On June 12 The Day’s team arrived in Chechelnyk, a small town in Vinnytsia oblast.
After visiting the series of wonderful exhibits in Kyiv, Ostroh, Kharkiv, and Chernivtsi, some people would be taken aback by the choice of Chechelnyk as the site of The Day’s photography exhibit. But we have always taken our readers’ interests to heart, regardless of whether they live in large big cities or small towns and villages. These trips are perfectly in accord with the philosophy of our newspaper, which at one time ran a column entitled “Small and Large Cities and Villages of Ukraine.”
We are always happy to respond to any interesting initiatives, like the one we received from Chechelnyk. A few local businesspeople made certain offers to make sure we would not refuse to visit their town. The agricultural company Olhopil was one of the organizations that provided special prizes for this year’s photo contest winners. Its director, Pavlo Kalenych, made financial arrangements enabling the residents of this district center and neighboring villages to attend our photo exhibit. Oleh Nych, one of our past prize winners, lives in Chechelnyk and is still actively collaborating with The Day. Our staff photographer Borys Korpusenko was born in this town.
Among those who were invited to the opening ceremony were officials from various local agencies and organizations, librarians, and schoolteachers. “Wherever we go, people always say that what they see is an entirely new look at Ukraine,” said The Day’s editor in chief, Larysa Ivshyna. “Our photo exhibit is made up of works by talented Ukrainians, so in their photographs our homeland appears diversified and many-sided. Often I don’t even know the names of all the contributing photographers. I simply look at their photographs and decide whether they are talented, interesting, and sincere. That was how we came across your fellow countryman, Oleh Nych. That was how Borys Korpusenko became our staff photographer, along with the two previous ones, who are now working as the personal photographers of the President and the First Lady of Ukraine, respectively. “When we were preparing for this trip, I was asked if I was afraid that our photo exhibit would start losing its image after traveling to so many cities and towns. I said I wasn’t. On the contrary, this exhibit is something our people really need, and it has won public acclaim. People who live in the countryside usually have many household chores, so if they can spend a couple of hours marveling at our photos, they will realize that they haven’t wasted their time. Of course, displays held in big cities are considered the best when they attract a large number of visitors, but the price of this acknowledgement is somewhat different.”
The Day’s editor presented the local library with copies of books from the newspaper’s Library Series. Olha Beseda, head of the Chechelnyk District State Administration, reciprocated by presenting Mrs. Ivshyna with a copy of Narysy z istorii Chechelnyka (Sketches from the History of Chechelnyk). This town was first mentioned in a chronicle in the 16th century. The town was named after Mykhailo Chechel, hero of the Battle of Baturyn.
To a certain extent, Chechelnyk’s contemporary history is reflected in The Day’s photos, and the people captured in them were among the visitors at the show. One of them was Sviatoslav Melnyk, a member of the “wagon orchestra” (the musicians often go on village concert tours by horse-driven wagons). Sviatoslav is also the oblast’s finest trumpteer. He is featured in Nych’s colorful photo that won the Yevhen Marchuk Special Prize. (Mr. Marchuk is a photography expert of long standing.)
Naturally, the visitors crowded in front of photos showing their fellow countrymen. It is not often that people can see their old friend, former best man, or matchmaker (the list of relations is endless in the Ukrainian countryside, where the ties of family and friendship are strongest) in a photograph that has been displayed in many Ukrainian cities. “That’s my daughter’s wedding party,” says Valentyna Karychenska, head of the personnel department at Chechelnyk Agricultural Directorate, pointing to Nych’s photo “The Finishing Touch.” She explained: “Here are the best man and maid of honor, Volodia and Yulia. Oleh was invited to take pictures at the wedding. I remember how happy we all were to find out that his photograph won a prize. Now that we are seeing it in the show, we realize that this picture is another important component of the diversified range of Ukrainian life reflected in these photographs.”
The photographer in question said: “I have thought of nothing else but the photography show for the past couple of weeks. I’m more interested in photos that show our daily life, because I think that ordinary people are more sophisticated and sincere than our politicians.”
