Ukraine07 - 09.09
The language of war

War aggression is, inter alia, a naming crisis. Our usual linguistic tools prove impotent and useless in the new actuality that goes far beyond imagination and understanding. Among the new realia, even those familiar to us became unprecedentedly intensive.

Can we still call regular Russian airstrikes aimed purposefully at killing hundreds of civilians or deliberate flooding of dozens of towns and villages followed by people’s deprivation of a possibility to evacuate with the usual word “crime”? Maybe we should create new words as did, for example, Raphael Lemkin, having not found a single adequate word to describe the nazis’ mass crimes and making the fragments of other existing words into the new term “genocide” therefore?

War obviously means even greater demand for overcoming of the naming crisis since things unnamed are killing. Besides, evil not named and defined promptly has significantly greater chances to remain unpunished.

What semantic shifts do the words we’ve grown accustomed to have to undergo? What new shadow meanings do they acquire? What words will never again be used metaphorically or playfully? What new communication skills have we gained in private or public contacts? Is our linguistic war experience translatable to any extent? Is fiction – an extremely subjective and emotional type of writing – able to do something against the war challenges? And what is, after all, remaining unnamed and silenced despite all our nominative efforts?

registration and welcome coffee
Congress opening
  • Maksym KOZYTSKYY
  • Andrii SADOVYI
  • Oleksandr SUSHKO
  • Hrystyna BOIKO
  • Dmytro REKEDA
  • Yurii BOBALO
  • Yuliia KHOMCHYN
Inspirational speech
  • Oleksandra MATVIICHUK
  • Anatolii DNISTROVYI
Translating the Experience of War
  • Krzysztof CZYZEWSKI (Poland)
  • Robert CAMPBELL (Japan), online
  • Diána VONNAK (Hungary), online
All participants share the experience of translating the War Vocabulary – a book complied by Ostap Slyvynsky – or publishing it in other languages. This collection combines fiction, non-fiction and lexicography, and constitutes an attempt to make up the linguistic picture of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine from the extracts of its witnesses’ stories. Each story reveals the shift of usual words’ meanings in the new reality of war. But it’s during the translation process that the problem of inequitability of war and peace experiences of language appears as even more urgent. What new levels and dimensions of untranslatability do translators have to deal with while attempting to convey a war text in languages of cultures whose war experience has remained in the distant past? What can we understand of our own war when seeing it in the mirror of other languages?
What Is an Agora Talk?
  • Oleksandr SUSHKO
  • Mariia TYTARENKO
The war changes everything, including spaces for communication. Other registers and forms of public speech, other rules and standards emerge. Other “default” restrictions and prohibitions break or set taboos against certain linguistic manifestations. The never-ending stream of linguistic creativity is fascinating but warning, since it reveals gaps in which old senses sink and new ones arise. This is a conversation about what’s happening in public discourse, how do the media change and impact on us, how is our language refracted and what is revealed in these “folds”.
What Are We Silent About?
  • Larysa DENYSENKO
  • Roman KECHUR
  • Viktor RUBAN
Within the time of war, we do not just create and master new levels of language but stand still in front of what can never be put into words. Silence is eloquent, nonetheless, and what is silenced can still speak. Figures of silence replace those of speech, while the speech itself grows numb facing the horrors of war. What is the role of these lacunae in our attempts to comprehend our experience? How do we work with silence, with things untold and unfit to speak of? What dangers await us on our way to express our war experiences? How do we heal our wounds? And is it, after all always necessary to break the silence?
coffee break
The Writing of War: From Hope to Despair, From “I” to “We”
  • Nermina OMERBEGOVIC (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
What can literature do in the presence of war experience? Is it capable of comforting, healing wounds, or opposing itself to boundless disappointment and despair brought by the war? Literature is an extremely subjective form of writing; however, since the war has broken out, it gains new social responsibilities. How is it supposed to deal with them? Or with fury, hatred, and urge for revenge? How is art supposed to keep its integrity in the presence of war experience? And could art and literature of wartime probably give a lesson or convey some valuable insights to those bound to live through the troubled war times in the future?
curatorial tour
curatorial tour of the “UKRAINIAN CROSS-SECTION” project UKRAINE! UNMUTED
  • Vlodko KAUFMAN

Ukrainian voices became better heard when people noticed the explosions and unmuted the sound. Today, the world has no right to ignore them, even though it is not in the rush to revise the colonial views on t ‘big’ and ‘small’ cultures shaped by the imperial world[1]view. Ukraine has been emerging from the shadow of empires long and painfully, and it is now that it has a chance to gain the covet[1]ed d cultural voice and agency, which until now needed to be proved not only to the world,but also inside the country.

