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Conquered Alps

04 December, 00:00

The Days of Ukrainian Culture in Bern (Switzerland), which took place this November under the aegis of the Ukrainian Embassy in Switzerland, were marked by unprecedented scale and perfect organization. All kinds of events altogether lasted over a week. However, what seems most important is the very attitude of the organizers (among whom former Cultural Attach О of the Ukrainian Embassy Natalia Kondratsova should be mentioned) toward the event’s concept and quality. Ukraine was represented not by its usual humdrum folk crafts that have begun to so bore us, but as a modern European country with a rich and varied legacy.

Thus, the cinema program was composed of the films that are an indispensable part of not only Ukrainian or Soviet, but world cinematography: Earth by Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Serhiy Paradzhanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Donbas Symphony by Dzyha Vertov, Babylon XX by Ivan Mykolaichuk, Swan Lake: The Zone by Yury Illienko, Stone Cross by Leonid Osyka, and Kira Muratova’s Long Goodbye, etc. What also speaks for the level of preparation is that in spite of the lack of money practically all the films were supplied with subtitles in German, the majority language of the Swiss Confederation (every cinematographer knows how expensive it is to make subtitles for even a short film). The musical part of the festival appeared to be equally rich. The performance by the National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra with the eleven-years-old virtuoso violinist Oleksandr Pushkarenko (the program included Lev Revutsky’s Symphony No. 2, Petr Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, and Max Bruch’s Concert for Violin and Orchestra), while the Bandura Ensemble, and the Young Virtuosos from Odessa attracted general attention.

Speaking about the arts exposition, the attempt to demonstrate the broad context of Ukrainian painting was also not without success. The works by contemporary masters Matviy Vaisberh, Petro Bevza, Oleksiy Apollonov, Oleksiy Lytvynenko, and Olena Abessynova were placed next to the paintings of avant-garde movement geniuses of the 1920s-1930s, Kasimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky, whose contribution to the Western and Ukrainian culture was equally valuable.

Thus the fact that such a worthy presentation of Ukrainian culture abroad was completely ignored by the Ukrainian media gives rise to well-founded perplexity and even disappointment.

One of the Bern exhibition participants, Kyiv-based artist Matviy VAISBERH, shared his impressions with The Day:

“My impression is very good. Advertisements for the festival filled the city’s railroad station; there were posters on every trolley bus and every poster stand. The organizers made an attempt to show a kind of historical timeline: who we are, what our ancestry is, to demonstrate our cultural extension. The fact that our country is ten years old does not mean that its culture is also just ten. We gave the best possible proof of our continuity: a wonderful film retrospective, a parallel exposition of modern Kyiv artists and painters well known to the Swiss: Malevich, Archipenko, Shevchenko (the painter of the 1920s), and Kandinsky. In the final analysis, Ukraine, along with Austria or Germany, also has a right to consider Kandinsky its own, at least in part. We did not simply appear out of thin air. Incidentally, at present many Ukrainian artists work and exhibit in Switzerland: Mykola Zhuravel, Tibery Silvashi, Andriy Bludov, Petro Bevza, Oleksiy Lytvynenko, et al.”

As for the Ukrainian mass media’s unawareness of this action, this is not at all strange. In this country honest zeal for culture remains confined to some individuals and as an item for export abroad. In Bern they did what they could. Having a zero budget, they managed to find sponsors. Fortunately, the Swiss are very well disposed in this respect. A big deal was done for Ukraine. Russia is known in Switzerland thanks to pre- Revolutionary connections (when a large number of Russian revolutionaries, Lenin included, lived there – Ed.), while they began their acquaintance with Ukraine only now, thanks precisely to heroic efforts such as this one.

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