Curator, resaarcher, Set Foundation co-founder
This project was created in co-authorship by the artist Serge Levchenko, performer Volodymyr Tyshchenko and photographer Natalia Volk.
The war, unleashed by Russia against Ukraine, brought thousands of deaths and caused the emigration of millions of people. Alongside this, the role of Ukraine in Europe has instantly changed: from the land, known for its so-called "east-European vibe" to the fortress, protecting the democratic values of the world in the face of Russian terrorism. This image of Ukraine can be seen on the news headlines worldwide.
Ukrainians have an unshakable will for freedom and the ability to fight against dictatorship and tyranny: the work of artists and thinkers from various fields (since the medieval) is a huge part of this spirit.
"God is in the heart of this city. The city won't shake. God will protect it from the first-morning dawn" [Psalm 45:6]. The words in Greek rave on the golden background above the 5.4-meter figure of Madonna in Kyiv's St. Sophia cathedral. Byzantine masters finished this ambitious project in 1037. Structured as St. Sophia of Constantinople, the cathedral was aimed to be a symbol of Kyiv's legacy as an heir and successor of Byzantium. Main government decisions were approved nearby by viche — direct democratic elections, the core of Ukrainian social structure — even before the cathedral was erected. Revolutions of Dignity, known as Maidan in 2014 and Orange Revolution in 2007 in Kyiv were considered viches by participants, gathering in the same areas.
The Ukrainian Renaissance burst in the XVI century and moved from Lviv to the East to celebrate the rise of independent Cossack states. Cossacks were peasants and warriors, who started to settle in the East of Ukraine in the XV century. People who refused to obey Moskovian or Polish authorities came to join the free community. Cossack self-organized armies defended Ukrainian autonomy from Russia till the end of the XVIII century. In 1775, Russian troops burned to the ground the main Cossack fortress in the East of Ukraine. Russian soldiers killed every Ukrainian they could reach. Cossack Madonna is a clue plot in the painting of the time of resistance. Maria holds the veil in her hands, covering the people, gathered around her. Ukrainian anonymous artists portrayed Cossack leaders and their surroundings, protected under Madonna's veil. This iconography is unique to the Eastern Christian tradition, yet has similarities with the Western plot: Virgin Of Mercy. The Cossack Madonna became a symbol of the Ukrainian army, whose soldiers didn't have the luxury to experience peace for centuries, defending people's freedom from the Russian Empire, Bolsheviks' terror, and the Soviet totalitarian machine — "There is a fight; I'm on the battlefield, Where all my soldiers are the words I wield, And treason's sown by memories that scramble." — the lines belong to Vasyl Stus, Ukrainian brightest poet, human rights activist, dissident, and hero. Stus spent his youth in Donetsk, on the East of Ukraine. His adult life was stretched between Kyiv and Russian prisons. Stus died in a Soviet prison camp in 1985, tortured. Later the same year, the poet was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature: the committee was not even aware of his death.
In 2014 after the Revolution of Dignity of Ukraine, which caused the crash of the pro-Russian government, Russian troops occupied Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk