Ukrainian Week in London: Jesse Kirkwood attends festival opening at Ukrainian Cultural Centre


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ukrainian week 1 resizedThis weekend there will be a series of events as part of the ‘Maidan. Ukraine. Road to Freedom’ socio-cultural project being organised by Art Fund Dukat and the initiative groups Path to Freedom and London EuroMaidan, with the support of the British Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain. The aim is to ‘bring Maidan to the UK’ in order to to show the ‘real face’ of the protests last winter through a combination of artistic projects, including documentary films, photography and painting exhibitions, a poetry and music evening, drama and a folk-rock concert. Banners, helmets and other objects from the protests have been used to decorate the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, the venue for the event. This is a wonderful chance – perhaps the first real chance for those living in London – to get a real taste of Maidan, and to meet some of the inspiring people working for Ukraine’s future.

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At the opening ceremony last night, Serhiy Fomenko, lead singer of the popular folk-rock group Mandry and a driving force behind the project, explained the motivation behind this cultural event: ‘Maidan was Maidan, but art can tell us something more.’ The important thing to emerge from events this year, he said, was that there is a new generation, those who grew up in a post-Soviet Ukraine, whom social media has connected in an unprecedented way. And, while emerging artists can find it hard to find a voice in their own nation, the rest of the world is listening as never before: ‘The only country where Ukrainians can’t fulfill themselves right now is Ukraine,’ he wryly remarks. For Fomenko, music is understandably a key element in this new artistic movement: ‘In Ukraine, some people watch TV, and some people listen to music. And there’s a big difference between the two.’

There were inspiring stories all round. Maxim Dondyuk, a documentary photographer who was initially merely a witness on the sidelines of Maidan but soon became embroiled in the bitter protests, described an encounter with his ‘guardian angel’, an unidentified boy who brought him a helmet. Twenty minutes later that helmet was destroyed by gunfire – it had saved Dondyuk’s life. Fomenko, too, stressed the importance of the ‘unknown heroes’ of Maidan, pointing to one of the photographic exhibitions, a series of portraits that includes not only well-known figures who took part in the protests, but also those without a name.


 Ukrainian Week in London runs from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th July at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre (154 Holland Park Avenue, London W11 4UH). For details please see this site’s Cultural Diary.


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