«War and Peace: Culture»

Ukrainian memory of World War II is overlaid with the fresh memory of the ongoing war with Russia and its victims. Its symbols permeate the present-day space of the capital – Heavenly Hundred Alley, Memorial Wall – and nearly every Ukrainian city. A Latin folk wisdom, Inter arma silent musae (“When arms speak, muses are silent”), is again refuted. Because culture most rapidly responds to these poignant “memorials” with songs, poems, prose, visual art, and – last but not least – cinematography. Over the past six years of war in Ukraine, numerous cultural texts have been created and grew landmark for this new era we entered with the beginning of the war. The right to memory is one of the fundamental human rights. Culture unlike no other sphere helps comprehend the complex actuality, face and overcome traumas.

What role does the memory of World War II play in art and culture? How does culture respond to painful "places of memory"? Why do some people want to save historical events in the memory, while others want to forget that? How can art overcome propaganda and manipulations?

Moderators: Tetyana Ogarkova, Doctor of Philosophy in Literary Studies, journalist, lecturer at Kyiv Mohyla Academy; Larysa Gubina, TV host at Channel 5.



Crimean Tatar actor, screenwriter, and film director based in Ukraine. Head of The Crimean House. He is the director of several high-profile films, including Haytarma, Another’s Prayer and Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die.

Wikipedia - UA | EN

Articles [UA]:

«During the war there is this huge explosion of creative energy which expresses itself in any genre and tries to create a certain instrument thanks to which we can comprehend ourselves, in the first place. Often you cannot help yourself, cannot answer numerous painful questions. Even if you don’t find the clear answer to what you have to do, at least you will make a step toward it. This sublimation on the territory of art won’t be destructive. I am convinced that any work of art in any genre first of all has to build or create.

I believe we will never do enough, so that we could tell each other, “Okay this topic is now closed, let’s not reflect about war anymore.” Because, unfortunately, the whole history of humanity signifies and tells us that people fight. And if you have things to say and you feel the need for it, you should speak about it, first of all from the humanistic perspective».


Ukrainian writer, translator and volunteer. Book Dotsya (Daughter) by Tamara Gorikha Zernya was named BBC Book of the Year (Ukraine, 2019).

Wikipedia - UA

«We happen to live in the time which acutely shows everything. And when there is war in your country, you cannot be neutral. You can be either on one side or another. And your stand is not manifested by the worldview or what you speak about. Your position is only manifested by what you do. And inaction in this situation means collaboration with the enemy, and this means working against your state, against your country. This is a very responsible time, a very honorable time, and a very tenacious and thrilling time for us, you know. I see no way to stand aside. Each has to fight with whatever one can. You can just pass the shells, you can transfer money, you can bring food, you can write, you can shoot, but you have to do something for your country. Otherwise, when your grandchildren ask you: “Grandma, what did you do when there was war”, are you going to take other people's achievements? It isn’t nice.

We all know that Russian myths and Russian propaganda have no borders, only horizons — it is their official slogan. Using the myth of the Great Patriotic War, which they create, is one of the instruments of propaganda which hasn’t got anything to do nor with the war, nor with humanity, nor with contemplation of historical experience».


Ukrainian writer, poet, translator and public figure. Laureate of the Vasyl Stus Prize. Zhadan is the lead vocalist of Mannerheim Line and Zhadan and Dogs bands.He is the author of poetry collections, novels Depeche Mode, Voroshylovhrad, Mesopotamia and The Boarding School (‘Internat’) and others.

PEN Ukraine - UA | EN

Articles [UA]:

«We have the right to the past and we have the right to history. But it has to be our memory, it has to be our past, our history. Certainly, it doesn’t fit into any ideological concepts of spin doctors and politicians, so the day that should have actually united us is still sorely sensitive and extremely convenient for political and ideological manipulations, most unfortunately.

It seems to me that it’s a rather spot on description of a general state of Ukrainian society: torn apart, disoriented, unable to decide on its own past – which is why it’s very hard to move forward. But I think we will overcome it and everything is going to be all right.

If you allow me I will add a couple of words about comparison of how we talk in artistic means, say, about World War II and Russian-Ukrainian war. Why is our narrative about current events in the East of the country, in Donbass, more convincing, more expressive and truly more future-oriented? Instead our attempts to talk about the history are sometimes quite traumatic and quite problematic. So what is the question here? The question, I think, is about our own view on the ongoing events».


Ukrainian filmmaker and writer. She is the author of several books (poetry, prose, children’s books). The winner of the “Best Director” award for the documentary film “The Earth Is Blue As an Orange” at 2020 Sundance Film Festival (World Documentary Competition).

PEN Ukraine - UA | EN

«When we were little, we all thought that war is something from the past, something our grandmas tell us; and my grandma told me about her growing up in occupied Kyiv. And now my son is a child who grows in the times of war. And Russian-Ukrainian war has been going on for the seventh year, and we react to it in this or that way, we are traumatized by it in this or that way. And each in their own place has to do what they are able to, what they can do. And if we can use language to document our attitude to this war, we have to do it».


Ukrainian writer. Her novel won the Best Prose Book award at Zaporizhya Book Festival (Zaporizka Toloka) and was short-listed for Litakcent award among five best books of 2017.

PEN Ukraine - UA | EN

«Culture doesn’t speak in the language of textbooks; it doesn’t talk about armies, nor about states; culture talks about people. And if we talk about people, then in human dimension, no doubt, memories of our grandpas, grandmas and ours – this post-trauma, post-memory that we have got of World War II – of course, are refreshed by this war. And when we talk about the territories occupied by Russia and about the Crimea, which you should never forget, of course, in our memory we have World War II, because this is how human consciousness works».


Ukrainian film director and screenwriter. Laureate of the Oleksandr Dovzhenko State Prize of Ukraine (2019).

Wikipedia - UA | EN

«For quite a lengthy period of time in Treptower Park in Berlin they celebrate this day (9th of May, the Victory Day). And people who live in Berlin or elsewhere in Germany, those who used to be citizens of the Soviet uUnion – Ukraine or Russia or Kazakhstan – come there. Representatives of power go there, bikers go there, “Night Wolves” and other various paramilitary organizations join the event. Left-wing politicians from Germany also come there. They have their own narrative on this. It all resembles a very strange carnival. The 9th of May in Treptower Park has become a kind of brotherhood of all nations, where Russians and Germans and girls in Ukrainian embroidered shirts together drink and sing at the same time, rejoice and grieve. There were such mottos as “Russia, Ukraine, Germany – together!” which was quite strange. And if we are talking about Russian propaganda and an opportunity to unite people around a symbol, I can tell you they succeeded. All of this is the result of he lack of knowledge about the war and the lack of understanding of the tragedy into which all peoples of the Soviet Union and beyond were involved. For me that’s a very strange phenomenon».


Lithuanian prose author, playwriter and screenwriter, theatre and film director.

Wikipedia - UA | LT

Articles [UA]:

«I think the worst is if culture in the face of war turns into propaganda. And when you hear propaganda from the other side, you want to reciprocate, but this is the biggest mistake. Because then you just nourish propaganda and become the very same dragon. Not to become one is the main thing».


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Conference Organizing Committee:

Yevhen Bystrytskyi, Myroslaw Czech, Mustafa Dzhemiliev, Leonid Finberg, Ola Hnatiuk, Polina Horodyska, Mykola Kniazhytskyi, Andriy Kurkov, Myroslav Marynovych, Rostyslav Pavlenko, Serhii Plokhii, Mykola Riabchuk (the Head of the Committee), Olena Styazhkina, Tetyana Teren, Volodymyr Yermolenko, Yosyf Zisels.