If you are a regular reader of the Daily Hart, you may have noticed a theme in recent weeks. In short, everything is awful. There have been personal tragedies and losses. And then there’s the ongoing war in Ukraine and the helplessness of having to watch it unfold online in real time, knowing that there’s nothing I can personally do to stop it. The horror of war is nothing new, but I am Ukrainian through my grandmother, and so this particular war has hit harder than others. The guilt of being able to go about life as usual while millions of Ukrainians are losing everything has been debilitating at times. So yeah. These past six weeks have sucked.
In addition to the guilt over life continuing on in Paris, there’s also been the far more personal guilt of why I’ve never taken advantage of the fact that I live a simple plane ride away from my heritage. I’ve lived in Europe for over seven years, and while I’ve always wanted to, I’ve never visited Ukraine. I grew up with Ukrainian family members, but I don’t speak Ukrainian. And while I’m familiar with Ukrainian art, I don’t know nearly as much as I want to about it. But I want to change all that. I’ve started learning Ukrainian. I’ve also decided that when this war ends, and it will end, I’m going to go to Ukraine to help with the rebuilding. I’d be less than useless in a war zone, but I can certainly handle sweeping up rubble on a street. And in the meantime, I’m going to learn more about my culture and heritage.
This past week marked the beginning of April, which means that Easter is fast approaching. And for me, Easter will always mean my grandmother’s Ukrainian Easter eggs. Even though it’s been well over a decade since I last had Easter dinner at my grandparents’ house, when I think of April, I think of my grandmother and those eggs. Which is why I decided that this month’s deep dive is going to be Ukrainian art. I want to know more about the dancing I used to watch at family weddings. I want to read both classic and contemporary Ukrainian poetry. And I really want to know more about the cultural history of those eggs that fascinated me so much as a child. I hope this month is just the beginning of a lifetime of reconnecting with my roots, but I have to start somewhere, so here it goes.
Unsurprisingly, this first week has been incredible. I read the poems of Iya Kiva and Kateryna Kalytko. I looked at the works of Eugenia Gapchinska and learned about the history of Petrykivka painting. And I finally learned the historical origins of the famous Hopak dance. I’ve read about the history of Ukrainian literature and the importance of contemporary poetry in trying to make sense of the violence that began back in 2014. I listened to Jamala and the song that last won the Eurovision song contest for Ukraine. And I fell absolutely head over heels for DakhaBrakha and cannot wait to one day see them perform live.
More importantly, I realized that I have only scratched the surface in the artistic and cultural legacy of a country that is a part of me, even if I’ve never set foot there. Yet. I may not be able to do anything to stop this war, but I can play a small part in carrying on its culture and art. That’s something worth holding onto when it feels like the news out of Ukraine is getting more grim with each passing day.
Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!