Svitlana Puvalyaeva, today an indispensable writer, is a symbol of the literary landscape and underground world of 2000s. She was in Kyiv between two bombings in the basement bar of a deserted Cuban Bar.
Svitlana is a symbol of the nation through her eyes and her hair. She speaks softly, tinged by nostalgia, and evokes electric nights at Buena Vista "when there was only sound and sweat". She was only 30 years old when she experienced the "Orange Revolution", (2004). Ukraine was starting a new chapter. Victor Yushchenko's election marked a break from post-communist archaisms. Society was becoming more open and more liberal. While the Russification era was ending, creativity was on the rise. The Ukrainian language was now possible to listen, read, and write as never before. Yanukovych, the puppet of Moscow, came along with the decline in the rule of the law, corruption and the annexe of Crimea. The invasion of Donbass was the end of that era.
Svitlana's latest collection of poems, "After Crimea", (VSL 2018, 2018), is her first work. It contains a collection of poetry. She mixes luminous memories from her childhood in this area with the scents of Provence to avoid the dark days. It conjures up cicadas and vineyards, orchards and nights spent under the stars at the Black Sea shores in Simeiz. This is his lost paradise.
Svitlana doesn't feel sorry. She was 16 when she was already at the barricades during the "revolution against granite", autumn 1990. As for thousands of other students, it was clear that she would not be able to return to the Soviet winter. There would be two more revolutions. Svitlana would be there again, but always for the same reasons. To get out of Russia's sphere of influence, to avoid the corruption of pro-Russian elites and to escape the autocratic model. His eyes are now lost. How long will it take? How many people have died and how many sacrifices were made to integrate NATO with the European Union?
She thinks of her two sons, Roman (25) and Vasyl (25) who are involved in the defense of the nation. One is at war. She has very little news. She said, "At first, I wasn't asleep," It's much better now. My only power is to believe. She tells me, her eyes clouded by sadness, about her friend Iryna. Iryna was an early fighter, writer and teacher who is passionate about roses and gardens. On February 25, she was killed in battle for Hostomel airport. Although her husband was there to support her, he also died. They had five children.
Svitlana recalled the day that the Russian army arrived at Kyiv: "It felt like an icy wave rolling across the city. I was reminded of Game of Thrones and the Wall, as well as the White Walkers, which are those cold ghosts.
Despite being bombarded and the constant danger, she doesn't go down to the basement of her house anymore. "The Russians won’t make me live like an animal, in fear. She smiles triumphantly and adds, "I won't give that to them." She sometimes hears sirens and sees missiles flying past her window. They sway like the Chinese New Years, which she calls "dragons". We both watch the videos from his smartphone. The missiles are indeed zigzagging in the air to find their target.
Svitlana appears to be able to manage war through a form of combative resignation. She makes bulletproof vests for her sons, when she isn't rescuing animals. She paints her nails and sometimes thinks about herself. Living as though everything was normal is a way to resist.
Alevtina Kaskhidze is a performer at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, or the Venice Biennale. The renowned contemporary artist, Alevtina Kakhidze, is a performer, writer and designer. She is also interested in phytosociology and the ecosystem of haute couture.
Meet at her home in Muzichy in the district Boutcha.
Nearby, nearly everything was destroyed in an attack. Alevtina and her husband decided to risk their lives to stay. They are known as "bush people" in this area. They will not move, no matter what. Alevtina says it's mostly for dogs. Mastiffs that weigh more than 70 kilos She has three. It's more than that.
Alevtina is an artist in all aspects. Art is for her a philosophy and a way of living. She strives to draw war every day, not just to keep grief away or to be a witness to drama but to make the world more understandable. Because war doesn't just destroy homes but also explodes reality, the fragile story that has been woven over time.
A large fresco depicts the chronology of events from February 24, 2005, at 5:30 a.m. It is crucial to remember the time. The reason is that after the war, the notion of time will no longer be the same," the Ukrainians say in unison. War breaks out, affecting life, matter and duration as well as dreams. The artist brings together the pieces and creates a narrative continuity that links a past destroyed and a future filled with uncertainty. She draws scenes with a skillful naivety, which makes them appear tender and violent.
It is also a way for Alevtina to exorcise the din in her head. She recalls that she spent many nights in the cellar. I was fully covered, under the blanket and listening to the bombs. She doesn't condemn Russia, but she does recognize that Russia is a system, power, and ideology. She sighs and says, "Reality can be complex, and it is tempting to simplify it." The lingua francisca was dominant in Zhdanivska where she was raised. She speaks Russian more often than Ukrainian with her husband today. She feels deeply Ukrainian. Ukrainian speaking Russian.
Alevtina is a symbol of this complexity through her performances. She chants in English, Russian, and Ukrainian. It is a way to promote diversity and the integration of cultures. These people see differences as a threat, not an opportunity. She doesn't understand them. Therefore, she turns to other living things. Alevtina said to me that plants are smarter than we. They learned to be still and solve problems, rather than running away from them. They possess a group intelligence which is a highly sophisticated way to live together and communicate.
She cultivates an ethical philosophy when she tends to her vegetable garden. It envisions a model for autonomous, sustainable, and resilient communities. It creates a permaculture society, and dreams of a political phytosociology. Alevtina finds hope in her sketchbooks when gardening meets art.
Exhausted by the bombardments, she revealed to me that she had gone into her cellar to paint a message for her front door. It read: "Follow in the footsteps of the plants." She wrote in green letters that they do all they can to keep the planet peaceful.
I left it and pondered for a while the inscription, wondering if it could stop Russian armored gunfire. I thought about our conversation and Malraux's famous quote: "Art is what gets you from one place to another."
I thought to myself that Alevtina hadn't stayed just for her dogs or the neighbor's goldfish. Perhaps she had stayed because of the art and plants.