War in Ukraine
It’s more than two years since the full scale invasion of Ukraine started.
“The world has changed dramatically since, some call it a Zeitenwende. This senseless war has killed many thousands, displaced millions, created a global energy and food crisis and brought inflation to levels not seen for decades. We are living in a new world. Are we brave enough for it? There is no other option.”
These are the opening words by our Director marking this bitter anniversary. On this page , we highlight the work and words of longstanding friends and Culture of Solidarity Fund grantees. Read on to learn more about how some of them have coped with the new reality.
We conclude this page with a call to European policymakers to wholeheartedly support Ukrainian cultural sectors with a European Cultural Deal for Ukraine: “Culture and Cultural heritage are pivotal to Ukraine’s past, present and future and deserve full attention for their intrinsic value but also for what they can bring to society: hope, inspiration and creative imagination, economic, social and cultural value.”
Introductory Words by André Wilkens, Director of European Cultural Foundation
The world has changed dramatically since February 24 2022, some call it a Zeitenwende. This senseless war has killed many thousands, displaced millions, created a global energy and food crisis and brought inflation to levels not seen for decades. History is back. And war is as terrible and brutal as it has always been, it’s not just a computer game. We are living in a new world. Are we brave enough for it? There is no other option.
Our Ukrainian friends are putting up a heroic fight. They say it is about Europe, and they are right. For Putin this is not just about Ukraine but about rewriting European history and redrawing borders. This is a battle for Europe.
The world has become more polarised over the last years. There is the hot war in Ukraine but there is also a creeping new Cold War between liberty and autocracy. As a child of Cold War One, I feel that I am coming full circle.
But there is also good news: Ukraine has withstood the Russian onslaught, Europe stand mostly united in supporting Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed and integrated. We are cutting our dependency on Russian gas and oil. We are rethinking our dependencies on agricultural and technology production.
Looking at our mission, the European Sentiment is stronger than for a long time. In an existential crisis people do understand the value of having European partners and friends. Still, it makes me wonder why it needs a war to make Europeans feel European.
As ECF we have reacted quickly and decisively in creating various Ukraine editions of the Culture of Solidarity Fund. During the last years we have supported over 100 initiatives of cultural solidarity with Ukraine and together with our partners spent over 1,8 million Euro. While this is only a drop in the ocean of needs, it is one of the biggest European cultural solidarity action with Ukraine to date. We are advocating for a European Cultural Deal for Ukraine which provides substantial European support to the cultural sector in Ukraine now and sustainable support in the reconstruction.
Today is a bitter anniversary. But it is also a reminder that the founding narrative of the modern Europe -peace through sharing- is as relevant, if not more, than it was in 1950s. In this spirit we will continue to do what we can do best in supporting a European culture of solidarity.
Krzysztof Czyżewski of Borderland Foundation, Our 2018 Princess Margriet Award Laureate
"How to Break the Colonial Paradigm of Culture?"
When we asked him to contribute a reflection on the evolving status of Ukraine in the wider European cultural discourse from their unique ‘borderland perspective’ he replied: “You will probably be surprised by the form that the text I promised you has taken. It is true, however, that since the monstrous war in Ukraine broke out, I find it difficult to write essays or articles, only in the form of poetry can I talk about what is most important to me.”
