Five years of war. Five years of our people’s struggle against the Russian aggression in the East of Ukraine. In summer 2014 a fierce struggle continued for the settlements of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. In the battles the Ukrainian soldiers gave their lives, but gained victory liberating their native cities.
The National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War together with the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance represents an exhibition project about the liberation of Ukrainian territories. The exhibition represents photographs that reflect the chronology of the liberation of Mariupol, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Sieverodonetsk, Lysychansk and a dozen settlements. The artifacts tell us about the fate of the participants of the battles. These are the personal belongings of Hero of Ukraine Serhii Kulchytskyi, Bohdan Vovnenko, Stepan Chubenko and Ohanes Petrosian. Significant relics at the exhibition are the victorious Ukrainian flags raised above the liberated Kramatorsk, Mariupol and Shchastia. Graphic paintings from the series “Black Calendar”, depicted by the artists Serhii Druziaka and Serhii Lytvynov who were the witnesses of Kramatorsk occupation, are the evidences of the fact that even the horrors of war can become an impetus for the creation of art. In the exhibition a part of the objects was collected by the museum staff during a scientific trip to Donetsk and Luhansk regions and is presented to the general public for the first time.
The human memory is mysterious and eternal. What rules does it obey? What does it save? What is transferred from generation to generation, from century to century? What is the memory of the Second World War?
Perhaps, everyone has one’s own memory, because much time passed, many things changed as well as understanding of past events, something became the product of mythology.
By why something unexplained appears in subconscious of contemporaries independently from political changes: the taste of sugar donated to orphan by soldier; the pale, like pile in April, and scared face of the Jewish child rescued by people who even forgot the safety of their own children; the smell of forest in autumn, where the shelter of the Ukrainian insurgents was; the dampness of prison where one stayed for years; probably, the Sun-like yellow dandelion flower in spring, picked at the airfield and gifted to a beloved girl met in wartime. What is it? Maybe, the genetic memory, memory of the heart, family memory.
“Family Memory of the War” is a title of the exhibition as a part of the similarly named museum’s project. It contains ten stories, ten essays, that are combined as a mosaic to reconstruct the complex and controversial Ukrainian history.
These are stories of ordinary people, their family memory, and their lives. The grandchildren keep this memory and save it for posterity.
Look at these artefacts, read the obliterated papers. Almost all the families have such things.
Let us save them together.
However, everything must be completed: towels embroidered, awards handled, letters read and essays written…
The exhibition “Being uprooted” reveals one of the tragic pages of the past century, connected with forced relocations of Ukrainians (so-called deportations, forced emigration, evacuation without return, transfers, and special military operations).
In the memory of the inhabitants of the Western Ukrainian villages such resettlements were remembered as a retaliation of Soviet power for counteraction to Sovietization, the unwillingness to join the “Labor's paradise”, the support of the Ukrainian national liberation movement.
The materials of the exhibition organically complement the section of the exhibition “At the crossroads of war and peace”. Being evacuated forever; Military operations “Wisla” and “West”; “Knotweed” Roads; “Action-51” – all these themes, as well as all exhibited museum objects, are presented for the first time.
The consequences of ethno-political transformations are clearly traced through the stories of individual families: centuries-old life has been broken; the ethnic integrity of Ukrainians in Poland has been eroded. The bitter feeling of injustice and personal tragedy deeply etched in the souls of people.
Hastily-assembled things (icon, a one-time clothes, old horseshoe), children were in their arms, sack was on the back – and forward: where, why, what for? They were taken in boxcars into obscurity, darkness and nothingness.
Someone could not adapt to the new conditions, someone was looking for salvation in new regions, and someone, felt the threat from Soviet regime, went to a foreign country and became a man “without the state”, as the family of His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar.
The whole villages disappeared together with people, the parents' tracks overgrown with the knotweed.
The theme of the so-called agricultural resettlement is highlighted through the materials of the inhabitants of destroyed villages and evicted villages into Dnipropetrovsk region: Rusylov in Ternopil region and Sobiatyn in Volyn. Sobiatyn is not currently on the map of Ukraine.
The descendants of the offended people, who transmitted the materials for presentation at the exhibition, all the time “return” to the land that God promised to parents.
A new exhibition of the Museum project “The Ukrainian East” is entitled “On the Line of Fire”. The story of the victories and tragedies of the patriots of Ukraine, who defend its sovereignty against the Russian aggressor in the eastern territories of our state, overcome the results of enemies’ intervention, hybrid war crimes and break the plans of the creeping Putinism.
In the exhibition space, outlined by the nominal and expositional clusters-blocks of “Ours”, “Aliens” and “(Non)aliens”, the fire line in the zone of the Operation of the United Forces in the East of Ukraine is symbolically reconstructed. The expressiveness of the fire border is enhanced by banners with the original photographs of destruction and shelling. The closed capsule – “Pandora's box”, – figuratively fixes the moment of the long-awaited peace on the Ukrainian soil.
In the exposition space of the section “Ours” the line of fire runs through damaged and mutilated, but life-saving vehicles for warriors and volunteers, each of which has its own unique history, then it is continued and intensified by 27 uplifted blue-yellow flags – the symbols of administrative and territorial units of unitary State. Cut up with shrapnel shell fragments, smelled of gunpowder, faded under the burning sun, they fluttered on top of the dugouts, checkpoints and buildings, and now they foretell our Victory.
Symbolic battalions, standing on fire positions, are represented by personal things of servicemen who stop the enemy's fire; chaplains who care about the soul of a soldier; physicians who treat and save wounded bodies of soldiers in field conditions; volunteers whose disinterested help, especially during the first months of the confrontation, was so necessary for our defenders, journalists whose reports bring us a bitter truth about the war inspiring faith in the inevitable Victory.
Road signs and pointers of settlements that had previously paved the lines of peaceful allocation, now damaged by enemies’ shelling, denote the notional boundary between war and peace, between “Ours” and “Aliens”.
The topic of hybrid warfare, which Russia conducts by various methods and means, is underlined in the block of the exposition “Aliens”. Here is a series of irrefutable testimonies of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, in particular a documentary photo depicting the remains of the Boeing MН17.
The section “(Non)aliens” is about the difficult fate of residents of Donbas, who found themselves in the zone of war. The exposition presents the controversial choice of some of them, who stepped on the path of separatism and betrayal, as well as the tragedy of those who did not pass over to the enemy, but had to stay in the occupied territory. Another one story is about those who remained a patriot of Ukraine, did not lose the state spirit, national consciousness and identity, joined the resistance to the Russian invaders.
The location of exhibits on a conditional line of fire from the beginning of the exposition to its completion reflects the dynamics of warfare, the gradual extinction of the fire tension and gradually transforms into the “hall of hope”, presented by several museum installations. In the center there is an “ambulance” minibus that took away from the line of fire many wounded people and signals about the urgent assistance that Ukraine requires, being exhausted by the war. Near our soldier’s uniforms and body armors which symbolically form the protective “Shield of Ukraine” and photographs of their children, as a prominent example of hope for the Meeting, Unity, Peace and Victory. The hope for the liberation of the occupied territories is inspired by the non-indifference of the children “from there” – their letters and pictures, stories about their homes, toys, as well as the surviving piano from the kindergarten of destroyed village of Pisky as a kind of charm of the peaceful future of our State and the hope of returning to native Donbas.
Glory to Ukraine!