Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“This is an exhibition for strong people”

Emotions and thoughts on the margins of Den’s Days in Kharkiv
5 December, 2017 - 11:33

“I was very scared when the events in the Donbas began. I thought, what Kharkiv would be like, and would they move on it? Yes, most residents of Kharkiv region support Ukraine, and we are always with Ukraine. But, unfortunately, not everything depends on our choice alone. There is an external aggressor, and the situation is very difficult. And we need to look at these pictures, showing our warriors, heroes…” shared her impressions Maria Chumak, one of the first visitors of our exhibition in Kharkiv.

When we sum up this or that event, in this case – the opening of the photo exhibition, then, of course, we consider the number of visitors. But the main thing, after all, is the amount of emotion. Were people just watching the photos or were they empathizing with their subjects, laughing and crying? Did they vote for the best work? After all, if a visitor cares enough to fill out the form, then the photo really touched them. In Kharkiv, this was very much present.


Thus, the national tour of Den’s 19th International Photo Exhibition began in Kharkiv. “The annual photo exhibition of the Den newspaper is always a landmark event,” asserted Yurii Chevordov, an advisor to the chief of the Presidential Administration. “This is a landmark event both in Kyiv and in the provinces. I attended the opening of the exhibition in Kyiv this year, and now I got to attend the opening in Kharkiv. The fact that this year the organizers decided to start their tour from Kharkiv, is a right and logical decision. Kharkiv has always been an intellectual center able to appreciate such an event. Moreover, the leadership of the regional administration as a whole and Yulia Svitlychna [head of the Kharkiv Oblast State Administration (KhOSA). – Editor.] in particular embraced this idea with gusto and helped in organizing the exhibition in every possible way.”


Let us recall that the exhibition is supported by the KhOSA. Its head Svitlychna told us about her impressions of the exhibition as follows: “These pictures convey genuine emotions. This is not some prearranged scenario, but a real picture of life. I hope that this exhibition will help people to better understand Ukraine and Ukrainians, as well as to sum up 2017 and make their own conclusions about it.”


Thus, Den’s photo exhibition will continue at Kharkiv Mykola Lysenko National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet (KhNATOB) throughout December. By the way, the KhNATOB building is not like your typical theater, built in Baroque or Classicist style. This is a solid monumental building made of granite, which was built in the late 1980s and commissioned in full in 1991. Kharkivites’ opinions of this building differ widely. Still, our exhibition has fit well into its clear geometry and has not got lost in the large hall space.

In general, Kharkivites are most touched by the pictures associated with the region. Maria Chumak voted for Andrii Kravchenko’s photo, made on March 24, 2017 in Balaklia, Kharkiv oblast. The day before, the city was shaken by explosions in an ammunition depot. The picture shows a boy with a red puppy. “As a photographer, I like this work’s colors and mood. The red color of the puppy’s fur is echoed by that of the beams of a destroyed building. Meanwhile, everything else is dark, and the burnt remnants of wood make a faint appearance in places,” commented Chumak. “This is our home, Kharkiv region, and I remember well that terrible day. People who had friends or relatives in the affected area went there, my friends evacuated people out of there, rescued them. This story affected me as well.”


As usual, our partners donated books from Den’s Library series to various institutions during the event. This time, the intellectual sets (including books The Crown, or Heritage of the Rus’ Kingdom; Ukraine Incognita. TOP 25; My Sister Sofia and the annual subscription to the Friday issue of Den) were received by Rohan Agrarian Lyceum of Kharkiv raion, Korobochkyne Educational Complex, Korobochkyne Library, Chkalovske Educational Complex, Kharkiv Military Hospital, and the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade (SMB) of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. These gifts were purchased by the Kharkiv Oblast Organization of the Agrarian Party. It is noteworthy that, according to its head Mykhailo Zolotariov, Den’s Days were, in fact, the first cultural event to be supported by his branch of the party.


“We agrarians nourish people’s bodies. What we see at the exhibition is spiritual food. In order for people to receive all that is necessary for the soul and body, we gladly responded to the book donation initiative,” continued Zolotariov. “The books are really very good. I think both children and adults will benefit from reading them and find it pleasurable. Meanwhile, the exhibition struck a chord in my soul. I saw here the life of the nation in its entirety. The anti-terrorist operation events and deaths are reflected in these photos. One just cannot remain indifferent. I admired a series of children’s photos – after all, it is our future. Such pictures inspire optimism and the belief that everything will turn out fine for us at the end.”


The 92nd SMB is a special story for Kharkiv. Residents of the city are proud of the soldiers of this brigade, which is based near Chuhuiv. It was Lieutenant Colonel Oleksandr Lutsenko, deputy commander of the brigade, who came to receive books from our Library series. During the tour of the exhibition, he joined our effort to tell people about the photos.

In Oleksandr Klymenko’s work The Fragments of Civilization, Lutsenko recognized a soldier from the 92nd Brigade. The picture depicts a defunct library at the hospital for veterans of war and labor in Marinka, Donetsk oblast, which was defended by the 92nd SMB for a time. The library is defunct because the building suffered a lot of war damage, and its floor is covered with abandoned books.

“It is nice to see our boys in these photos as well,” said Lutsenko. “In general, one can see all aspects of peace and war at this exhibition. By the way, Avdiivka, which is pictured on one of the photos, is very similar to some places near Marinka. The war is the same everywhere, as it brings devastation and makes locals very tired of it. People forget that we are still at war. Now the war gets a minute or two in the news. It is presented as an ordinary event: so many locations have been fired upon, so many people have died, so many have been injured. It is just statistics. People are fighting, holding their ground, defending it. Others do not feel at war anymore.”

Lutsenko rejoiced at receiving books from Den. “Humanities education is very important for the soldier. They must know their mother tongue, read, broaden their horizons. They must know the history of Ukraine as well, and not that imposed on us for 70 years, and then some more,” emphasized the officer. “Den’s books will be added to our library, and every addition is a pleasant experience. Our collection is not replenished that often, but this does happen, in particular, due to the efforts of civil volunteers. Our boys love to read modern literature, including detectives and science fiction, to get some respite from war and everyday troubles. Some officers read military history books that deal with tactics, operational art, borrow something from the experience of the Second World War.”

By Maria PROKOPENKO, The Day;Liudmyla LUTYTSKA. Photos by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day