Professional journalism should deal with the life of the entire country, not only its leadership, and monitor the remotest corners and smallest villages, not only the capital. Ukraine’s “historical puzzle” is such that its real heroes have been waiting for recognition somewhere in provinces, whereas the army of twaddlers enjoys unearned laurels.
If Ukrainian journalists want to put things in order, they should start from the basics: a vivid and genuine interest in their country, their people that live their routine lives, which upon closer inspection turn out to be nearly heroic.
“What Ukraine will be depends on whom we will regard the heroes of Ukraine,” The Day’s editor in chief Larysa Ivshyna said at the opening of The Day’s exhibit in Ivano-Frankivsk. This position is a partial explanation why after big cities (Kyiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernihiv, Lutsk, and Lviv) The Day’s photo exhibit went to the provincial town of Chehelnyk located in Vinnytsia region.
Ivshyna believes that this kind of “immersion” into the regions is not only reasonable but also quite necessary. This is the standpoint of The Day newspaper, which it professes and keeps to systemically. For the interest in Ukrainian provincial towns yields precious “diamonds,” which one is lucky to find there. This task is too much for “journalism of the monitor”, and precisely these kinds of “excavations” should be part of the Ukrainian media’s mission.
It was the second time that The Day presented its photo exhibit in Chechelnyk. For the first time the “mobile gallery” (this is how our exhibit was called in Ivano-Frankivsk) visited Vinnytsia region in 2007. At the time, thanks to the Olhopil Agricultural Firm and its head Pavlo Kalenych, the residents of Chechelnyk saw the most significant photo moments from Ukrainian life in 2006. After this event many local residents became readers of The Day and the books from The Day’s Library Series.
The initiative of the second meeting, this time in 2009, also belonged to Kalenych.
“I’m gratified that for the past two years we have been effectively cooperating with The Day newspaper. Our first meeting happened thanks to the newspaper’s former news photographer Borys Korpusenko. He grew up in Olhopil, and his father used to head the local enterprise that I’m heading now. Fortunately, I offered to open a photo exhibit in Chechelnyk in 2007. Many argued with me, saying that Chechelnyk is off the beaten track, but I responded, ‘This is not a territorial notion but a sort of backwoods mentality. The Day newspaper is close to me by its Ukrainian spirit, which lives first and foremost in its editor in chief Larysa Ivshyna, and spreads to the whole newspaper,” said Kalenych.
As the newspaper’s editor in chief Ivshyna emphasized, The Day appreciates that Chechelnyk has become “the classics of photography,” because its “heroes” are present in many photos. Chechelnyk may be also called a “sort of The Day’s regional photo hobby group.”
“It means that people that have something light and warm in their souls and never lose optimism have a special spiritual need,” Ivshyna noted.
In Chechelnyk and in Olhopil there many other names that have a potential to be heard throughout the photo community, The Day’s editor in chief is convinced.
“Small town exhibits are much more valuable for perception than big city events. Here you have an open reaction: laughter, eyes, and words. Everything is much more natural here. I think it is more important for the organizers than an award from the UN office in Ukraine to the winners of the contest,” said Yevhen Marchuk, who took part in the photo exhibit’s opening. Marchuk has his own peculiar connection with Chechelnyk. In 2007 Oleh Nych’s photo work entitled “Submarine Fleet Orchestra” received a special prize from him. Both the author of the photo and the “submarine fleet heroes” are residents of Chechelnyk. Back then Marchuk was invited to the Chechelnyk “regional photo hobby group,” for it is known that the ex-minister takes interest in photography on a quite professional level.
Chechelnyk had waited for The Day’s new visit for two long years. “We have waited for the photo exhibit, because we believed that the first time had to be followed by the second one. It seemed that we knew this in advance, so we were waiting with certainty. The opening was attended by many people, who came to see the first exhibit. And this is an indicator. The impressions made by each photo, communication with the editors, the newspaper itself, and the books are wonderful. This year’s exhibit will leave a significant footprint in people’s souls and will give them inspiration to live, work, and believe in tomorrow,” Olha BESEDA, head of the Chechelnyk Raion State Administration admitted.
Chechelnyk welcomed Ivshyna with an embroidered rushnyk, field flowers, and fragrant honey. Such a tender attitude is not rare, because The Day’s photo exhibit is a reason for pride for the locals. One can see the works by their fellow-townsmen, Korpusenko and Nych, and photos featuring familiar faces. It is a special honor for the residents of Chechelnyk. Incidentally, The Day returned the favor by donating photo albums and the books from The Day’s Library Series to the local leadership.
