The armed conflict in the Eastern Ukraine rolls into its forth year this spring. The Minsk agreements are being called the only solution, though all sides to this accord believe they are not up to the job. Meanwhile people who live next to the frontline in Donbas – the affected region in the Eastern Ukraine – are still suffering from the war, as much today as three years ago.
Ukrainian journalist and photographer Natalia Liubchenkova is working to keep their stories from being forgotten. Her photography exhibition “Donbas: beyond the headline” ran in Paris and now opens in Brussels. “Being forced to abandon everything you love to save your life and watching your family suffer is an unimaginable human tragedy. We believe that nothing can open hearts better than art. ”It aims to tell show how ordinary people are doing extraordinary things, such as charity and business projects. They believe that helping others and rebuilding the region will bring peace to their land.
Among them is a displaced person from Donetsk called Yana Synytsa. She now lives in the tiny village of Kryva Luka, in the part of Donetsk region regained by Ukrainian government forces. It is located next to a nature reserve called “Chalky Flora”. It is little known, even among Ukrainians, and the peace and beauty of its landscapes are appreciated by guests.Yana used her past experience in the tourism industry to create an eco-tourism project for Kryva Luka. Together with the team that supports her in the village, she hopes to make this region known among local and foreign backpackers. Life in this area had already started changing – as more people come to visit, more events are taking place. Yana’s projects were supported by UN in the past and now she is working on developing her dream.
“It was important for me to bring this exhibition to Brussels as this is a place where big European decisions are taken and people are open to world affairs. I want to show how close the conflict is in Eastern Ukraine and how it affects people, such as you and me. They do not deserve this struggle, but their lives have changed forever. While the conflict continues, ruining homes and taking human lives – this exhibition is about hope. I wanted to show who these Ukrainians are: talented, active and brave. They are finding strength not only to save their families, to start their lives from scratch, but also to help others, often with a risk to their own lives, sometimes transforming their region with creative ideas,” says the project author Natalia Liubchenkova.
Ivan used to be a coal miner before fleeing war-torn Makiyivka with his family. He couldn’t imagine starting his own farming business – something he has dreamed of for years. But that’s exactly what he’s done, creating new jobs and even planning the next step – opening an organic-food shop.In Maryinka, near Donetsk, a charity bakery produces fresh bread, often distributing free loaves to those most in need.Hennadiy Kirkach, a ethnographer from Sloviansk, Donetsk region, devoted his life to collecting valuable historical objects. Without any help of the government he aims to create three interactive enthographic museums in the region.The exhibition opens in Seghor culture centre, in Eterbeek, close to the European Institutions in Brussels. It is organised with the help of a UAct and TUB, founded by Ukrainians living in Belgium.
Julia Zelvenska, from UAct, says: “Being forced to abandon everything you love to save your life and watching your family suffer is an unimaginable human tragedy. Understanding that more than 2,000,000 people in Ukraine are going through this dramatic experience is heart-breaking. We believe that nothing can open hearts better than art. This exhibition is our way to attract public attention to the situation in Ukraine and share our admiration for courageous people in our country.”