Culture and as a Space for Dialogue Between the Nations (report)

On the first day of the Europe-Ukraine Forum we have been exploring how creativity and artistic message can effect neighbourly relations. Guests from Poland, Ukraine and Great Britain searched for an answer to the question whether artists and creators functioning in the art world influence the perception of other nations.

The panel was hosted by Grzegorz Gauden, Vice-President of Copyright Polska. It was attended by: Vira Meniok, Director of the Foundation “Bruno Schulz Museum and Festival”, who started the meeting with a short presentation of history and philosophy behind the festival, Tetyana Yermak, originator and organiser of the festival, which has been taking place for three years in Gdańsk under the name “Week of Ukrainian Culture”, Julie Ward, British politician and entrepreneur, Member of the European Parliament of the eighth term and Yuriy Vynnychuk, Ukrainian writer, journalist and editor, Vice-President of the Association of Ukrainian Writers.

Vira Meniok emphasised the role of support given to the Bruno Schulz Festival in Drohobych by institutions and the Ministry of Culture from Poland and Ukraine, she also mentioned its initiator, Ihor Meniok from Polish Scientific and Information Centre in Drohobych. The festival gathers enthusiasts of Schulz’s output who work on various artistic levels, and its organiser is particularly pleased with the support of Ukrainian writers. In her opinion, it should be highlighted that the festival attracts guests from various, sometimes very distant parts of the world, who share the fascination with Bruno Schulz. Apart from writers, there are also musicians, performers and translators, whom Vira Meniok called “ambassadors” of the work of the outstanding writer from Drohobych.

Julie Ward, in turn, pointed out the role of art as a part of the policy for prevention against aggression and prejudice. She gave the example of Northern Ireland and the actions that have been and are being taken to unite conflicting communities, addressed especially to young people. She talked about Beyond the Skin, a Northern Ireland organisation active in the field of art and new media, which aim is precisely to unite young people by bringing them together in the process of creating joint projects.

I am here because I felt angry that too little is being done in this area. Cultural activities must be promoted in parliamentary committees, even in those with a different basic activity profile. Cultural diplomacy is an idea to treat culture seriously in international relations – said J. Ward.

Asked by the moderator to present the artist’s point of view, Yuriy Vynnychuk emphasised the historical traditions of understanding between writers, and even more broadly Polish and Ukrainian artists:

Between writers, painters was a specific thread of understanding, a bond that I described in my book “Lviv Joints” about the interwar bohemia of this city – he reminded.

Referring to the presentation introduced at the beginning of the panel, he also spoke about his experiences and Schulz’s influence on his creative process:

My reading of Schulz lasted ten years, then I returned to him in the following years, because it inspired me to write.

Asked about the experience of organising the Ukrainian Culture Week Festival in the “City of Freedom”, as Grzegorz Gauden described Gdańsk, its organiser Tetyana Yermak said:

I hope that we will be able to develop a culture of dialogue with the world, that Ukrainian artists will be translated and appreciated more often. And we have something to boast about. We have been implementing the festival project for three years now, at the beginning of its promotion within two days, the event gained unexpectedly high popularity in social media and we still hope that this is also the way to build its recognition. In our festival it is important that we do not make a closed event, organised by the diaspora, but it is a festival aimed at contacts with cultural institutions of Gdańsk. We have offered theatres to incorporate Ukrainian projects to the repertoire. Otherwise, we would not be able to achieve that much, because our concept is to implement events together with local institutions and for the local community.