Fifth Lecture from Dzestra

The fifth lecture of our series of ‘Dzestra Talks‘ took place on the 16th of August at the Sweet Art Gallery. The lecturers, Nadiya Parfan and Illia Gladshtein joined us from Kyiv, although Nadiya is originally from Ivano-Frankivsk. Nadiya is a researcher of culture, urbanist and feminist. Together with Illia she has been involved with organising a festival of cinema and urbanism in April this year. She has also been working on some of the biggest movie festivals in Kyiv over the past few years.

Nadiya and Illia came to tell us how to conduct a festival and not to fail. They started from presenting their own experience with the “86” festival, which was the first one which they implemented on their own. They told about their negotiations with the municipal authorities of Slavutych –  which is a very special city, built after Chornobyl to inhabit people from Chornobyl there. It was devised by architects from different Soviet Republics at that time, which is why there are Armenian or Latvian districts that resemble the architecture of these countries. The festival was thematically connected to the topics of city planning and energetics, which was emphasised by the place and time of the festival – it was conducted during the time of Chornobyl commemoration.

Nadiya and Illia also shared their ideas about how many people should work for a festival, what their roles should be and how to built a productive and horizontal system of administration.

There were approximately 40 people present at the lecture; they were either visitors of different festivals or the ones who are conducting some festivals on their own.

You can view the full presentation here (in Ukrainian): 


Dzestra Talks continues…


The fourth lecture of Dzestra Talks programme took place on the 31st July at the editorial office of the “Bukovyna” newspaper, as our speaker Kateryna Botanova arrived form Kyiv. She is a well-known curator, the head of the Foundation “Centre of the Modern Art” (CSM) and editor of the “Korydor” platform.

The subject of her lecture was “Culture activists: who they are and what can they do for the city”. Kateryna shared her experience of fulfilling cultural projects in Kyiv, which were dealing with public space, art, activism and engagement. According to Kateryna, ‘engagement art’ is the most effective form of activism, when speaking about cultural management in Ukraine. One of the Chernivtsi artists present at the lecture, Anatol Fedirko commented that for him this is ‘the desacralisation of art’, and Kateryna answered that ‘this is exactly what they try to do’.

There were approximately 50 people present at the lecture — so it was the most popularly attended ones. For the first time amongst our audience there were some officials and a lot of adult workers of cultural institutions.

A record of her presentation can be viewed on Youtube here and some press coverage can be viewed here..

There’s also ongoing comprehensive photo-documentation on flickr here…

Editorial note: the debate about whether ‘community art’, ‘engaged art’, ‘socially engaged practice’ is ‘real art’ has been a contested arena for a number of decades. There’s a very interesting book called ‘The Re-enchantment of Art’ by Suzi Gablik which addresses this. Written over 20 years ago, she describes her hope for a new art, born out of a new cultural paradigm which embraces both a sense of community (along with an enlarged ecological perspective) as well as mythic and archetypal sources of spiritual life.  You’ll find an excerpt here:


Borderland School Coordinators hit the road…

From one of the secret capitals of Europe, Weronika and Agnieszka report back on their trip to the Ukraine in July to look at one of the bridge-building projects in progress.


Chernivtsi – a Ukrainian city in the far south, near the border with Romania – has been to us like secret gem hidden from sight, an almost legendary place known for its multicultural heritage, great poets and artists, numerous cafes, bookstores and breathtaking architecture that we heard of a lot, but never visited. It was our lucky fortune that we started the Borderland School partner visits from the Dzestra Talks project, which has been taking place here in this city. Although not one of the seven legendary hotels situated on the city’s central square operates anymore, Chernivtsi residents proved to be very hospitable. Dzestra Talks coordinators Natalia Yeromenko and Zhan Pobezhan welcomed us very warmly and made our trip worth every minute we spent on the over seven hours train ride from Lviv.


On the first day we got invited to their small but cosy and tastefullly decorated office where all the necessary formal procedures were taken care of efficiently and smoothly. We collected the financial documents, very meticulously gathered by the team and went through the financial report. Then we had the chance to discuss the developments of the project in the local cafe over a “banush” – one of the many regional specialties.


There was also a time for us to get to know the place itself. Jura – one of the volunteers of Dzestra Talks – was our guide and it turned out we got the best man for the job. He proved to be someone who you would imagine the real Chernivtsi citizen to be like: speaking several languages, knowing even the strangest details, drawing from his sleeve interesting stories for every occasion and inventing one when there seemed to be none to tell. During our trip we got to see Paul Celan’s birthplace (when the city was then part of the Kingdom of Romania), entered hidden yards accessible only to those in possession of a passcode, went bookhunting in little bookstores and used bookshops, and stopped by at Meridian Czernovitz poetry reading, right on the pavement of a famous street named after Olha Kobylanska, on of the most revered local writers.


On our last day we were already so grown into the place that we ventured by ourselves for a trip to the former Jewish quarter – it’s worth noting that Chernivtsi has a community of around 10,000 Jews living there. We also managed to understand most the lecture of held in Ukrainian in the framework of Dzestra Talks – this time, on their third meeting, the team hosted Juriy Fyluk, a very interesting young entrepreneur from Ivano Frankivsk who advocates locally for a socially responsible business. As we learned during his talk held in Literatur Cafe on the main city square, what started as an ice cream stand is now a chain of club-cafes, each with different profile, that are also a centre of local activism and cultural events. Juriy’s lecture under the title “When business is not enough” concentrated on how business may play an proactive role in local development and support the sense of responsibility for the common space, that is not only a touristic site but also a living place for the inhabitants. (The video of his talk in Ukrainian can be found here: . This is reflected in the initiative “Warm City” that Juriy started and develops with local activists in Ivano Frankivsk. Many participants, mostly young local activists came to listen to Yuriy and ask him how many questions that continued well into the less formal meeting afterwards in “Kanapa” Cafe.