Art has always been responsive to such processes. In recent decades, Ukrainian artists have not only been reflecting on the shared state of uncertainty, insecurity, and voicelessness, but they also have been looking for different ways to find the proper words and the opportunity to speak up. The works presented in this project are a reflection of our feelings, perceptions, and rethinking, which brings us closer to understanding ourselves and helps to articulate it to the world.

Launched in 2010, UKRAINIAN CROSS-SECTION is a triennial of contemporary Ukrainian art. The initial mission was to present Ukrainian art to the world. Since then, the project has been implemented in Lublin, Wroclaw (the European Capital of Culture 2016), Kaunas (the European Capital of Culture 2022) and Lviv.

The 5th triennial was an attempt to capture what Ukrainian art looks like now, in times when the realities of Ukrainians are largely determined by the war, and the unprecedented aggression, the aggression the world hasn’t seen since World War II that is happening next to them and threatening them every moment.


Departure, repatriation, duration. Getting confused between words and terms, we increasingly rely on our new experiences. When reflecting on the world culture history, we always deal with the concept of migration as an integral part of our past, which still determines, nonetheless, certain trends of human civilization’s ongoing development. Ukraine has always been one of the most “turbulent” spots on this map. Ukrainians have been migrating and returning throughout the last century: this means that they naturally bring their cultural experience into other national cultures, and the other way around, as a consequence of their comeback to Ukraine. Before 2022, the number of Ukrainians living abroad was estimated to be about 4.9 million according to the UN, and it must have grown at least twice as bigger, as indicated by different sources. This undoubtfully changes the cultural map of our country and that of the world as such, and forms some absolutely new experience of Ukrainian culture, since never in the current century has Europe seen this mass migratory process caused by a war.

Still, we must not forget that migration is also an ornithological term. It’s birds that a Ukrainian artist has much in common with in up-to-date perspective. Dissociation, fragmentation, principle of “peaks” or “archipelagos”, mapping of the Ukrainian culture’s landscape are taking place now in strict keeping with big airports of the world capitals. Warsaw and London are no less important points of contemporary art today than Kharkiv or Lviv. Performances, exhibitions, concerts and residences, as well as possibilities to create and dispose of material resources for that became kind of “southern skies” for Ukrainian artists. Navigation is as complicated in these lands as it is for people displaced within Ukraine. Culture is, in fact, always about environment, which means that accumulated cultural practices can sometimes dramatically modify after the change of residence. It’s also important to appreciate the uniqueness of experiences borne by those who are forming new cultural landscapes of the territories that had been temporarily occupied and those who are returning or still staying in their just relatively safe “nests”.

After analyzing different experiences, one may find it hard to share any success story from a relocated Ukrainian institution. There are some, but it’s a minority of teams that continued with their activities: mainly they changed their optics and lost many of their members. Instead, there are successful cases of the so-called “bird institutions” established by relocated cultural managers who found themselves in isolation from their colleagues. This means that a museum or a library exist in fact but not on the map – like, for example, the UMCA at the Ukrainian House in Kyiv or bus libraries in Odesa.

These are the topics we would like to discuss within the Congress. We think it of the utmost importance to reflect on the future of our culture through the lens of its movements in different directions. Mapping of personal and institutional experiences will be followed by mapping of challenges. Routes of migration, defined at our events, will be focused on returning. Chronicles of pain will intertwine with vitality and hope for a better future for our “Ukrainian birds”.

