Chytomo Spotlights

Ukraine! Unmuted: Key Insights from the III Congress of Culture in Lviv


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The III Congress of Culture, themed “UKRAINE! UNMUTED,” took place in Lviv from September 7-9. The event saw artists and organizers delve into discussions about cultural resilience in the face of potential destruction. The range of topics included artistic creation, institutional functionality, cultural relocation, and the dynamics of cultural diplomacy. This summary highlights key insights from the discussions titled “Archipelago: New Islands of Ukrainian Culture on the World Map,” “Birdwatching: Evolution of Ukraine’s Image Abroad,” and “Suitcase for Departure: Practical Advice for Managers Presenting Projects Abroad.”


Cultural migration as a means of maintaining cultural continuity

In one of the discussions, Veronika Skliarova, co-curator of the congress, shared insights about the panel’s title: “We named the panel on relocation issues as such because, while reflecting on hope and our aspirations, my co-curator Hryts Semenchiuk and I realized that we would like to believe in return. Hence, we chose to define and label it as ‘paths.’ Unlike the term ‘relocation,’ the word ‘migration’ inherently encompasses the concept of returning.”


Dariia Badior, the moderator of the discussion “Archipelago: New Islands of Ukrainian Culture on the World Map” highlighted the importance of personal experiences when discussing migration, resettlement, and evacuation in the context of Ukrainian events following Feb. 24, 2022. These personal experiences can be extrapolated to other experiences, interpersonal relationships, and governmental policies, all of which significantly influence the decision-making process regarding the choice to return or stay.



Olesia Mamchych, a writer, translator, and co-organizer of the Posestry portal, asserts that the presence of Ukrainian artists abroad is shaped not solely by the war, but also by global digitalization of society. In her opinion, the experience of migration during the Second World War vastly differed – encompassing destinies, losses and experiences.


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“We label our war as a hybrid war, but I would also like to talk about hybrid migration. Previous migrations severed connections, like being isolated on a distant island. However, in today’s technologically interconnected world, cultural migration holds minimal significance except for its direct impact on an individual’s particular destiny,” she said.


Film director Zhanna Ozirna said: “In March 2022, I participated in a British project in Poland. During this experience, I was deeply affected when a character, living in a small room with her autistic son at a friend’s house, was filmed in a rented apartment solely for aesthetic purposes. It was a terrible trigger for me.


Additionally, during the interview, two large plastic suitcases, bright pink and turquoise, were placed in the background to signify her as a refugee. This prompted me to confront the producer because, in reality, the person arrived with just a single backpack. This discrepancy may seem insignificant to a Polish producer or a British director, but it showed a lack of understanding of our situation at the time.”


Olesya Mamchych asserts that art creation generally involves going beyond boundaries, making connections and diversity, and culture embodies a spectrum of meanings that does not necessarily have to be linked to a location.


“A person can reside elsewhere for years and still contribute to Ukrainian literature, remaining an integral part of the Ukrainian cultural space. Despite the tragedy and irreplaceable losses brought by war, such circumstances can foster a fertile ground for culture, potentially sparking a significant outburst of art in the long term.”



Establishing cultural cooperation with other countries


Artist Pavlo Makov strongly believes that while our country is facing destruction, we are primarily privately striving to persuade Europe to acknowledge the Ukrainian cultural space as part of the European one. “During times of war, we have more opportunities to integrate into the European cultural realm, albeit it may sound cynically,” he said.


Makov is convinced: unless people have to visit Kyiv to experience Archypenko’s sculptures, he won’t be recognized as a Ukrainian sculptor worldwide, and similarly Malevych cannot be seen as a Ukrainian artist unless his renowned paintings are housed in Kyiv.



According to Dariia Badior, Ukrainian society continues to perceive itself as a suffering periphery rather than a central hub for cultural exchange, despite notable but insufficient advancements in the nine years of war: “When advocating for Ukrainian exhibitions in Paris, London, or Milan, aren’t we undermining the discourse of decolonization?”


“On the contrary, there exists an archipelago of islands of private small cultural initiatives. This horizontal network operates effectively, serving as a counterbalance to the highly centralized world.”


Badior firmly believes that the war hasn’t just overlapped with these changes, but has also accelerated and resulted from them. As empires and hierarchies collapse, promoting one’s culture within small private spaces proves to be effective. However, the state must be present: “Where does Ukrainian society stand within these cultural islands on the world map, beyond the Ukrainian Institute’s press releases? What does the absence of the state mean in the realm of culture?,” Badior asked.


