Discussion: Culture at War: “First, the Guns Must Shut Up”

Preserving culture and science in Ukraine: is this possible in war? What is the situation in neighboring Poland? Brecht’s experts explain where hope lies.

It was a serious tour of the Fugger Pavilion on Rathausplatz. Even if the podium was occupied by international Brecht experts – the poet was discussed only marginally. As with everything else, the Russian war cast a shadow over the atmosphere and content. How is Ukrainian and Polish culture and science in times of crisis? fancy question? Not for the debaters who, as guests of the Brecht Research Center in Augsburg, are seated on solid wooden benches in front of about 50 interested people. For the most important task of science and art is – which becomes clear this evening – to assure the people of themselves and to keep the spaces of communication open: also in the basement.

Russia Specifically bombard cultural monuments, archives, libraries and museums. Readings and concerts in cellars, broadcast live around the world, and webinars for students: daily life in wartime has imposed a new normal on everyone, says German-Ukrainian Mykola Lipisievitsky. “It’s not what you are or what you did before February 24, but what you do now,” he explains.

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The Brecht researcher, one of the most famous translators of German literature into Ukrainian, teaches at Shevchenko National University in Kyiv and is the director of the Brecht Center in Chetomir. higher education chair University of Augsburg He was able to appoint a guest professor for three months for 40 years. He’s been here since last week and found a small apartment. You don’t see any joy or comfort in that, tension written on his face.

In Kharkiv, “Mother’s Courage” was to be played in Ukrainian for the first time

It was not easy to get him out of the war, one learns on the sidelines of the event. He himself says: “bureaucracy.” There are exceptions for healthy Ukrainian men who work full time as lecturers. But Jürgen Helsheim, head of the Augsburg Brecht Research Center and host of the evening, had to drive several times to the border before the agreed meeting took place and the scientist could leave the country.

“We are trying to continue teaching under conditions of war, making culture. Communication should not be interrupted, they are very important in this situation,” Lebesewitzky says. In Kharkiv, “Mother’s Courage” was to be played in Ukrainian for the first time, in Odessa “The Good Man of Sichuan”. Brecht’s first performances fell victim to the war. Real confrontations are the most important. In April, for example, Lebesevsky organized a university workshop in Kyiv with writer Tanya Kinkel, known for her historical novels. Subject: Literary interpretations of historical facts. But in fact, according to Lipisivitsky, it was also about communication at all, bringing people together.

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That evening, Tanya Kinkel was sitting next to him on one of the hardwood benches in the Fogger’s suite. She recalls, “It’s also part of the workshop story that the alarm went off during the event. We all had to go downstairs.” She enthusiastically asks for more public readings of Ukrainian literature in German. “We must remember that there is an art and a culture that Ukraine It is not just a war. “Capture the voices and capture the stories of people, including the dead – that is what is needed now.

Another Brecht contact center is the University of Katowice

Mykola Lipisivitsky is part of the Brecht Network in Eastern Europe with which Jürgen Hillesheim has been linked since 2012. Lipisivitsky University in Zhytomyr west of Kyiv is one such university. The city, where the third largest Brecht Archive in the world was established with the support of the residents of Augsburg and which organized the first Brecht exhibition in Ukraine in 2018, has been in ruins since March. Another Eastern European center of Brecht connection is the University of Katowice in Poland. From here German Zbigniew Feliszewski, one of Poland’s most famous Brecht researchers, traveled to the podium in the pavilion.

From their analyzes and narratives, it becomes clear how intertwined the histories of language groups are and how state borders and national politics can divide them. Both intellectuals are preparing against the initial stigmatization. For many Ukrainian artists and for a significant number of three million Ukrainians in Poland, Russian is the mother tongue and literary language. But after the pressure, some writers have already abandoned the Russian language, writing nothing or writing only in Ukrainian. In Poland, Zbigniew Feliszewski relies on the strength of opposition to Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s populist government. “Poland is not Kaczynski. This policy has led to demonstrations and crowds taking to the streets even in the time of Corona. This shows that civil society is working.”

Asked about the meaning of freedom by the mediator Nicole Prestel, the local head of the Augsburger Allgemeine, Mykola Lipisivitsky replied: “If you can’t go out for a week because it’s raining bombs, you need peace. Then freedom comes, so the guns should shut up ” .

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