morning coffee
Archipelago: New Islands of Ukrainian Culture on the World Map
  • Pavlo MAKOV
  • Olesia MAMCHYCH
  • Zhanna OZIRNA
A state is a community of people united by the landscape of memory and values. Culture is what makes these components into a common room for self-identification. Our cultural landscapes have expanded widely outside Ukraine. Our first discussion within the “Migration” panel will concern the new cultural centers of producing Ukrainian identity, not bounded now by our state borders. Who is the builder of these new creative communities and where are they clustered? What probable consequences can such a cultural migration abroad result in? This is the conversation about how our “traumatic past” has shaped us, which intentions we took with ourselves into our “traumatic present”, and first of all – whether the negative reasons of such involuntary relocation could guide us to positive future.
Southern Skies or Settlement Zone? Policies of (No) Return
  • Maksym HOLENKO
  • Roman KECHUR
  • Tamila TASHEVA, online
  • Oleksandra Azarkhina, online
Ukrainians have been migrating and returning since the beginning of the full-scale war. The current way of Ukrainian relocation is defined as the most mobile one in all of human history. Our fellow citizens actively move both domestically and abroad. What conditions do we create for them to return? What strategies, methods and mechanisms are now effectively working for their repatriation and have such strategies been articulated at all? Does our government policy provide those willing to return with any plan? And what about the territories suffering long-term occupation? What new senses and possibilities is Ukraine ready to offer for these territories? Environmental humanities encourage ornithological analogies. Birds’ routes can suggest us unexpected solutions and help with planning for a return to our “nests” and restoration of new life in Ukraine.
Internally Displaced Senses
  • Olha HONCHAR
  • Veronika SKLIAROVA
Our worlds’ ecosystem has dramatically changed. Home is rather about time than place now, love is rather about space, and culture is about environment. A great transition took place within our country. What are the senses of institutions we decided to take into relocation? How are we supposed to begin producing new systems instead of constantly fixing the old ones? An attempt is required to frame new experiences of cultural institutions without being tied to certain locations and map “our” environment’s extension within the country.
coffee break
Birdwatching: How the Image of Ukraine Has Changed Abroad
  • Apolena RYCHLIKOVA
  • Olga CHREBOR
  • Andrii YATSIV
Fragmentation of society is one of colonialism tools. Ex-colonies are often deprived of their own voice and sense of their agency; this also happens because they are missing out on being seen and heard. The struggle for this agency is a complex and difficult process to have begun long ago but seemingly regained strength and given us a new vision of ourselves just recently. Ukraine is definitely taking its voice now, but what is this voice like? Is it angry, disgruntled, demanding and directive or interested in dialogue with the world? We are speaking out loud for ourselves today: our needs have become even more audible. This is why it’s high time now to modify the optics and think of how we are seen and precepted by our partners. This concerns both those who chose to remain in Ukraine or become guests in different countries of the world.
Awakening of the voice

The others are somehow us too. Talking to others means, either way, talking to ourselves. So very different, so very complicated and dissimilar, we often turn out to be quite alike when we feel scared or have to protect the most valuable things in our lives. It is of a great danger to imagine ourselves unique among other nations, to see ourselves as bearers of a ‘particular fate’ or ‘mysterious soul’. We are just normal people who often tell quite the same stories, though we may live in different parts of the world and speak different languages.

This, however, is not the whole truth as well. We are truly different, especially when we feel scared or have to protect the most valuable things in our lives. Somebody chooses to fight to the bitter end while someone else is ready to compromise in all the ways possible.

Moreover, what do we, being so different, consider the most valuable things? Once, for example, we thought that the Freedom was the key value by which the idea of Europe was borne out, whereas the thesis is distributing with increasing frequency that today the Western societies name welfare, not Freedom, their key value. Somebody states that it’s only possible to survive a war when you kill a human in yourself, while someone survives only with plenty of humanity, like we do. Somebody strives to ‘exit the comfort zone’ while someone has simply never been there. Somebody laments adversities while someone sees these ‘adversities’ as privileges. Somebody cherishes their heroes while someone is afraid of the very word ‘hero’. Somebody insists on letting the dead go and forgetting all the traumatic experiences while someone literally lives with their dead and passes on the memory of their pain through generations. After all, everyone has their own history and shape of memory itself.

We have to search for common features in a kaleidoscope of ideas and ways of being. We have to customize our voice so that our story would be heard in its truth in different registers for different audiences from different countries of the world. How should we put our story in the focus, giving, at the same time, each story the right to stay in the focus and quitting to think in terms of peripheries?

The awakening of the voice is a cautious work. After being pinched for so long, the voice may sound harsh and blaming at first. It may shatter and vibrate hesitantly, break and wheeze. An experienced phoniatrician knows how easily a gaunt voice can fall into the abyss of silence again. An experienced narrator always asks their listener: what is your own story? Which note does your voice break on?

…Who is speaking today? Who is silent today? Who will benefit from this speaking? Who is speaking out of force? Why do them who keep silence are silent? How can they protect themselves from losing when keeping silent? Why is someone the one who blames while somebody else is the one who makes excuses? We have dozens of complicated questions to keep in focus when talking to different communities of the world, and dozens answers which we, however, cannot always apply properly.

Meanwhile, these questions are seemingly familiar to us from our usual experience of speaking to other people. In fact, we do already know that speaking always means listening, and the others whom we are talking to are somehow us as well.

morning coffee
In the beginning was the question.
Building matrixes of solidarity in the regions of mutual ignorance
  • Alim ALIEV
  • Kateryna BOTANOVA, online
  • Natalka HUMENIUK, online
  • Friederike MOESCHEL, record
  • Kateryna TAYLOR

A good narrator knows that a story must sound different even in different districts of the same city. The invariability of language may entail a very unfortunate consequence.