wpada w oko dla chustek łez nieuchwytne
zgrzyta w zębach mułem mowy naniesione
płynie starą krwią z nieoczyszczonej rany
wschodzi drogą zaniechania przenoszone
ktoś kiedyś zamiast zabić puścił je wolno
w litościwym sercu zapuszcza korzenie
winne śmierci cierpienia wydaje owoc
i gubi za pokoleniem pokolenie
wierzą że nie wzejdzie w ogrodzie niewinnych
że w ziemi ofiarą usianej obumrze
owocu nie wyda jeśli człowiek broń złoży
pamięć zatrze na krzywdzie posadzi róże
nie nie obumrze ani w próchnie upadku
ani w trwogach końcem świata pordzewiałych
ani w czarnoziemie grzechów odpuszczonych
nie obumrze w wodach piołunem zgorzkniałych
dopokąd żyje nie dostąpi przemiany
goryczką przyprawi pokarm tak połechce
podniebienia do smaku jadu nawykłe
że zgniliznę za słodycz brać będzie serce
zatrute ziarno obumiera z przemiany
nie wtedy gdy oddajesz za innych życie
lecz gdy zabijasz by niewinnych ocalić
by winę udźwignąć i miłość wykrzyczeć
українцям які борються
падає в око хустинкам сліз невловиме
скрипить у зубах мулом мови нанесене
кров’ю старою пливе із нечистої рани
сходить дорогою занехаяння перенесене
хтось колись замість вбити відпустив його вільно
в милосердному серці пускає коріння
винне смертю страждання дає плоди
і губить покоління за поколінням
вірять не зійде в городі невинних
що в землі жертвою всіяній вмре
плоду не дасть якщо зброю складуть
на кривді посадить троянди пам’ять затре
ні не помре у падінні порохні
ні у тривогах кінцем світу іржáвілих
ні в чорноземі гріхів відпущених
у водах не вмре полином згіркáвілих
поки живе то воно не зміниться
покорм присмачить тирличем і так розбудить
піднебіння до смаку отрути яке призвичаєне
що гниле за солодке серце сприймати буде
отруєне зерно вмирає від преображення
не коли за інших життя готовий віддати
а коли вбиваєш щоб врятувати невинних
щоб вину підійняти і про любов прокричати
(Переклала з польської Ірина Мулярчук)
the bad seed
to the fighting Ukrainians
the bad seed
slips into your eye imperceptible to handkerchiefs tears
grinds in the sludge of speech deposited in your teeth
mixes with old blood flowing from an open wound
and germinates on some neglected heath
once when no one killed it off someone let it out
in a merciful heart it took root
it causes death and suffering it will yield
for generation upon ruined generation bad fruit
some think it will not grow in the garden of innocence
that it will die off in a killing field
that if soldiers lay down their arms it will yield
no fruit it makes memory fade it grows roses on abuse
no it will not die neither in the rot of autumn
nor in the rust of the world’s end that masks our dread
nor in the black earth of all our sins forgiven
nor in the bitter waters thickened with wormwood
it will not change so long as it may live
it will taint food and tease the palette
grown accustomed to the taste of venom
what mistakes decay for sweetness the heart
the bad seed will die of transmutation
not when you sacrifice your life for another
but when you kill in the defense of the innocent
bearing your guilt proving you are a truly lover
(Translated by Christopher Merrill)
Culture of Solidarity Fund Grantee Stories
The Culture of Solidarity Fund is a public-philanthropic partnership launched in 2020 by the European Cultural Foundation as a rapid response tool to support cross-border cultural initiatives of solidarity to the coronavirus pandemic. Based on this network and infrastructure, the Culture of Solidarity Fund Ukraine was swiftly launched in March 2022 to support cultural emergency requests from Ukraine. In three rounds of funding – a Special Ukraine edition, a first Eunic Ukraine edition and a second Eunic Ukraine edition – over last years the fund has supported more than 100 initiatives of cultural solidarity with Ukraine, with grants totalling 1,8 million Euro, not in the least thanks to co-funders spent.
Below we’ll cite from their reporting on their activities.
The residency programme by Sorry No Rooms Available
Since 2016 the residency Sorry No Rooms Available is a dynamic initiative with that wants to decentralise the development of the cultural economy and contemporary art in Ukraine. The residency seeks to integrate participants into the vibrant local art scene while also positioning itself as a cultural international platform, actively engaging with European and global art processes. During their stay, residents are encouraged to embark on at least one site-specific project, allowing them to reflect on the hotel itself, its unique site, and its captivating history, thereby adding depth and significance to their artistic endeavours.