“We are very proud that entire Ukraine has seen the photos featuring our fellow-villagers,” said Valentyna FUTYMSKA, head of the choir of the Olhopil Agricultural Firm.
CHECHELNYK AS A TOURIST ATTRACTION
Besides unmatched landscapes of Ukrainian nature, the region is rich in connections with historical personalities. First, it is Mykhailo Chechel, a hero of the Baturyn Battle, who has given the town its name. Second, Catherine II came here in her time, and at her order a lime alley was planted along the road between Olhopil and Vinnytsia. The estate of the empress’ favorite Count Orlov used to be located between Chechelnyk and Olhopil. He built here a racecourse and bred the famous Orlov horses.
Marselina Romanova, a member of the Russian emperor court, was buried in one of the Olhopil cemeteries, which was done according to her testament. It is assumed that Alexander Pushkin also visited the region. Kalenych even plans to build a monument to the poet in Olhopil.
The local Saint Archistratigus Michael Church has a fantastic history. It was destroyed by the Soviets but rebuilt by the whole community in 1996–2000. Father Petro said that the Lord Himself helped them. So did the people from all the neighboring villages, who assisted the construction voluntarily and for free. Probably, it was thanks to the faith in the architects’ souls and their untiring work that the Lord’s assistance was constantly felt there, either in a form of extra building materials (which they always lacked) or financial aid.
The beautiful church with a very high belfry, silver domes and white arches has become a reward for the labor and prayers of the Chechelnyk residents. The interior decoration impresses with its simplicity, which, however, subdues fussy worldly thoughts. The iconostasis for the Saint Archistratigus Michael Church was painted in Sergiyev Posad on canvases brought specifically for this aim from Mt. Athos.
“EVERYTHING HAS BEEN SAID HERE!”
Having focused our spiritual strength in the sacred place, we hurried to the launch of The Day’s photo exhibit with good thoughts. This year it was located in the building of the Chechelnyk Raion Council, which will be receiving the photo works until July 20. The exhibit was opened by The Day’s editor in chief Ivshyna, “honored resident of Chechelnyk” Marchuk, Kalenych and other members of local authorities. Ex-photographer of The Day Korpusenko and the photographers Nych and Kalenych joined the charitable action in which sets of The Day’s Library Series books were donated to the Olhopil and Chechelnyk schools.
“I don’t know of any other newspaper that would publish its own library, not an electronic version, but a ‘real’ one. I don’t know of any other Ukrainian newspaper, which would be published in three languages. I came to the newspaper via the photo contest, thanks to the photo “A Modest Ukrainian Wedding,” and I am very grateful to my destiny for this. The Day has been an institute of photojournalism for me. Everyone who worked as a photographer in this newspaper has become renowned both in Ukraine and even abroad,” Korpusenko said at the launch of the exhibit.
The principal of the Olhopil School duly appreciated the present. In his opinion, a true (rather than a distorted Soviet) interpretation is of extreme importance.
“When I was involved in politics on a regional level, I met with young people during election campaigns. And when I heard young people talk nonsense about the historical events, I understood that I should have a deep knowledge of history to reason with such people—not its Soviet interpretation, but a true version that can be learned from the publications of The Day. The book Dvi Rusi (Two Rus’es) seems to be especially vital for me. Where are the roots of the regular conflicts between Ukraine and Russia? To pursue a constructive dialog, one should have deep knowledge of these historical questions. This is interesting. This is important. We should be knowledgeable about this,” said Viktor KIKAVSKY, principal of the Olhopil school.
In the swirl of communication, of special importance was the meeting with Pavlo KOVAL, who is familiar to The Day’s readers thanks to Nych’s piece “For historical judgement: Yu-997 is testifying” published in March 2009 (Den’ # 42). Koval took part in the activity of the UPA during the war, and was arrested for this. He spent nearly a year at the Vinnytsia prison, where he suffered tortures and endless interrogations. Eventually, he was forced to “confess” and was sentenced to 20 years in concentration camps by the court. At first it was Kolargol, where Koval worked at the construction of a railroad to a marble quarry. The most difficult and fearful stage was the final period of his sentence. Entire camps were shot after Stalin’s death, with the aim of concealing the GULAG crimes. Fortunately, Koval managed to return home alive. But the Ukrainian state does not as yet care about such heroes as he is.