The wedding theme is continued in Korpusenko’s photo entitled “A Modest Ukrainian Wedding Party.” Liubov Sorokalita, chief accountant at the Chechelnyk Power Networks, commented: “We were anxious to see to it that all the guests had enough to eat. You know how it is in towns and villages: every hostess wants to serve her guests dishes that will make others wince with envy. This picture shows our guests leaving the table after the first meal. One person is still sitting at the table: Oleksandr Kolisnyk (now second in command at the Chechelnyk Power Networks). He looks sad. Maybe he’s thinking about whether he will manage to throw as good a wedding party for his own children. As soon as we learned that this photo won first place at the photo contest, we told Borys to come over. We had to celebrate.”
Our show was an extraordinary event in the life of Chechelnyk. The residents showed a responsible attitude when they were choosing the winner of the Audience Prize. They cast their ballots, argued for and against the submitted photographs, and exchanged ideas.
Below is a roundup of visitors’ comments:
Serhii PEREPELYTSIA, director of the Kotovsk Sugar Refinery, Odesa oblast:
I was invited to visit this photo exhibit by my business partner Pavlo Kalenych. I liked the show a lot. All the photos are original. You instantly realize that the photographers are people with an unconventional way of thinking. In fact, every photograph tells a story. I love sports, so I was most interested in the series of sports photographs. But the political photos beat them all, hands down. Here you sense what’s best described as the required degree of irony and sarcasm. Somehow we’ve grown accustomed to our politicians deciding our destinies, that they are smarter and better educated than we are. But these photographs are proof that this is not always true. At times our politicians make mistakes and behave like children; they are ordinary people, like us. I would describe the atmosphere of the photo exhibit as sincere. Without a doubt, each photograph was taken by a professional. I go to a lot of photography shows, so I have a basis for comparison.
Pavlo KALENYCH, director of the agricultural company Olhopil:
I would like to thank Larysa Ivshyna for coming to Chechelnyk, which few regional bureaucrats ever visit. To me, a province or the middle of nowhere is a social and mental notion, rather than a territorial one. In other words, a provincial way of thinking can be frequently encountered in Kyiv and various regional centers. Everything depends not on one’s place of residence, but on one’s inner cultural world. People in the countryside are more natural, open- hearted, and willing to accept new ideas, as evidenced by their lively response to The Day’s photo exhibit. To me, Kostiantyn Chernichkin’s photo “The Best Pupils of the School of Democracy” is an extremely accurate and graphic portrayal of the character of villagers and life in the Ukrainian countryside.
My friendly contacts with The Day’s staff inspire me to continue my creative endeavors and turn weekdays into holidays, like today. When you know that you have succeeded in making someone’s life easier or more enjoyable, you become even more keenly aware of the purpose of your life.
Mykola KOLOSOV, editor in chief of the oblast newspaper Chechelnytsky visnyk (Chechelnyk Herald):
I am enchanted by what I have seen. I was particularly impressed by photos that depict incredibly interesting scenes. These photographers are not simply talented and sincere, they are farsighted. Proof of this is found in literally every photo on display. Every picture confronts you with a glaring problem. This photography show can be explored by high-ranking politicians and ordinary people, residents of villages where you find problems piled on problems, as they say. Both sets of individuals will understand what they see in these pictures — and perhaps the tasks facing Ukrainians today.
When I started filling in the audience choice questionnaire, I first wrote the title of one photograph, then three others I thought were the best, but in the end I added: “... and the rest of the photographs.”
Finally, allow me to dedicate these impromptu lines of poetry to you: I wish for you to be healthy,
inspired, joyful, happy,
So that you will keep a watchful
journalistic eye on things,
So that all your publications are
admired by one and all.
After opening the photo exhibit, Kalenych invited us to visit Olhopil, his well-regarded agricultural company. We were taken to an island with symbolic names, like Tuzla-2 and Reykjavik. Kalenych joked that he is willing to let politicians use this island for talks, the way Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in Reykjavik to end the Cold War.