We never manage to tell our story better than when asking an interlocutor of themselves. Isn’t this seemingly one of the simplest rules of communication? Yet it often happens so that, depressed by the long silence, we never search for common backgrounds and frantically believe in our manifestations’ versatility. Sometimes it resembles a confession in a big cathedral when neither a believer nor their spiritual father can see each other through the wall of the confessional: the former unveils their most excruciating penance while the latter just gives a standardized answer. If we, however, need an effective cooperation, not a confession, we are to begin with the following questions: who are you? Where does it hurt you? What do you want to know about me? Or, maybe, some others.

Today, as we are in such a desperate need of solidarity in so very different countries of the world, – how should we build a conversation and develop a network? What research do we have to begin with? What is there to help us with overcoming mutual ignorance, tension, and distrust?

Speaking differently. The ways to change messages in the course of time
  • Olena APCHEL, online
  • Yuliia VAHANOVA
  • Volodymyr SHEIKO

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, we have had to act quickly not on the battlefield or in civil protection only but in international cultural communications as well. The society coped with this challenge: ever since then, Ukraine has confirmed itself audible and visible, as an agency-bearing partner with its own strong voice. At the same time, we must subvert the righteousness of decisions we ran short of time to think over in order not to repeat the mistakes of the history. We must see the narratives losing their elasticity over time and never-working formats.

Thus, let us talk about how Ukraine creates and transforms its own narrative in the international field. What could we have done differently and what must we finalize now? How are we to build long-lasting partnerships so that our presence among the world communities would become constant, not sporadic? How should we, finally, learn to be flexible and react quickly without losing either agency or deepness?

“Have you already opted out of burning Chekhov?” The weirdest questions
  • Alevtina KAKHIDZE, online
  • Halyna (Haska) SHYYAN

Sometimes the questions we hear from foreigners sound a bit like “have you already opted out of drinking cognac in the morning?” Yet however absurd they are, we must learn to answer.

We must work out ‘answer construction sets’ for the most frequently asked questions, and we must adapt them depending upon who we are talking to. We must develop the flexibility of our thought and emotions control, and we must be able to find the necessary register of speech.

We should, after all, offer some toolkit for thousands of our fellow citizens to use around the globe, since it’s small talks and random conversations that usually make the first point of contact.

Our task is to offer options; then the audience is to verbalize the most essential things. So, let’s play this game together.

coffee break
“A suitcase for departure.” Practical guidance for managers who want to present their project abroad
  • Lida DUDA
  • Victoria SHVYDKO

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the demand for Ukrainian projects has skyrocketed in some parts of the world. Many of us turned out to be ‘unprepared for the journey’: information on the websites is often not adapted for international readers; riders are not detailed enough for big festivals; exhibition managers do not have much expertise in the rules of crossing the borders. This does not mean that we are capable of nothing: it’s just high time to update the starter pack.

These troubles are partly caused by cumbersome bureaucratic rules, the change of which the society should advocate. Yet sometimes the primary cause consists in simply different formats of work, approaches to communication and planning horizons.

Practical and conceptual advice, lifehacks from experience and better understanding of the systematic complications we have to deal with together – these are the planned results of this conversation.

congress outcomes
  • Veronika SKLIAROVA
  • Yuliia KHOMCHYN
  • Volodymyr SHEIKO
The language of war. Supplemental programme
Implementation of conventions on the protection of cultural heritage in time of war.
Discussion by UNESCO
  • Chiara DEZZI BARDESCI, online
  • Kateryna BUSOL
  • Kateryna KULAI
  • Serhiy REVENKO
  • Yulia FEDIV
Oleksandra SOSNOVSKA

UNESCO Panel Discussion on the application of 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, in the case of the war.

Since July 2023, attacks to Ukrainian cultural heritage of World Heritage sites have been witnessed. The Russian armed forces have launched a series of attacks against Lviv and Odesa, resulting in civilian casualties and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure, including cultural and religious sites. In response to these attacks, UNESCO issued three statements condemning the targeting of cultural property and calling on the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations under international law, notably the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. In its statement, UNESCO expresses its concerns vis-à-vis the escalation of violence on cultural property. Cultural sites damaged in Lviv and Odesa are within and outside the boundaries of the World Heritage properties “Historic Centre of Lviv” and “Historic Centre of Odesa". During this panel discussion we will go through the legal basis of UNESCO Conventions and peculiarities of their application, analyze the efficiency of emergency interventions, first-aid, and risk prevention tools. It is crucial to enhance the literacy of the expert community concerning site protective measures, to reduce vulnerability of damaged cultural heritage in case of further attacks.

special event of International Renaissance Foundation
Reforms and recovery of the Ukrainian humanitarian sphere: Cultural Institutions and
National Memory

An advocacy dialog between civil society experts and government officials.