According to Pavlo Makov, it’s not the artists who require state support, but rather the state itself that requires cultural support, as there is no state without culture.


Birdwatching: Evolution of Ukraine’s Image Abroad


Veronika Skliarova notes that the war has a very tangible, down-to-earth aspect, particularly for many Ukrainian artists serving in the army, where their experiences are closely tied to the use of shovels, the smell of earth, and burials. Nonetheless, she maintains that culture offers a beacon of hope and visions of the future. She points out, for example, that the symbolism of birds can present avenues for returning to a common, shared space.


Alim Aliiev, Deputy Director General of the Ukrainian Institute, says:

“Over the past year and a half, I notice that Ukrainians have been seen less as mere victims despite enduring full-scale war, genocide, and war crimes committed by Russia on our land. There is a diminishing narrative of victimization around Ukraine. Instead, we are increasingly perceived as a society that resists.”


Aliiev claims that solidarity stands as a pivotal principle in mutual understanding in societies where both migrants and locals coexist.


Yeva Yakubovska, a project manager, strongly believes that discussions on the vulnerability of migrants should take into account the treatment they receive. She points out that the full-scale war has reasserted the right of Ukrainians to their own subjectivity.



Andrii Yatsiv, Deputy Director of the International Institute of Education and Culture at Lviv Polytechnic, believes that the effective advocacy of Ukrainian migrants abroad hinges on several key factors: the establishment of “institutionality” of institutional frameworks that facilitate communication with the host country’s government, integration into power structures rooted in previous waves of emigration, and the principles of people’s democracy.


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Olha Khrebor, the Director of the Culture Department at the Lower Silesian Marshal’s Office, asserts that Ukrainian migrants serve as advocates of Ukrainian culture abroad, a role equally significant as establishing enduring partnerships between institutions in different countries. Yatsiv emphasizes that Ukraine’s success in this advocacy relies on the state’s investment in supporting Ukrainian artists abroad.


“Communication platform doesn’t require substantial funds but will serve as a ‘shelter’ for Ukrainian institutions and artists outside Ukraine. Additionally, there’s a need for grant support, which is the appropriate direction to pursue,” he concluded.


How to promote Ukrainian culture abroad using the example of projects


The discussion entitled “Suitcase for Departure. Practical advice for managers who want to present their project abroad,” moderated by Yevheniia Nesterovych, was attended by representatives from the projects Ukrainian Cross-Section, Academic Drama Theatre named after Lesia Ukrainka, and Music Export Ukraine. Lida Savchenko-Duda, Viktoriia Shvydko and Aliona Dmukhovska shared their experience of promoting the Ukrainian cultural scene.


Aliona Dmukhovska, a co-founder of the Music Export Ukraine initiative, focuses on empowering Ukrainian artists to establish an international presence and integrate Ukrainian music market into the global context.


Viktoriia Shvydko, as the manager of theatre and cultural projects at Lviv Academic Drama Theatre named after Lesia Ukrainka, highlights:

“The further we are from Ukraine, the more difficult it is to explain our context. What appears relatable and understandable here may seem entirely unfamiliar abroad. The representative product we present abroad is important.”


Lida Savchenko-Duda is the head of the Ukrainian Cross-Section project. It is a triennial of contemporary Ukrainian art that presents Ukrainian art primarily abroad. The triennial was held in Lublin, Wroclaw, Lviv, and Kaunas.


She emphasized the significance of collaborating with partners: “When aiming to showcase a project abroad, seek partnerships as they provide valuable financial support. An effective strategy involves the Ukrainian side covering as many expenses as possible, while partners contribute the rest. This approach helps to avoid tax and migration complications. However, it’s essential to not only consider partners but also potential risks.”




Practical tips from managers include:


  • Study the differences in experiences between Ukrainians and foreigners, particularly those associated with full-scale war.
  • Diversify partnerships by engaging with pre-war partners, new collaborators, and those displaying newfound interest.
  • Educate partners about the Ukrainian context to minimize conflicts during collaborations.
  • Maintain records of all discussions with partners to prevent potential risks and misunderstandings.
  • Conduct a financial evaluation in advance to realize the project’s viability among foreign audiences.
  • Prepare for contextual, bureaucratic, and administrative obstacles and challenges that may arise.



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Image: Congress of Culture, Danylo Bedriy


Chytomo spotlights:Ukrainian culture on and after frontline” project. The project is funded by the Stabilisation Fund for Culture and Education of the German Federal Foreign Office
and the Goethe-Institut.