told me he was now doing deliveries there, which he preferred to working inside the store.
August 26, we did some portraits at Irina’s workplace in the Podol district, near the riverside. It was a bit busy there as they were doing a catalogue shoot. Later, we were joined by Sasha, who had come to model some designs from one of Irina’s collections for her brand, Dzhus.
August 20, Тараса Шевченка Park. A warm evening, so there were quite a lot of people around. Families, kids playing in the playground, young couples taking a walk, the habitual coffee or kvas carts, ice cream vendors, students hanging out. Mykyta had left from work just earlier – he is a sales manager in a telecommunications company. He told me both his high school and university were nearby so as a student he used to spend a lot of his free time in between classes there.
August 24, I visited Sergeiy Yakutovich’s home studio in the centre of Kyiv. He had some friends over having a meal when I arrived. The small kitchen table was full with plates of cold cuts and cheeses, bread and toasts, wine, cake for the children. They were still expecting some more people to join them. Sergey was curious about my perspective of Ukraine, as a foreigner. He asked me when I had been in Kyiv for the first time. In 2010, I said. A lifetime ago, he replied. His voice had some sorrow. His family has roots in Russia and he told me that he could not understand how suddenly many people there started hating everyone in Ukraine – his own family living there didn’t want to speak with him now. He talked about what had changed in the past few years. The same people, the same buildings, but a lot changed – a change in the hearts of people, a desire for a more honest country.
September 30, Anton was expecting me at the Kyiv State University of Culture and Arts, where he teaches. I was worried I would be late and hurried past the long walkway to the university’s entrance where he was waiting for me. He joked that his students sometimes are also a bit late so we would just be giving them the chance to be all there on time. When he opened the door to the studio we had a big surprise – the students from all his classes were gathered there, with flowers and a cake, waiting to congratulate him on his birthday.
October 2, when I arrived at Zotov architectural bureau’s offices, they were just finishing an interview for a magazine article. The journalist was taking some pictures and Viktor and Valentina were very kind to invite me to join the group photo. We spent the better part of the afternoon talking about all sorts of different things, such as their approach to architecture, current times, history and freedom. A word central to their personal and professional philosophy is authenticity. Valentina also told me that their family lives in the Donbass region and it is scary and difficult, painful, to watch all that is happening there now, and difficult to understand.
October 4, I sat down for a conversation with Katerina at the newsroom where she works as a journalist and columnist. She has a background in languages and can speak fluent English and Spanish, as well as Hebrew, German, apart from Russian and Ukrainian. Most people in Kyiv end up speaking Russian as their day-to-day language and so we talked about languages and culture.
November 14, “I just want a peaceful sky” was a beautiful expression that really made me pause and stuck with me. It was a really cold day when I recorded the interview with Yasia. I think it snowed a little that day, it was one of the first days of snow. Just a few flakes falling softly in the air. We sat down in a cafe for some warm drinks and ended up spending a couple of hours talking – about the time when she was doing gymnastics, then practicing boxing for a while, her favourite places, reading Harry Potter books to her younger siblings and getting hooked on the series of novels herself, lots of small big things.