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Henry M. Robert

“It is important to develop a gene of resistance”

A charity action “Black Sea Sotnia of Artists to the Armed Forces of Ukraine” will be held in Odesa
27 May, 2014 - 10:46
BAKHCHYSARAI, PAPER, WATERCOLORS / Photo replica by Anatolii KRAVCHENKO
Anatolii KRAVCHENKO

Odesa Oblast Organization “National Union of Artists of Ukraine” has announced a charity action to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Day talked to watercolor artist Anatolii KRAVCHENKO about this.

“We have decided to hold a charity action ‘Black Sea Hundred of Artists to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.’ We have created an organizing committee. A hundred is a symbolical number, which is associated both with events in Maidan, and the feat of the Heavenly Sotnia (Heavenly Hundred). There is an offer to donate one work from each of one hundred members of the Union for further realization and give the money raised for the needs of the army. We aim to present the rest of the works to army units, to adorn their barracks, which are built now for our paratroopers in Mykolaiv Oblast. Military men must live in proper conditions. Isolated from broader world, this category of people, in my opinion, perceives the works of art more deeply.

“Ten years ago my wife Halyna and I took part in a open-air session in Belbek. We were staying at the airdrome, lived in wooden houses (this is the airdrome where Colonel Yulii Mamchur proved himself as a hero). The participants of the open-air session visited many Crimean cities: Yalta, Sudak, Feodosia, and Sevastopol. After the end of the session they held an improvised exhibit, and a conscript soldier could not help crying when he was looking at a still life depicting fruits: it reminded him of his home. Another serviceman was excited to see the picture of his native street in Sevastopol. His mother and sister were living there. However, those works were not framed, attached to the wall with a usual sticky tape. Frankly speaking, we did not expect to see such aesthetic interest and sentimentality. Then I understood that soldiers need works of art even more then us, residents of cities, because if we like, we can easily go to a gallery.

“Hopefully, after the Odesa exhibit our action will find support in Kyiv, and the money raised or works presented will be used properly. Probably, in such a way we will find contact with certain business and international structures involved in charity. Incidentally, there are collectors in Odesa, who already at this stage have shown readiness to buy the works of certain authors. The exhibit can be mobile and get replenished with new works of other participants. We want to assure the Ukrainian community that in this period of time, which is complicated for our state, the artists have taken a stand, which is far from observing.

“For example, during an exhibit in Odesa I talked to Lieutenant General Anatolii Trots (one of the founders of Odesa Military Academy), and secured his support. My brother, Oleksandr Kravchenko, a retired aviation colonel, is now heading a Cossack center in Konotop in the rank of Lieutenant General. He uses the line of Cossack organizationі to find in the capital interest business structures, politicians, who could support this action financially and organizationally.”

In your family there have been the first aviators of Odesa, who made experimental flights simultaneously with Utochkin!

“My grandfather, Nazar Kravchenko, who was born in Odesa, unlike sportsman Serhii Utochkin, was a military pilot, a graduate of Odesa-based Artur Anatra Pilot School, founded in 1913. My father took part in military actions during the First World War, and during the Civil War he did not emigrate, and stayed in his home city, worked at an aircraft plant, because he was a talented aircraft engineer. Since the Soviet time he has been in Osypov’s pilot school. My grandfather called the Bolshevik regime a bandit regime. During collectivization, after his refusal to become the one of the 25,000 volunteers who came to work to collective farms, he changed his place of residence. In 1937 my grandfather and his wife Anastasia were executed.”

You organize different projects, exhibits, open-air sessions, including the international ones. After the tragic events in Odesa of May 2, has it become problematic?

“We have had to postpone certain projects, in particular, the traditional international open-air session ‘Hotels of the Black Sea,’ which we planned to start on May 12 in Karolino-Bugaz (Odesa oblast). It will be held in autumn. Last year’s event gathered 40 artists from many regions of Ukraine, as well as artists from Belarus, Bulgaria, Russia, and Turkey. This project continues on an individual level. In the network of the hotel complex ‘Black Sea’ three solo exhibits of Odesa artists are underway: Serhii Basko, Mykola Prokopenko, and Oleksii Zorkaltsev. An exhibit of well-known Mykolaiv artist Yurii Humenny will start soon.”

How do your foreign colleagues, in particular, Russians, respond to current events in Ukraine?

“Last autumn an open-air painting session was held in the Carpathians. It was attended by artists from Moscow, in particular, Pyotr Chekantsev, a pupil of famous Yevhen Kibryk. Our Russian friends made very warm impressions from their stay in Ukraine and found out that in Russia, unfortunately, there is no such level of reception. As for the current situation in Ukraine, I must say that Russians regularly write to us and phone. They are worried about us, especially because of the events in the Crimea, in the east, and Odesa tragedy of May 2. Of course, for the most part they get this information from Russian sources, but as intelligent and adequate people, they are able to differentiate between the truth and open lies. By the way, last year we were on a joint open-air session near Ural, in the homeland of the Vasnetsov brothers, the city Urzhum, and in close communication we made sure that Russian intellectuals are a category of people able to think critically and perceive the top leadership of their state with skepticism.”

When there are disturbances in the country, how does it influence you as an artist whose creative work is optimistic and radiant?

“Probably some people have a stereotype about an artist as a passive and weak personality. That’s not true. To survive in society, an artist must be focused, possess inner firmness, and be powerful. Only in this way will he be able to bring his creative message to the public. Our outstanding composer Mykola Lysenko once admitted that ‘Lysenko the teacher’ helps ‘Lysenko the composer’ to earn his living.

“Today, when we are in a very complicated moral and psychological condition, it is important at certain moments to get abstracted from negative things, information aggression, which is consciously brought in by certain mass media, because it suppresses and ruins a person from inside. It is important to develop a gene of resistance.

“Although, I am not at a military age, in a critical moment, if there will be a need to defend the state, I am ready to take up weapons or fulfill some work, by this helping our soldiers. And so far I try to do something useful with my creative work.”

By Volodymyr KUDLACH, Odesa
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