A gentle light comes through the blue and yellow fabric and falls upon the wooden floor. The walls are covered with photographs. Pictures of ordinary life side by side with war and suffering. There are stories scribbled on a thin white paper. Drawings within a diary. A volunteer smiles at you behind a desk. Unlike Ukraine itself, her Copenhagen house is filled with peace.
By Romana Ronja Ptáčková
The Ukraine House in Copenhagen was opened on the 24th of February, on the first anniversary of Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine. Since then, it has become a place for the celebration of Ukrainian culture and its people. A space for Ukrainian artists to display their work, to connect, educate, and raise intercultural dialogue.
Ukrainian War Diaries Exhibition
The date 24th of August marks the start of Ukraine House’s third exhibition and multi-disciplinary project “Brave to Witness: Ukrainian War Diaries”. Visitors can see various media artworks from Ukrainian artists, authors, filmmakers, and musicians. The project focuses on showing the diaries from heavily affected areas such as Nova Kakhovka.
„Wartime diaries are a powerful tool for reflection, coping, and witnessing. For centuries, they have served as evidence of war crimes that helped to bring the perpetrators to justice and as important instruments of raising awareness and educating future generations,” says co-curator Katya Stukalova.
One of the featured artworks is diaries by Ukrainian writer and war crimes researcher Viktoria Amelina. On July 1st Amelina died in Dnipro after being heavily injured by a missile four days earlier. Another artist whose work the exhibition offers is Volodomyr Vakulenko. The writer was murdered by Russian soldiers in the year 2022.
The exhibition will go on until the 1st of October 2023. ¨
The work of volunteers
The Ukraine House resides in the Gammel Dok, previously a warehouse in the center of Copenhagen. The organization relies on the work of volunteers who sacrifice their free time for this cause. One such volunteer is Jesper Juul Keller who has been engaging in activities supporting Ukraine from the beginning of the invasion.
“When this house opened, I thought that it would be a good way to spend time, to help get the message out,” says a trained librarian and IT professional who in his spare time volunteers for various organizations supporting Ukraine.
Keller explains the functioning of the House: Even though the organization gets its spaces free of rent, there are still other expenses to be paid such as electricity and heating. The visitors can help support the House by purchasing books, artwork, and promotional items like bags, postcards, and candles in its shop. In addition to that most of the sales money contributes to funding Ukrainian artists and their future work.
The international overlap
The Ukraine House in Copenhagen is not the only one of his kind. There are similar projects around the world trying to support and unify the Ukrainian community and inform its visitors about the terror of Russia’s aggression. Other Ukraine Houses can be found in Davos Switzerland, Cluj-Napoca Romania, and Washington D.C. United States. Houses play a crucial role in Ukrainian refugee’s integration and offer them a sense of home in a foreign country.
“I would be happy for a similar project in my country to help me bond with the locals as it is hard to find contacts on my own. I also like the cultural and informative aspect. I would go and I would also take my friends, including the Czechs, because everyone understands what is happening very remotely and only a few believe in the complexity of what is happening,”
responds Ukrainian refugee Lera Maximenko to the question of whether she would appreciate the concept of Ukrainian houses in the Czech Republic where she lives.
No matter the location the Ukraine Houses all have the same dream. Dream of better days when the horrors of war will be nothing but a memory. When within their walls will not only death be mourned, but victory celebrated. The dream of peace and justice for Ukraine.
Ukraine House visitor watches artwork – by Wisha Limbu
Ukraine flag above the river – by Romana Ronja Ptáčková
A volunteer poses in the Ukraine House – by Romana Ronja Ptáčková
Children books in Ukraine House – by Romana Ronja Ptáčková
This story is for the audience in the Czech Republic and could be published on czechdaily.cz.