Chemins d’Ukraine – les constructions solidaires
23 Feb 2023
In a series of interviews with the grantees of the Culture of Solidarity Fund Eunic Ukraine edition we look back on how their projects helped embedding Ukrainian culture in wider European spheres.
Who was leading this project? Please introduce yourselves.
The Goethe-Institut was leading the project RECONSTRUCTING UKRAINE: HOPE, PERSPECTIVE AND CHALLENGES. We connect people all over the world. As a cultural institution of the Federal Republic of Germany, we promote cultural exchange, education and societal discourse in an international context, and support the teaching and learning of the German language. Together with our partners, we focus on global opportunities and challenges, bringing different perspectives into a dialogue that is based in trust. We regard the ability to listen and to reflect as the key to understanding. We are bound by principles of transparency, diversity and sustainability. These principles characterise our services and our way of working.
Can you tell us about the design of the project and its stages in some detail. Who were partners, who did you involve?
Our partners were the Institut français and the Institut culturel polonais with whom we work closely within the framework of the EUNIC-Cluster Paris. The project was implemented jointly with the initiatives Ro3kvit, Narada (the foundation behind Ro3kvit) and IZOLYATSIA. Ro3kvit is a Ukrainian-based project and a coalition of over 80 professionals from Ukraine and other European countries who unite their efforts to develop knowledge and methodologies for rebuilding Ukraine’s urban and rural environment and infrastructure. IZOLYATSIA is an NGO which promotes cultural projects as a catalyst for social and systemic change and aiming to promote the professional growth of cultural agents in Ukraine with the goal of developing the cultural sector in the direction of greater stability and diversity.
In different round tables the project reunited architects, sociologists, urbanists and professionals from NGOs from Ukraine, Poland, Austria, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Systemic change through civic and cultural actors and projects was the main question that the event named “Chemins d’Ukraine – les constructions solidaires” wanted to raise. Cultural scenes and infrastructures are most often the first victims of war and crisis and most likely the last to be rebuild. At the same time the role of civic and cultural actors is crucial as a societal backbone to a rebuilding process that is grounded on the idea of an open society with close ties especially to the European Union. That’s why creating an open discussion platform of round tables around subjects as solidarity and new cultural practices between actors from France, Ukraine and Germany was a contribution to creating new ways of cultural exchange and implementing it as a part of the rebuilding process in Ukraine.
Where and when was this on show?
The event took place on the afternoon of Saturday, 10th of December 2022 at the Goethe-Institut in Paris. Three different round tables addressed the topic of urgent housing and architecture, environment, education and culture and the challenges of reconstruction in Eastern Ukraine.
Whom did you intend to reach, did it work out?
The main target group were actors of the cultural sphere and institutions from Ukraine, France, Germany, Poland and other European countries present in Paris as well as political representatives and the general public interested in international cultural exchange. The project aimed at generating a broader sense of the necessity to imagine and create sustainable cultural platforms and networks for the shaping of a common future between the European Union and Ukraine. A wide array of spectators assisted the event, mostly professionals with close ties to the Ukrainian community (architects, students, researchers), French volunteers who are engaged in the support of Ukrainian refugees as well as representatives of diplomatic missions and cultural institutions. A group of French architects came to meet Ro3kvit to plan future collaborations. Quite striking was the low average age of the public, proof of the ongoing engagement of the young European community.
What narratives do you wish to highlight? Why?
Building sustainable international cultural networks between civil societies that carry through time takes a concerted effort of institutions and the cultural actors themselves. France, Poland and Germany have a long history of establishing platforms which create cultural exchange and ties between cultural and civic actors of all ages. Opening up and discussing those cultural networks with Ukrainian institutions and actors to share best practices on both sides and imagining the future of a possible cultural exchange within the rebuilding process in Ukraine was at the heart of this project and this goal was achieved: numerous experts were able to exchange concrete methods for the reconstruction of Ukraine in a goal-oriented manner. At the same time the creative dynamics of this rebuilding process can be an important perspective for European societies in search and need of new models themselves.
A special insight in the exchange between the experts was the realization that lies a unique chance within the reconstruction of the urban space in Ukraine: even though it seems almost cynical to talk about it now, Ukrainian urban space can be the first in Europe to be built based on community Input, circularity and climate friendliness (the three Cs). It offers the opportunity to actively build modern, co-creatively designed and sustainable cities, including access for i.e. disabled people, new ways of mobility etc. These rethought spaces can be co-created with Universities, fueled by latest research. Most European cities do not have this dynamic. Apart from cost and sustainability reasons, this is also due to the long decision taking in the European Union. The results of the discussions did not necessarily amount to a change of perspective, but rather to an awareness of the unique opportunity that architectural and urban reconstruction offers facing the destruction if war. Another important realization lies in the incomparable force that a synthesis of the knowledge and research gathered in Europe can offer, mentioned above.
What does ‘a culture of solidarity’ mean to you? In general, and in specific; to Ukraine?
Regarding this project, the essence of a European culture of solidarity lies not only in supporting countries and citizens in need but also in creating synergies and communicating best practice examples with regard to the reconstruction of Ukraine. The round tables reunited architects, sociologists, urbanists and professionals from NGOs from Ukraine, Poland, Austria, the Netherlands, France and Germany. The capacity building which synthesizes the skills and research from different areas in different European countries proved to be once again a crucial element of European culture of solidarity.