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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

A sentimental meeting with Nizhyn

“The opening of <i>The Day</i>’s Photo Exhibit is a powerful investment in our town”
29 March, 2011 - 00:00

Kyiv–Nizhyn–Kyiv – I used to have two associations with Nizhyn, Hohol and Chorna Rada (The Black Council). As I was going there, I was hoping to see a quiet little town, albeit with some historic traces. On March 17 The Day’s Photo Exhibit Den 2010 was opened at the Mykola Hohol Central Library in Nizhyn. We have already briefly informed our readers about the best works from last year’s photo contest being displayed in Nizhyn, at the invitation of the Nizhyn Charitable Foundation and its president Mykola Shkurko. It is a synchronous effort of interested people that enable the Photo Exhibit to visit as many Ukrainian cities and towns as possible. Because, as The Day’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna remarked, no one can be a perpetual donor to the free press.

Nizhyn surprised me: first, with the town’s live energy (although many historic buildings still remain unrestored, Nizhyn has a unique face. Suffice it to think of its 18 churches alone!), and second, with the energy of its residents, who love their town, develop it, and will not emigrate en masse to the capital, which is only a two hours’ drive away.

Lack of information about important places in the very heart of a country is anything but norm. Nor is the fact that after 20 years of independence, Ukrainians are still discovering their country. Den has a column headlined Route No.1. It is a list of places which are a must-see for any school kid. Everyone can make their own list — for example, of the Ukrainian cities that had Magdeburg rights. It is utterly impossible to realize the scale of our cultural heritage simply using a history textbook. It is not enough to know that Nizhyn was the home town of Mykola Hohol (whom the citizens of Nizhyn now refer to as the town’s hallmark). One should go and see the complex of ancient churches, built by Greek settlers in the 17th century. Or visit the local museum, see ancient Greek manuscripts, and learn how, on Peter I’s order, a fabulously rich library was moved from Nizhyn, it even included manuscripts of Homer, Plato, Socrates, and which became the foundation for Count Rumyantsev’s famous library. This is fantastic history. Nizhyn was the place where Taras Shevchenko’s friend Yevhen Hrebinka studied, and it was the birthplace of Mykola Bazili, the first secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Empire to Persia. One should also see the Nizhyn of today, where the theatrical traditions of Maria Zankovetska (she was born not far off) are still preserved, where there are several schools of higher education for a population of 80,000, 1,200 students attend the House of Children and Adolescents, and where Poles, Jews, Greeks, and Syrians live in harmony.

The citizens of Nizhyn believe that the opening of The Day’s Photo Exhibit in their town is a great opportunity to get some publicity.

“Today The Day gave us a long-awaited investment in the shape of the Photo Exhibit and The Day’s Library. It’s a powerful intellectual investment in our town. Now, that television and radio are slowly degrading, high-quality press remains the only source of information, and staple food for thought. Nizhyn’s information space is in a vacuum, which must be filled with something of high quality. And we are happy to see that our cooperation with The Day is taking shape. Yet nothing in nature arises from nothing. That is why this good investment can only last as long as it gets feedback,” said Mykola Shkurko, president of Nizhyn Charitable Foundation.

Liudmyla Lysytsia, director of the House of Children and Adolescents, says, “We should keep this great opportunity to cooperate with both the newspaper and its Photo Exhibit. We have a lot of people who do photography, and there is a photo studio at our House of Children and Adolescents. Yet we have not seen photographs of such scale as those at the Photo Exhibit.”

The Day is fond of all its readers, yet subscribers, according to Ivshyna, are “our stock of gold.” And it seems that the people in Nizhyn have really decided to do their best not to “lose their chance.” Not only did they attend the opening ceremony of the Photo Exhibit and purchase books from The Day’s Library, but also took part in the action headlined “A Present to Your School.”

Books and subscriptions were presented to Nizhyn schools and libraries by Shkurko, Anatolii Lytvyn (CEO, Firma Laks Ltd.), Serhii Kot (CEO, Nizhyn Bakeries Ltd.), Anatolii Linnyk (municipal councilor), Volodymyr Voshchevsky (director general, Agronaftoproduct Production and Commerce Firm), Volodymyr Strilko (private entrepreneur), and Maryna Kozyrieva (director of a local drug store chain).

However, Shkurko assured that the collaboration of the town and The Day would not be confined to this project alone. During the opening ceremony the Nizhyn Charitable Foundation and the Association of Businesses of Nizhyn raion signed a collaboration agreement with The Day and made a charitable contribution to the newspaper. Meanwhile, Nizhyn photographers promised they would by all means try to take part in the photo contest. According to Ihor Volosiankin, member of the National Union of Photo Artists, “the participation in The Day’s Photo Exhibit can only be outshone by taking part in an event organized by the World Press Photo.”

We can easily say that in Nizhyn we found devoted readers, followers, and patriots of their town and country. And now we will share some impressions of the visitors to Den 2010 Photo Exhibit on its opening day.

Kateryna SHKARUPINA, student of psychology and social work, Hohol State University, Nizhyn:

“The Day’s Photo Exhibit is both up-to-date and reminiscent of the past. Looking at the photographs, you can feel the bond between the older and the younger generations. It is like a trip in time and space, because most people here know little about the life of Ukrainians outside our region. Meanwhile, the exhibits can be used like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which can be put together to paint a picture of the whole of Ukraine.