“A culture of solidarity’ signifies the embodiment of democratic values, freedom of choice, and a strong sense of public consciousness among Ukrainians. The active participation and solidarity exhibited during challenging times have been crucial for Ukrainian society. Through our vibrant cultural and artistic activities, we strive to raise awareness about modern culture and art in Ukraine.”
Yevgenia Belorusets on Her Art Project 'One Day More', by EUNIC Brussels
This video explores the EUNIC Brussels project ‘One Day More‘ centred around the creation of the commissioned work by Yevgenia Belorusets and a series of accompanying events: a workshop at the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, a talk at the Migration Museum in Brussels with young people about art and war as part of the International Migrants Day programme followed by a DJ set, and a public debate. The artwork, a table with entries from Belorusets’ wartime diary carved into its surfaces, is centred around communicating the reality and the experiences of conflict.
International Coalition of Culture Workers in Solidarity With Ukraine, by Ambasada Kultury
“The antiwarcoalition.art project became a reaction to Russia’s war and aggression against Ukraine and considers this war as part of the global processes taking place not only in Eastern Europe, but all over the world. The main goal was to bring together cultural workers into a network of support and solidarity with Ukraine, to reflect what Judith Butler called our global connectedness and interdependence, and to support artists from Ukraine and Belarus, create opportunities to present their works at major art events and institutions in Europe, to create a sustainable network for the promotion and public discourse of the actual agenda.”
“The project was initiated by Ambasada Kultury and a group of Belarusian and Ukrainian curators and cultural workers. We focused on topics such as the definition and borders of today’s Europe, how countries that are geographically part of Europe but are at the periphery, which groups of people are included or excluded from global processes, how we are connected to each other. For example, how is the war in Ukraine connected to the production of bread in Egypt, and the successful ending of protests in Iran will stop the supply of drones for the Russian army.”
“It is [..] necessary to mention the nomadic character of the project, all our events are realized in different geographical locations and contexts with a conceptual connection to the topic of the project and local context. Our goal in such shimmering, migrating exhibitions, discussions is to build networks of international solidarity, to exchange experiences with one another, to build bridges of empathy, to mapping the possibilities for a new language, the lack of which our participants are constantly feeling.”
The antiwarcoalition curatorial team in partnership with international art institutions has realized more than 28 offline events: public discussions, screening programs, exhibitions, workshops. The antiwarcolation was presented at amongst others Documenta 15, Manifesta 14, the 59th Venice Biennale in cooperation with the national pavilions of Poland and Lithuania, and The European Pavilion in Rome.
The project has developed and is continuing to evolve in two directions: The creation and expansion of an open online archive of artistic statements on the topics of war, dictatorship, imperialism, patriarchy and human rights violations. And, the organization and implementation of a public events program, in cooperation with international art and culture institutions and initiatives.
Ukraine Invasion: Local Perspectives, by Voxeurop
Our news feeds are filled with news on Ukraine. But, because of our reading habits, filter bubbles and linguistic skills, we mostly get Western or national perspectives. Coverage from local sources and perspectives is essential to diversify our understanding and explore the nuances of a fraught environment.
To this end, with the support of the Culture of Solidarity Fund, news outlet Voxeurop endeavours to expand its coverage of the crisis by providing its readers and partners with content that is otherwise hard to access. Their project ‘Ukraine invasion: local perspectives’ was set in motion in 2022 and supports local independent news media from Ukraine and the countries concerned– Russia, Belarus, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Moldova, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
Ukraine – Special edition, by TEMA Magazine
“Right now support for Ukrainian refugees is huge in European countries, but we have experienced hostile backlashes before. To keep the solidary spirit alive in the coming month it remains important to talk about the consequences of the war in Ukraine – not only on a political – but an individual level. Projects like ours add those perspectives to the digital European media landscape. As for the cultural sector within Europe and Ukraine especially, we should be aware that above all creative minds, young and brave people are going to be the ones rebuilding this country. We should do everything possible to support them, to make them feel seen and heard. Our project has taught us that the creativity, courage and solidarity of young people in Ukraine and all over Europe is so inspiring that everyone should learn and read about it.”
