Katerina Mishchenko was born in 1984 in Poltava, Ukraine. She is a publisher, translator and writer. Mishchenko is currently a fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.
Cultural news from Ukraine, read in a minute: the death of a talented student of the Kharkiv School of Architecture Zachary Yusupov. The death of a musician from Zhytomyr, Slava Chudovsky. The disappearance of artist Bohdan Sesa after the administrative building in Evpatoria Crimea was painted blue and yellow paint.
After that, I have a phone call with my father: “Do you remember the son of my co-worker who was in Avdiivka a month ago?” Asks. “Yes” – “The man died. His body is still there somewhere and will soon be taken to Poltava.”
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My father later told me that the body had not been found, the man may have been captured after all. This is a small hope for his family. There is a place for these letters and conversations – these are my work and my life in Berlin. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which of the two worlds I switch daily is the real one. However, there is also a lot more to report from the intermediate position.
I recently had to organize two public discussions here in Berlin on the media and artistic communication of war experiences. At the same time, I noted the concern implicitly expressed by the invited speakers from Ukraine. A woman working as a media editor from Kyiv. Before the show, she asked me if the presenter, a Slavic German, had little sympathy for Russian concerns.
There was a lot of fragility in her cautious question, as well as her exhaustion. She was exhausted after a long flight from the Ukrainian capital, and exhausted by the merciless accumulation of war stories. The last thing she wanted to deal with now was understanding Russian artists.
There is no obligation to deal with the Russian perspective
A few days later, another invitee asked me who else is on the committee. It would be hard for the Russians to also have a say in the commission. My God, I thought, why are these women so suspicious? Why do you think I, as an organizer, would invite the Russians? Then another kind of fatigue became apparent to me – the kind caused by the much-discussed ignorance and understanding of Russia. When Ukrainians have a chance to speak, Russians should have a say, that’s the common notion. As if we were somehow misunderstood without a Russian translation for German ears.
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It should now be clear that Ukrainians are not automatically obligated to engage with the Russian perspective. A brutal war had to break out for this. Our foreign colleagues have now realized our yearning for a safe place. But the fundamental right to security, far from cultural discourse, remains somewhat utopian. This is the utopia built.
During her trip to Berlin, the Kyiv editor thought a lot about what to report and with what focus, so that people at the Mariupol Steel Plant could be saved. Later, I asked myself, reading the news about the transportation of the wounded from the steel plant to the cities occupied by Russia: was everything possible really done? of course not.
Enough variables for tombstone sayings
Especially if you do not think that it is normal to abandon the no-fly zone over Ukraine. Several pilots who traveled to Mariupol to provide aid died. Why? And know this: Ukrainian lives are less valuable. This is not a matter of course, but it is a moral choice.
Everywhere I hear about the price Ukrainians pay for their heroism: for their belonging to Europe, for Western security, for European values, for liberal democracy, for their freedom and their future. Enough variants suitable for headstone sayings (if you’re lucky and don’t end up in a mass grave). Even Putin believes his rule in the country with Ukrainian victims.
Our life is cheap. In Europe we are still cheap labour, even during the war. We can beg for months for weapons, the necessary papers have been in the offices for weeks. But a no-fly zone! The delivery of heavy weapons harms the peaceful feelings of the German intelligentsia – sanctions are simply cheaper.
Anyway, everything is more expensive than life in Ukraine. Somehow Ukraine should not win, even if it is not said out loud. This political-economic logic must be questioned immediately! But not by more victims, but by a decisive attitude to humanity.