Blog 2

Peace for Ukraine

The road from Demyanovka 1942

Mikola is found!

Before I write more about current contemporary Ukraine and Russia I am compelled to tell this story about my great grandfather Mikola who gave me inspiration and identity for my artistic life. He was the potter in Shatrashchi, a village near Yampil in North Eastern Ukraine.

In a small village in North Eastern Ukraine, a small wooden sign with metal wording was put up on the Community meeting hall wall. It said the members of the Bolshevik group will meet here. It was 1918.

One night, fourteen years later (1932) my mother, her sister and their mother – Olena (my grandmother) were preparing to eat their evening meal. There was a knock on the door of their small Wooden village house. My grandmother looked startled as it was a wintry night and her husband was away at a neighbouring village. Her two daughters both ran to her side.

The street in the village where my family lived. Image taken 2010

Three men entered and Olena smiled as they were neighbours. But her relief was short-lived after they told her, that when her husband returned, if he did not join the collectivisation of grain production he would have to leave the village. My mother who was ten years old, recalls that at that very moment Olena collapsed to the floor. This was the beginning of the persecution.

Stephan, my grandfather, was a fiercely independent thinker. Before the Russian Revolution he joined the Tsars army for only one reason! It was the only way a peasant farmer could get an education.

His father was Mikola – the potter. No wonder my mother could never understand why I would go backward it seems to have a love for something that for her was always associated with poverty.

Pottery from the village image taken in 2010

When Stephan came home the next day, and found Olena in a state of anxiety, he made a resolution that he would never surrender his life to coercion or for the collectivisation system. For safety he eventually moved his whole family, including the potter to the nearby town of Yampil to start a new life.

Mikola went missing and everyone feared for his life as he was in his late 70’s. A few days later he was found sleeping at the pottery door

When we retraced my family’s life in Ukraine in 2010 I found that Mokola’s burial site had become a communal one as the cemetery had been destroyed during the war. He now is immortalised for me under this memorial

Memorial to political casualties -Yampil North Eastern Ukraine

Look out for my next blog: It will be about the area near Luhansk – which Putin has bitten off for Russia.

From Nezhin to Luhansk