Untold Ukraine: Resilience and Creativity in the Face of War

Words: Ellen Kenny
Art: Aiesha Wong
Images: Untold Ukraine

Launched by Nastya Kharytonova and Katya Aleshnikova, Untold Ukraine shares the richness of Ukrainian culture with Ireland and offers support to those back home. 

As the war in Ukraine wages on and everyday brings another report of tragic losses, people often lose perspective on Ukraine beyond bloodshed. Providing relief and attending protests are essential to support the war-torn country. It is also essential, however, to ensure that Ukraine’s cultural markers are not torn apart so much that they no longer exist.

Nastya Kharytonova and Katya Aleshnikova saw this necessity when they launched Untold Ukraine, a month-long series in July dedicated to Ukrainian art of all mediums. 

“We wanted to raise awareness about Ukraine as a country and a nation through art and culture,” Nastya explained.

“We want to showcase the creativity and resilience of Ukrainian people in the face of this devastating war, but also share what we love about our country and what its rich culture has to offer.”

The medium is the message. Through mediums such as film, cooking and dance, Untold Ukraine is sending the message: “We won’t give up.”

“We want to showcase the creativity and resilience of Ukrainian people in the face of this devastating war, but also share what we love about our country and what its rich culture has to offer.”

Nastya Kharytonova

Based in Dublin, Nastya and Katya are no strangers to enterprising altruism. In March 2022, they set up goodjob, a platform connecting war-torn Ukrainians with professional opportunities throughout Europe, Asia and the USA.

Despite goodjob’s success, however, Nastya and Katya felt their work supporting friends and family back home was not yet done.

According to Katya, “It has been so difficult being far away from our families watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine on our phones and screens, we wanted to contribute to the national effort in some way.”

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Nastya and Katya began devising the art series. In the following weeks, the ideas and plans gained momentum and developed into a true creative collaboration.

The team now has nine members based across Dublin and Kyiv, including seven Ukrainian and two Irish people. Collaboration between Ukrainian and Irish creators was essential for Nastya and Katya: “We chose art forms that feel personal and close to our hearts, but also those that can help build a  connection between Ukrainians and Dubliners.”

Didi Culley of Untold Ukraine offered District Magazine an inside scoop into the events on offer this July. She also explained the vast, beautiful history of Ukraine that their project is showing Dublin this July. 

“The curators wanted to share what they loved the most about their country, so chose a whole range of different experiences, from visual arts to food, to dance, to modern Ukrainian film,” Didi explained. 

Following a successful pre-launch event at The Space Between on June 25, Untold Ukraine officially launches on July 2 with a host of events for all tastes. 

Untold Ukraine begins at the Irish Film Institute with the Irish premiere of Stop-Zemlya. The drama is a fresh insight into the unsettling feeling of teenagehood and an authentic inside perspective on Ukrainian youth. The film previously made waves at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Crystal Bear for excellence in youth-centred filmmaking. This event will start with a Gala reception and a short introduction by Larysa Gerasko, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Ireland.

Stop-Zemlya is the first in a series of Ukrainian film screenings in the IFI this July. Other films screening include poignant documentary The Living Fire on July 13, detailing the vocation of shepherding in Ukraine.

Box-office hit My Thoughts Are Silent will screen on July 27, a comedy about one young man’s journey to record the voice of a very rare bird only found in the mountains of western Ukraine.

There are many more events this July to remember the war in Ukraine through art. From July 1 to July 15, Glovebox will host Children of Ukraine, an art exhibition featuring paintings and drawings from children in bomb shelters across Ukraine. 

An evocative photography exhibition will take place in Indigo & Cloth on July 15, chronicling one woman’s escape from Ukraine with her elderly mother. 

And keep your eyes on the sky, because Untold Ukraine is organising an open-sky exhibition featuring illustrations focused on bravery in the face of conflict. The route of this exhibition will be released by Untold Ukraine in July.

Of course, not all events featured in Untold Ukraine’s summer series centre on the war. Nastya and Katya are both from Lviv in Western Ukraine, a cosmopolitan place as a result from being part of Poland, the Austro-Hungarian empire and Russia and different times in its history. With this vast background in mind, they wanted to showcase the richness and diversity of a country whose culture is often conflated with Soviet culture. 

Ukraine has transformed hugely over the last thirty years, and Untold Ukraine features a diverse selection of art to remind people of the lives and culture that they are fighting for now. 

As Didi put it, “the curators selected pieces and art forms which they felt spoke to the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people, pieces that would evoke pride and not pity.”

The Smock Alley Theatre will host film-ballet Vodurudu on July 14. The folk-improvisational performance features Ukraine’s most talented dancers who perform and improvise to the music of Mykola Leontovych, the composer who created the iconic Christmas song Carol of the Bells.

And if you’re still hungry for more, Untold Ukraine will host a surprise culinary pop-up during their summer series. Their launch party on June 25 offered food curated by internationally renowned Kyiv chief Bogdan Lazorenko and natural wine from Dublin’s Note Bar. This taste of Ukraine is not to be missed, so keep your nostrils on red alert and keep your eyes on their website for announcements. 

With the plethora of events on offer, Nastya and Katya “hope everyone can find something new to love” and gain insight into authentic Ukrainian culture.

Image: @untold.ukraine

“We have been greatly comforted by the generosity and willingness of Irish people to help and make this series happen, and we hope that it will help people better understand and appreciate our culture”

Katya Aleshnikova

When it came to organising this huge series, Nastya and Katya were relieved and delighted to see the amount of artists and venues that wanted to get involved in Untold Ukraine. While the Ukrainian population in Dublin isn’t large, it is passionate about its heritage and culture. 

The different venues hosting the series were also completely committed to creating an unforgettable experience for both the organisers and attendees, according to the team. 

“We have been greatly comforted by the generosity and willingness of Irish people to help and make this series happen, and we hope that it will help people better understand and appreciate our culture,” Katya said. 

Nastya and Katya hope this generosity will leave a lasting impact on relief efforts for Ukraine. Untold Ukraine hopes to raise 100,000 euros through their series, the entirety of which will go towards humanitarian aid, defence, and children.

Anyone interested in attending some of the fantastic events this July can click here for further information. To donate to Untold Ukraine, click here

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