The abbreviation of the initial title (Tsentr ukrainskoi knyhy) later transformed the bookstore into TsUKOR – sugar in English. Within its “sweet” walls Kherson residents and guests can always find quality and intellectual Ukrainian books, which include modern fiction and classics alike, books for children, opinion journalism, dictionaries, historical studies, etc. There is also a specific corner for religious literature of various Christian denominations. At the beginning of this year the bookstore started selling books from The Day’s Library Series and Ukrainian-language version of The Day.
Our reporter met with priest and public activist Serhii DMYTRIIEV, the person who keeps the bookstore functioning. Over a cup of aromatic tea we discussed with Father Serhii the present-day role of clergy in the enlightenment work, his vision of development of the Ukrainian culture, forming of “healthy” life views among young people thanks to quality literature and mass media.
Father, as a follower of your activity in Kherson, I have always wanted to ask you, why did you decide to take an active civic stand, rather than being a priest in a common understanding of the word?
“First and foremost, civic stand does not appear in the middle of nowhere. It is fostered in family. I grew up in a family of free-thinkers, who had non-mythologized views on history and political reality and did not call World War II the Great Patriotic War. For instance, I knew from my childhood years that Lenin was a terrorist. My grandmother also told about the three Holodomors and their horrors. And my mother was denied the Communist Party membership, because she said that she wanted to fight against dishonest political figures. As I was regularly visiting churches and communicating with priests, I saw that the Church had to be much more efficient in terms of culture-enlightenment work. When I was serving in Sumy, I cooperated with local lore and art museums, local centers of culture and intelligentsia. Writers, artists, teachers – intelligent people from whom priests sometimes need to pick up – helped me to promote Christian values.”
How did the idea to open a Ukrainian bookstore in Kherson emerge? It seems to me this is not a very profitable business.
“When my son went to school, I felt there was a lack of intellectual Ukrainian books in our city. I especially missed quality, unbiased historical literature. The truth we hear from our grandfathers may be buried with them. And correctly selected home library will never let the memory vanish. What do most of bookstores offer today? Detectives, love stories, low-grade science fiction... I understood long ago that the bookstore project would not be profitable. But as I look back, I see that TsUKOR brings much more good than money: this is support of thinking reader, a person who is used to ponder over his/her role in society and analyze the contribution of others. It is also important that we give good present-day literature to villages and raion centers, where children not always have access to the Internet. We are trying to catch up with the Ukrainian literary process. We invite well-known writers, opinion journalists, and artists. But who are they? Those are teachers of Kherson higher educational establishments, writers, civic activists, and simply intelligent people who are bringing what they hear to hundreds of other people. Not everyone has an opportunity to attend the prestigious Kyiv events and literature meetings. And the arrival of the Kapranov brothers or Stanislav Fedorchuk is a gulp of fresh air for some residents of Kherson. TsUKOR for me is also a positive example of how you can do something on your own, without waiting for help from other people.”
Are you ready to support this kind of initiatives, such as Ukrainian bookstore in Kherson?
“One can express his/her outrage about the low level of quality literature, people’s ethic, and education. However, in one way or another each of us is shaping around ourselves the sphere of communication. Owing to the bookstore I can feel the culture connection with entire Ukraine and I have no impression that people in Kherson are less intelligent than anyone else. You can live in Kyiv and never visit Ivan Franko Theater or Kyiv Cave Monastery. At the same time I see that Ukrainian information space is oversaturated with non-Ukrainian opinions. In Boryspil Airport I found only a few good Ukrainian newspapers. Den is one of those. Without exaggeration one can say that this is a publication one wants to read and reread the materials published there a month or a year ago.”
Maybe this is the reason why you decided to distribute via TsUKOR the books from The Day’s Library Series and the daily issues of the newspaper?
“Owing to The Day you understand that there is a healthy view on Ukrainian politics, economy, and culture life. I have been reading this newspaper for a long while and I regret that there are very few periodicals in Ukraine like this one. Therefore they should be supported. The Day’s Library is not funded by the state, so it should bring to its inspirers and authors not only the authority of enlighteners, but also material profit. Many people fail to understand this considering that Ukrainian cinema, newspapers, and books should be free of charge. As long as a Ukrainian does not pay another Ukrainian for quality intellectual product, we won’t our culture demanded. Approximately 45 million people are living in our country. Can you imagine what valuable contribution can be made to the Ukrainian book publishing if a million of Ukrainians on one day bought one good book per capita, or 500,000 people subscribed to The Day? However, I do believe that owing to persistent work of each of us such time will come soon.”