“I have never been to the west. Here I can see and comprehend the authentic culture of the residents of western Ukraine. You look at the images and realize that the Ukrainians on the other side of the Dnipro are devoted to their country and their ancestors. For one, there is Yurii Chernevy’s Bukovynian: without words, the man’s look alone is the best evidence of his pride in being born in this land. It is this Ukrainian identity that permeates virtually all works represented at [the Photo Exhibit] Den 2010. On my part, I am proud of Nizhyn for becoming part of this large-scale project.”

Valerii KUZMENKO, library consultant:

“The Day’s Photo Exhibit has become a great opportunity for the people of Nizhyn to see art. In my opinion, it is sublime art, indeed. What is also important is the participants’ desire to take a closer look at their home country. This can be felt in virtually every photograph on display.

“Ukraine has got its own peculiarity; we are at a crucial point in history. We are still struggling to get rid of the burden of a post-Soviet identity, and this is an extremely difficult and painful process. And at the same time, we are groping for our own future. We are learning. And The Day’s Photo Exhibit shows it, it shows the road we are taking.

“I loved Ruslan Kaniuka’s work, Lina Kostenko — the photograph captured the poet’s powerful personality, the tangible tension and inner struggle which strives to find a vent and a way to convey its own inner energy to the viewers. They will be also deeply moved by the clear, kind, and pensive look in the eyes of the young woman in Oleksandr Pryimak’s work, titled A Girl’s Daydreams.”

Volodymyr DRUHAKOV, head of the Nizhyn raion administration:

“The exhibit Den 2010 convinced me that photography is art. Art’s main mission is to evoke emotions in a human being, to make him think and become kinder. Looking at the works presented at the Photo Exhibit, I experienced a wide range of emotions and life collisions of the characters. Indeed, who can remain indifferent after seeing Two Truths by Borys Korpusenko, which earned him the Grand Prix in 2006, or Oleksandr Kadnikov’s Second-Hand Bookseller?

“I was particularly moved by Veronika Borkovska’s Patience. After seeing The Day’s Photo Exhibit, I understood that photography is a refined art which requires a lot of effort, and the participants are extremely talented, since they have to look for exciting plots, uncover our country to us, and make people become more compassionate.”

Lilia RUDENKO, chief curator at the Nizhyn Museum of Local History:

“The works presented by the participants of The Day’s Photo Exhibit are noted for their dynamic character, they emanate the spirit of modernity, action, and motion. On the one hand, the people of Nizhyn are to some degree sophisticated when it comes to photography, since several renowned masters of this genre are working here. Personally I was astonished by Iryna Silvestrova’s Memories. First of all, it is a very sensual photo. You can’t remain indifferent when you see a man in a wheelchair who watches active and merry young people on a beach. Nevertheless, all photographs are executed in a newspaper coverage style, therefore the author has both to use his mastery to capture a moment, and to experience it in person, and for this you need your own deep, inner world.

“I hope that the visit of The Day’s Photo Exhibit will encourage local photographers, and they will join in, because Nizhyn is a specific, active town, and its ancient history will never allow the citizens to stay passive.”

Volodymyr KRUTYVUS, pensioner, former lecturer at the philology department, Hohol National University of Nizhyn:

“Fortunately, this year I have subscribed to a full edition of The Day. And now every day I anticipate the pleaser. I greatly enjoyed reading an article by Yurii Raikhel, headlined “The Great Reformer and Revolutionary. Kemal Ataturk, Father of Turks.” When the material is skillfully executed, it gives you not only educational, but also esthetic joy. Let alone The Day’s materials concerning Taras Shevchenko, an extremely talented article by Ivan

Dziuba. Just think of all those chauvinistic predecessors of Oles Buzyna!

“There are papers which indulge in the basest tastes. Consequently, they publish adequate photographs. But there are others, which teach you to think, and raise their audiences’ personal level. The Day is one of the latter. I would call it an intelligent newspaper for intelligent people.”

Maryna KOZYRIEVA, director of the local drug store chain “Drug Store of Our City”:

“The photographs represented here struck me the most (and this is why they are important for each of us) because we can see Ukrainians not only in their everyday lives, doing chores, and busy with their families and their well-being. In these photos we can see visionaries, artists, people who rejoice in every day, whose souls aspire to the light, to what is better, to their dreams. Seeing photos of such people in the complicated present-day situation is both a surprise and a boon which inspires hope.”

Mykola NAUMENKO, employee, Nizhyn Charitable Foundation:

“For me the most interesting and important thing is that The Day’s Photo Exhibit is a mirror of ordinary people’s lives, rather than those of presidents or MPs. In these pictures we can see so many distinct, bright faces of average Ukrainians. We so often advertize our so-called leaders, but at the same time tend to leave out the Citizen, who is an asset.

“It is a landmark event for Nizhyn, which is a cultural center. I’m convinced that in the following 10 days there will hardly be anyone here who will not have seen the exhibit.”

By Viktoria SKUBA, photo by Mykola TYMCHENKO, The Day