Read more stories on the website of TEMA magazine.
Samizdat Eastern European Film Festival
“Perhaps the most important activity that can be carried out in response to the challenges facing Ukrainian culture is upholding its identity, autonomy and capacity for self-expression. We believe that it is important for organisations and countries to preserve Ukrainian culture, which is being threatened by Russian colonialism and imperialism. That is why our festival provided a space in which our Ukrainian collaborators could be heard authentically, without the filtering effects of media, and where the constant threat of erasure was removed. Likewise, we believe that it is the responsibility of other organisations across Europe to fight to preserve and uphold Ukrainian culture in this manner.”
'Chornobyldorf. A Safe Space for Ukrainian Artists to Prepare an International Presentation', by Musiktheatertage Wien
“European Culture of Solidarity providing support and conditions for development in times of crises. It is support to professionals from the cultural sector, which is usually very vulnerable, because of “being not first priority during urgent time.” For us, also European Culture of Solidarity became support not only to Ukrainians abroad, but as well to those who would like to stay and work in Ukraine and develop. As we can feel huge Solidarity from diverse institution, directed to those, who moved from Ukraine. But here are fewer opportunities for those, struggling to continue their work, not leaving the country.” Find out more on the Chornobyldorf website.
'Documenting Villages Affected by Russia’s War in Ukraine', by Old Khata Project.
“As I am writing this report, I feel it’s not so easy to concentrate on the words. The first part of the day went in hearing the explosions and in constant looking at the news: what more was hit? what cities? how many people died? On October 10th Russia conducted more than 80 attacks on more than 30 Ukrainian towns and cities with missiles and other weapons. These numbers hardly tell anything to you, who is reading this report, but behind them are lots of things: from inability to work properly to deaths and injuries. That’s why I find it hard to answer the questions about the future and to think about large-scale questions. However, in terms of our project, the next thing we need to do is to publish a book. This was the thing we were planning to do even before the war, and now, although it became harder to do so, we still need to make this photography book to finish the Old khata project as it has been planned from its start in 2019.”
'CryptoArt Ukraine', by Art Optimists
“Over the past six months, support and solidarity with the Ukrainian people from European countries has been extremely important. Especially in the cultural field in which we work. The large number of competitions for artists for residency programs, exhibitions and grants create a psychological sense of belonging. We really feel that we are not alone. Unfortunately, the artists who can go abroad are only women, with a few exceptions. That is, crypto artists have little background in physical artistic life and their CV and portfolio are not convincing for the Ministry of Culture, which grants permits to go abroad for projects. Therefore, it is very important for our community to receive support in Ukraine.”
'State of Emergence', by Galeria Catinca Tabacaru
“We strongly believe that visual contemporary art is one way to materialize a peaceful future despite despair. While other mediums of expression like writing, journalism, music etc. are important, they are also significantly different from contemporary art. Artist’s lived experiences encapsulated into cultural artifacts can build on empathy, create solidarity, and offer a critical understanding of what has been happening since February 24th 2022 and of what will continue to happen tomorrow. Ensuring artists the conditions to create and preserve these cultural artifacts is the biggest urgency cultural solidarity initiatives with a European focus need to tackle in the immediate and mid-term future. This is exactly why we want to continue this project with a new chapter, presenting an understanding of the conflict not only at its borders, like in the first part of the project in Bucharest, but in a global center like New York City.”