Natalia, Zhan and Jura unveiled many secrets of this marvellous city before us and showed us its heart, bustling with life and interesting, active people. It left us hungry for more.



More news from the projects in the Ukraine…

The second lecture of the Dzestra Talks project took place on the 28th of June. The lecturer, Oleksandr Suprunets, arrived from Kyiv.  We planned to conduct the lecture in the courtyard of the dwelling house, which is located in the historical centre of Chernivtsi and is very picturesque. We informed the city authorities and the dwellers about our meeting. However, when we arrived at the place on the day of the lecture, one of the dwellers was against it. So we moved into another courtyard, which is filled with commercial premises. Approximately 40 people attended the lecture.


Oleksandr is a social innovator and editor of the Big Idea media platform. He shared his experience as the coordinator of the Spil’nokosht project, which is Ukrainian platform for crowdfunding. He told about the most successful and least successful ideas, that searched money through  Spil’nokosht. Oleksandr shared his view on the idea of crowdfunding and why it is still not very popular among the Ukrainians. The participants were very active and asked many questiones, especially the ones that concerned their own ideas, which they wanted to proceed to Spil’nokosht. After the lecture we held an informal meeting with Oleksandr.

You can view the presentation here: and photo documentation on this flickr page:

The project has received good local media coverage. You can view one example here:



News from Pidzamche…

Our second project report comes from Ukraine, courtesy of Olha Kotska and Anna Khvyl from Iota Initiative, as the Pidzamche Neighbourhood Festival gets underway…

Our group have been planning a community festival for early September in one of the districts of one of Lviv. In this particular district, there is not much going on, to say at least. And our approach is to launch festival preparations and provoke locals come and spend time together, making decorations, planning concerts and cooking food, and so on. The festival will act as a trigger. As we expected, it’s not that easy to get people join in with activities they don’t normally join in with – go to street concerts, send their children to a local art school, gather with neighbours for a talk. But we keep experimenting.

photo 1Guided tour at Pidzamche prepared by students, May 13th

We entered the Pidzamche district together with culture studies students of the Lviv National University. With the help of our student coordinator Olha Kononchuk and historian Andriy Bondarenko, students prepared four thematic guided tours – Alternative, Industrial, Batiar (urban subculture in Lviv at the beginning of 20th century) and Sacral Pidzamche. Four pilot tours took place from May 13th till May 22nd. To test these on the public, we invited representatives of urban initiatives to join our trips. Currently students are working for the final versions of guided tours, which will be a part of the Pidzamche Neighbourhood Festival programme in August.

photo 2“The Addresses of Our Memories”, June 9th

The first open event with locals was called “The Addresses of Our Memories”. Around 15 local people attended this meeting and we consider this a big success. It was two hour mapping game where people were drawing maps of their district by hands. We asked them to mark places special for them and to also add things which they would like to have. When talking about the past many participants were quite excited. Proudly telling how they worked at factories with over 3000 employees, how powerful these factories were, and how sad they are abandoned now. It was a story of many, since Pidzamche used to be home for a number of industrial giants. Besides, now we know many significant little stories – we can tell where Sophia had her dressed sewed in 1970’s, why Yosyp’s balcony is the nicest one, and which yard Anna’s grandparents planted a chestnut tree in.

To share our experience, it works better if you send personal SMS to every participant a few hours before the event, just to remind that you are waiting for them.

photo 3The Music Day at Pidzamche, 21st June

On June 21st, as a part of the International Music Day in Lviv, we organised three concerts at Pidzamche . So, this year Pidzamche for the first time celebrated this holiday with all of the world. It went well, even promised rain didn’t happen. And now we are much more skilled in facilitation of active children who are constantly trying to help you out by spreading leaflets, fixing the sound system or checking the microphone. Some of local children asked us if they could sing from the stage and we let them do it. So, we are one step deeper to our idea of promoting local talents.

photo 4The Pidzamche Children Art Camp, June 22nd – 30th

During June 22th – June 30th, Iota Initiative together with an invited art teacher and animator Khrystyna Hertsyk held an art camp for children from Pidzamche. Though the children were enthusiastic about participating in the art camp, it was difficult to build credibility with their parents. Because not many people know us, it was not easy to demonstrate that our initiative has something interesting and different to offer.  But then information spread by word of mouth and the group of 14 was formed. We are especially grateful to our art teacher who worked for more than a week on voluntary basis. Also, a local library supported us by providing space. During a short period of time, children created decorations for the Festival, designed the invitations for their parents and performed theatrical sketch about the old times in Pidzamche.

photo 5 The final concert of the Pidzamche Children Art Camp: performing children,  June 29th

At the end of the art camp the children were performing on the street in front of their parents and curious passers-by.

photo 6-1The final concert of the Pidzamche Children Art Camp:  happy parents, June 29th

So, now you know what we did this June. And we are moving forward.