“Have you come here for no special reason?” Koval wondered, without concealing his joy and surprise that The Day’s visit had no political implication. Incidentally, he is keen on politics and get the better of the Kyiv-based political scientists.
“This photo exhibit is an unprecedented thing. I have never imagined that we would see and hear something like what has taken place today. I think that the attention paid to my fellow villagers who are shown in the photos exhibited is quite reasonable. Everything is important in this exhibit. There is a simple photograph featuring an old woman carrying two buckets on a yoke. This is people’s life! Everything has been said here! I am amateur photographer, and I understand that one can capture incredible moments and tell about anything with the help of a photo.”
Judging from the guests’ impressions, Chechelnyk liked the most the photographs presented in the nomination “The world through children’s eyes.” At the moment we are waiting for the results of the vote for the Audience’s Favorite Prize.
TUZLA II IS AN ISLAND WITH A “CIVIC POSITION”
After the solemn opening of the exhibit and informal communication the Chechelnyk guests went, at Kalenych’s invitation, to an extraordinary island called Tuzla II or Free Balta Republic (it is located near the city of Balta, Odesa oblast). This is a wonder island that was set up by Kalenych with imagination and taste on a floodplain. The island received Ukrainian and foreign delegations and politicians. The hospitality of its host is widely known among the employees and high-school graduates who celebrated their graduation party on Tuzla II. One can get to the Free Balta Republic by ferry or sailboat. No motorboats! All transportation is environment-friendly.
The island has an interesting history. It was called Tuzla II in response to the conflict concerning Tuzla Island, as a moral support for the standpoint of the Ukrainian state. Therefore, the Free Balta Republic may take pride in its own civic position. Taking into account the direct proximity to the Tuzla issue, it was important for the local leaders to hear the details of the “island” conflict of 2003, so to say, at first hand—from Marchuk, who was a minister of defense when the “Tuzla crisis” broke out. Regrettably, Ukrainians do not always have a chance to hear the truth on Ukraine’s modern history in the mode of mutual understanding and respect. Society lacks namely this kind of mode from politicians.
We also lack big regional owners who would profess non-consumer principles, for most of those who gather excessive harvests in Ukrainian fields are absolutely indifferent to the villages and peasants. After us the deluge. “Kalenych’s syndrome” vs. “Lozynsky’s syndrome” is the way Ivshyna describes the complicated and contradictory process of our country’s transformation.
“Ukraine is torn—not into the left-bank part and the right-bank part but into those who have opportunities and those deprived of any. Therefore, I can say that The Day’s photo exhibit is ‘sewing the country together,’ its internal integration. An impulse remains ever crucial. One has to go where he/she is needed and support those people who have not lost their system of morals,” Ivshyna considers.
Closer to the island, we heard the sounds of a march. The flags of Ukraine and The Day were hoisted, accompanied by the banner of free island residents.
We recommend seeing Chechelnyk with your own eyes. However, you have to see with the eyes of your heart in order to see other people’s hearts, and behind them—boundless Ukraine. Chechelnyk may become a sort of “own village” for every Ukrainian.
Below, in the commentaries, local residents and other guests of Chechelnyk speak on their impressions and feelings at The Day’s photo exhibit.
Olha BESEDA, head of the Chechelnyk Raion State Administration:
“I like it the most to observe closely the photos of people and their features and try to understand the purpose of the photographer. The nomination ‘The world through children’s eyes’ made a huge impression on me. These photos thrill with the depth that we often think is not typical of children. Despite the fact that various emotions can be experienced while watching the exhibit, the general mood is, of course, positive. I am sure that for every person tomorrow is always better than yesterday. Every work is deep, and all of them lead to deep contemplation. I always first examine the image in a photo and then read the caption. Before making myself familiar with The Day’s photo exhibit, I was, frankly, very far from photo art. After the first exhibit I realized, and was confirmed in my belief this time, that people who do this are extraordinary. These are the creative personalities whom I consider to be real artists.”
