Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Safe in Paris, Ukrainian artists try to inspire French compassion amid war

Countless Ukrainian artists and cultural figures have gone into exile in France since the Russian invasion began on February 24. They join the nearly 100,000 Ukrainian refugees currently in France and more than 5 million across Europe.

As the war continues into its fifth month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed concern that the world is experiencing “Ukraine fatigue,” telling Canadian students in late June: “Don’t forget what what is happening in Ukraine.

why are we writing this

By providing a safe haven for Ukrainian artists, France offers them a sense of home while creating a connection between the French public and some of Ukraine’s prized cultural offerings.

Art has been a way to humanize the conflict, as more Ukrainian artists flee home and continue their craft in exile. The effect of his art has been twofold. For artists, making and sharing their work has been a way to channel difficult emotions around war. For French audiences, experiencing Ukrainian art and culture has given the war a personal face and generated sympathy for a resolutely independent Ukraine.

“You can’t keep showing the same images of war on the news,” says Viktoriia Gulenko of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in France. “Our goal is to show a positive image of Ukraine and open our cultural traditions to the French in order to build a lasting bond between people.”

Paris

Kristina Kadashevych soars in the air in a pale blue leotard, her legs outstretched in a leap. As her feathered body floats back to the ground, her companions stand in position, arms raised delicately above their heads.

This is just a rehearsal for the kyiv City Ballet, whose 38-member company has been in exile in France since arriving for a national tour just as the war in Ukraine began. But Ms. Kadashevych says that every time she performs for a live audience, she is overwhelmed with emotions.

She is from the eastern city of Zaporizhzhia, whose nuclear power plant was seized by the Russians in March. It was then that her family fled to western Ukraine and she decided to leave her parents and her 3-year-old son to join the kyiv City Ballet in Paris.

why are we writing this

By providing a safe haven for Ukrainian artists, France offers them a sense of home while creating a connection between the French public and some of Ukraine’s prized cultural offerings.

“It’s horrible being away from my son, but I needed to work,” says Ms. Kadashevych, after a rehearsal at the Théâtre du Châtelet, where the city council has provided space for dancers to practice. “Somehow, dancing helps me stop thinking about [the war]. When you are dancing, you only think about dancing. But when I see people waving Ukrainian flags at the end of a show, every time I start crying.”

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The dancers of the kyiv City Ballet are just some of the countless artists and cultural figures who have fled Ukraine or gone into exile in France since the Russian invasion began on February 24. They join the nearly 100,000 Ukrainian refugees currently in France and the more than 5 million across Europe.

Nation World News Desk
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