Vasyl Cherepanyn, Our 2015 Princess Margriet Award laureate
Vasyl Cherepanyn, head of our 2015 Princess Margriet Award laureate Visual Culture Research Centre. This centre was established in 2008 in Kyiv as a platform for cooperation between scientific, artistic and activist communities. Since 2015, the VCRC organizes the Kyiv Biennial, an international forum for art, knowledge and politics that adopts an interdisciplinary perspective integrating exhibitions and discussion platforms. The Kyiv Biennial is a founding member of the East Europe Biennial Alliance.
Kyiv Perennial opens in Berlin from February 23–25, 2024, symbolically marking the tenth anniversary of the Maidan Revolution and the tenth year of the Russian war against Ukraine. Kyiv Perennial is a continuation of the pan-European edition of the Kyiv Biennial 2023, which took place in several Ukrainian and EU cities. The Berlin edition is funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation) in a cooperation. Read on.
Vasyl Cherepanyn regularly appeared in international media to identify some of the fundamental misconceptions about Ukrainian identity, history, and culture that – according to him – prevail in Western discourses, particularly in Europe:
White cube gallery radical chic
“In terms of culture, when “Realpolitik” in the form of war arrived, many institutions in the art field within the EU and elsewhere, that have always been claiming radical political engagement, appeared to stick to a kind of white cube gallery radical chic. Most of the institutions have resorted to humanitarian issues, which is of course very valuable, but as it turned out, they were too afraid to trespass their boundaries,” in Jungle World.
“When we talk about recent history, it is Ukraine, not any other country, that has had two successful revolutions. That is a precedent in 21st-century Europe. At the same time, it is an unused opportunity for the West. These achievements have manifested themselves visually, politically, and socially in recent years. They are probably the most powerful feats of self-identification and nation-state building that Ukraine has produced in its entire history,” in the Green European Journal.
A task for the Western European cultural field
“You have to reconfigure your optics, the way you approach other parts of Europe and what you think Europe is, to understand this form of colonialism and recognize the anti-colonial struggles and practices from these countries. There is a task here, especially for the Western European cultural field. I hope Ukrainian artists can also help raise that awareness,” in Metropolis M.
“It is exactly the [Ukrainian] cultural field that has the potential of debating societal issues, provoking ideological questions or political polar views on such topics as memory politics, attitude towards the Soviet past, or the 20th century’s history. It is pretty often artists and cultural workers who elaborate and deepen these discussions. […] Compared to the Western context, culture is not so much structured as a separate field here. It might seem anarchistic, however, it also indicates that it’s only emerging institutionally and autonomously. Due to this, one can find many unexpected routes and unwalked paths in culture and arts,” in Balkon.
'Decoloniality in Ukraine', by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Decoloniality in Ukraine: Is There Still a Place for a ‘Soviet Soldier’ in Historic Memory?
On December 1st 2022 Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden hosted an online webinar. The title of the discussion refers to the explosion of the Monument to the “Soldiers of law and order” that happened in the centre of Mykolayiv on October 19, 2022. This case brings to the fore the question of dealing with an uncomfortable past, unspoken pages of history, practices of exclusion and strategies of negation. In this context the figure of a soldier becomes a metaphor for thinking about the Soviet as such in historic memory of the country which is trying to rapidly realize the process of decolonization.
Speakers were Yevgenia Belorusets, Mischa Gabowitsch, Nikita Kadan, Valentinas Klimašauskas, Doreen Mende, while Tatiana Kochubinska moderated.
Read more on the website of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.
'In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900 - 1930s', by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary
We partnered up with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900–1930s which presents the ground-breaking art produced in Ukraine in the first decades of the 20th century, showcasing trends that range from figurative art to futurism and constructivism.
Our collaboration involved presenting two panel discussions on the opening event. The first one offered a critical review of the Ukrainian history of art during the first decades of the twentieth century. The second one – see video slider below – discussed the vital role of culture in shaping a sense of togetherness, a European sentiment, in times of crisis, recovery and beyond.
Preceding the two panel discussions President Zelensky shared a video-message in which he adresses the power of arts and culture.