Serhii SHEPITKO, head of the Chechelnyk Raion Council:
“When The Day’s photo exhibit paid its first visit to Chechelnyk, I came to the hall ahead of time when it was empty. I watched the photos for an hour and began to view the phenomenon of a photo exhibit in different way. I also started to view the world differently. It was interesting afterwards to discuss the photographs in a friendly circle and share why they impressed me personally. I came to this year’s exhibit again before the launch. At once I selected several works for myself, specifically, “My Village” by Nych, because such photos help learn about our region. Moreover, I recognized the place in the photo—this is where my grand-grandfather’s house used to stand. It was strange to see my fellow villagers in the photos in roles that are not typical of them. Photos of children are the most interesting ones. When you plunge into this world, you suddenly start to recall the episodes from your own childhood years. In my opinion, one should first see this exhibit in private so that nobody disturbs you and you can grasp what photographer captured in his work. If the first encounter with the photo works will occur in a crowded place, you may go past and fail to understand everything. Only after you have formed your opinion can you share your impressions with others.”
Yevhen MARCHUK, public figure:
“I visit every photo exhibit of The Day. I can say that I take part in it at a final stage. This is a voluntary initiative, which, of course, is not the newspaper’s duty. Similar initiatives include The Day’s Library Series and the Summer School of Journalism. All this has been established exclusively on Larysa Ivshyna’s initiative and The Day’s employees. These kinds of events are indisputably a great additional workload for the daily newspaper, but this is a pleasant load. Personally, I prefer the genre photographs. I very seldom work with landscapes, portraits, or production photographs. In my opinion, a human being is a matter of the greatest interest for a photographer. But everything depends on the way you shoot and what you want to say. As a rule, an apt photograph appears thanks to skills and luck.”
Mykola KRYZHANIVSKY, editor of the newspaper Slovo Prydnistrovia:
“It is probably not so important where The Day’s photo exhibit is held, in Kyiv or in provinces, because its quality speaks for itself: high-quality professional works, a non-standard approach, a wonderful and interesting composition of the photos, original plots, and very apt captions to photographs. This is extremely interesting. With this set one should tour precisely provincial Ukraine—small towns, raion centers, and villages—in order to give people a chance to touch high-quality photo art. Personally, I am a professional photographer and work as an editor of the neighboring raion’s newspaper. I have already decided to send several photos for the 11th photo contest of The Day. I will hope for success. Because I take interest in photography, I can say that Ukraine has very interesting photo artists, but they hardly know anything about each other’s existence and activity. It would be very interesting to bring all of them together. I think that photography is even more important, accessible, and expressive than cinematography (which is regarded the most important art form) thanks to its succinctness. I am primarily interested in the unconventional approach to the moment being captured that avoids any static forms but shows the inner side of the person. Black-and-white or color photos? It depends. Black-and-white photographs have their own very deep succinctness. We have simply somewhat forgotten it, because now we have many possibilities to work in color. And one should not stop making black-and-white photos—this is a very interesting thing. It must occupy a fitting place in photo art. There can be no negative feelings after The Day’s exhibit. Even politicians are shown as normal people in the photographs, although they usually wear a mask of politicking, and for the most part are inadequate. However, I have noticed that there are too few landscapes; I would like to see more of them. For example, in Podillia we have extraordinary landscapes, but they were not presented at the exhibit. Instead there were many interesting portraits.”
Natalia HRABCHAK, psychologist, Chechelnyk school:
“As a person working with children, I am very pleased to see young people at today’s photo exhibit. Such events, in my opinion, have a positive impact on the worldview. And the ability to see the world from so many sides and see such subtle moments enables them to form their attitude to life and have a more philosophical view of the world. The photographs feature several residents of Chechlnyk. It was happy to recognize them and realize that entire Ukraine has already seen them.”
Sviatoslav MELNYK, professional musician, Chechelnyk:
“Comparing today’s exhibit with the previous one, I can say that with each year its level is higher. I very much liked the photos by Nych, particularly “My Village.” I am overwhelmed with pride for my fellow villagers, when I see my native places. The other day I had a possibility to go to Poland, and now, when I can draw comparisons, I badly want Ukraine to make constant progress. People in the photos are the faces of regions and thus the faces of entire Ukraine. Incidentally, I am in one of photos, ‘Submarine Fleet Orchestra.’ I was pleased that they remember us.”
Some of Chechelnyk’s residents came to the exhibit five times in a day. Some of them said wisely that The Day’s photo exhibit may be called “alternative TV,” because, unfortunately, you won’t see on TV the kind of country shown in the photographs—as if it did not exist.
Meanwhile, there are hundreds, or, perhaps, even thousands of towns like Chechelnyk that have their own special exotic Ukrainian character. Wherever you look, there is a fantastic country that needs our attention and love so much!