The dialogue is based on the policy document "Vision of Ukraine 2030: Social and Humanitarian Sector", created by the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition together with the School of Political Analysis and 50 independent civil society experts with the support of USAID/ENGAGE, which presents a vision of reforming and restoring Ukraine in the social and humanitarian sphere - see: The event program includes an open dialogue between government and civil society representatives on the proposals developed by cultural experts.

  • Yuriy MYKYTIUK

Yevhen Bystrytskyi, executive editor of "Vision 2030", will talk about the task of developing reform and recovery policies in the social and humanitarian sphere and advocacy promotion of the proposed policy document.

Yuriy Mykytyuk, Head of Regional Programs, Senior Advocacy Manager of the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition, will talk about advocacy promotion of the proposed policy document.

Presentation and discussion of the cultural policy vision
  • Alim ALIEV
  • Oksana ZABOLOTNA
  • Rostyslav KARANDYEYEV
  • Iryna PODOLYAK
  • Yulia KHOMCHYN

Presentation of the cultural policy vision - Oksana Zabolotna, analyst, Center for Joint Action.


Question session from the audience.

Presentation and discussion of the national memory policy vision
  • Sofia DYAK
  • Roman KABACHIY
  • Volodymyr TELISHCHAK

Presentation of the national memory policy vision by Yaryna Yasynevych, Program

Manager at the Center for Liberation Movement Studies.


Question session from the audience.

Migration. Supplemental programme
moderated conversation
European Capital of Culture. Experience for Ukraine
  • Krzysztof MAJ (Poland), online
  • Rafal KOSINSKI (Poland), online
  • Claire McCOLGAN, online

An increasing number of Ukrainian cities are considering the perspectives of applying for the status of European Capital of Culture, despite formal restrictions for Ukraine. In particular, they are also considering applying for the ECC program in partnership with other cities in the European Union. How does the ECC status work and why do Ukrainian cities need it? What opportunities already exist and what should be prepared for? What are the prerequisites for preparing a successful application? These and other aspects will be discussed by representatives of cities that have implemented the ESC title in previous years or are in the process of applying for it now, during our meeting.

As a result of the event, a handbook for preparing an application for the ENC will be created, which will be available to all registered participants of the Congress of Culture and other cultural actors, including specialized departments of culture of Ukrainian cities interested in applying for the ENC program in the future.

presentation, moderated discussion
The Great Reconstruction. What does Ukrainian culture need to recover?
  • Judith VIDECOQ (Belgia), online
  • Andre WILKENS (Netherlands), online
Volodymyr VOROBEY

As a result of Russia's full-scale invasion, public funding for Ukraine's cultural sector has dropped to historic lows. The situation has been partially stabilized by emergency support and funding programs for Ukrainian culture, which were promptly implemented by a number of public and private EU institutions. What is the state of affairs in the cultural sector 18 months later and what can we expect tomorrow? To what extent do the existing EU cultural support instruments meet Ukraine's medium-term needs? What is the place of culture in the context of post-war reconstruction of Ukraine? What added value can we create for those who help us?

Awakening of the voice. Supplemental programme
Narratives of the truth: how to tell Western audiences about the Russian-Ukrainian war
  • Hanna SYLAYEVA
  • Iryna LOPATINA

In December 2022 - March 2023, Lviv Media Forum conducted an international study "Countering Russian Propaganda Narratives about Ukraine in Western Media" to find out which Russian propaganda narratives related to Ukraine are most often found in influential and high-quality media in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, and France, as well as to understand why this is happening and what can be done to reduce these narratives.

With the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, a group of leading Ukrainian and international journalists, analysts, and lawyers joined together to form The Reckoning Project, an international project aimed at documenting Russian war crimes in Ukraine and creating documentaries and reporting texts for the world media based on the documented evidence.

In September 2023, the documented first year of the Russian-Ukrainian war became the basis for the reportage book The Most Terrible Days of My Life, which was published by the Lviv Media Forum's Choven Publishing House.

Both projects communicate the truth about Ukraine to Western audiences and seek ways to counter Russian propaganda in the Western world.


With the support


Media Partners