Video Message by Ukrainian President Zelensky at the Opening of 'In the Eye of the Storm'.
Panel Discussion on the Role of Culture in Shaping A Sense of Togetherness, a European Sentiment, in Times of Crisis, recovery and beyond.
With contributions by:
Pina Picierno, Vice President of European Parliament – by video message,
Diego Mellado, (ambassador) Head of Communication and Public Policy, European External Action Service (EEAS),
Catherine Magnant, Deputy-Director and Head of Cultural Policy, European Commission,
Yana Barinova, former Head of Culture at the City of Kiev, currently Head of European policies and Ukraine, Erste Stiftung (Vienna),
Alexander Shevchenko, Ukrainian urbanist, founder of the Zvidsy Agency and Restart Ukraine project. Our Head of Public Policy, Isabelle Schwarz, moderated the conversation.
More on the exhibition In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900–1930s:
The development of Ukrainian modernism took place against a complicated socio-political backdrop of collapsing empires, the First World War, the revolutions of 1917 with the ensuing Ukrainian War of Independence (1917–21), and the eventual creation of Soviet Ukraine. The ruthless Stalinist repressions against Ukrainian intelligentsia led to the execution of dozens of writers, theatre directors and artists, while the Holodomor, the man-made famine of 1932–33, killed millions of Ukrainians.
Despite these tragic circumstances, Ukrainian art of the period lived through a true renaissance of creative experimentation. In the Eye of the Storm reclaims this essential – though little-known in the West – chapter of European modernism, displaying around 70 works in a full range of media, from oil paintings and sketches to collages and theatre designs.
Read more on the website of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary
Screening 'A fragile memory' in collaboration with IDFA
As part of our ongoing partnership with the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam, IDFA, we co-hosted a screening of the documentary ‘Fragile Memory’ on February 21 2024. This screening was followed by an aftertalk between Mariia Ponomarova and Olexii Kuchanskyi. Read on.
Ukraine deserves a European Cultural Deal
Europe needs Ukraine as Ukraine needs Europe. The recovery and future of Ukraine in the EU cannot be envisaged without culture playing its full role. This needs the determination and commitment of Ukraine to embed culture in its recovery, reconstruction and modernisation strategy.
We urgently call on the EU to include Ukraine’s cultural, cultural heritage and creative sectors in EU relief packages for Ukraine and the Ukraine Facility (2024-2027). We call on the EU institutions and Member States to join forces to include emergency and recovery needs from the world of art, culture and cultural heritage within the EU humanitarian support to Ukraine. This includes the macro-financial assistance package to help the country meet its financing needs, as well as the Trust Fund for Ukraine mobilising international donors.
'Welcome to the Club', by Gijs de Vries
In an article for Kulturaustausch Gijs de Vries, a friend of the European Cultural Foundation explained why Europe needs a European Cultural Deal for Ukraine:
“Cultural policy must not remain the weakest link in EU policy towards Ukraine. Together with national governments, Brussels must prepare an action plan to help Ukraine’s cultural sector recover. The plan should cover, at a minimum, four areas: emergency aid for refugees and internally displaced persons; measures to restore tangible heritage; generous support for collaborative projects and exchanges between Ukrainian artists and artists from the EU, and institutional twinning between EU and Ukrainian galleries, museums, theatres and other cultural agencies. Funding for these initiatives, which should have a five to ten year horizon, should be an integral part of the EU’s ‘RebuildUkraine’ Facility. To leave culture out of the Europe’s Marshall Plan for Ukraine would be a historic mistake.
The European Union is first and foremost a cultural project. The union’s founding values—respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights—are essentially cultural. Ukrainians are fighting for these values. We must do no less. We should give Ukraine our full support.”
Cultural Deal for Europe campaign
We have created a union of states and institutions. We still need to craft a union of values and people. It is culture that brings us together as Europeans, igniting the hearts and fuelling the minds of citizens. Without culture, the very future of Europe is under threat.