The concept of the festival Europe Island appeared in 2015 when writers Kateryna Kalytko and Anna Vovchenko created a same-name project aimed at inviting attention to the importance of “small” and “chamber” kinds of literature in Europe. For example, Ukrainian literature – it doesn’t have a chance to become well-known in Europe because of a relatively small number of native speakers and lack of enough translations into common languages. However, we can’t underestimate the importance of such kinds of literature because they are the core which creates and move big senses of literature as such.
It is of no surprise that at the time when Ukraine is returning its position of a real European state, such a conception has turned into an independent international festival with its centre in the town of Vinnytsia, where the second festival took place from 13 till 16 June.
Due to the collaboration with a civic organisation Cultural Campus, the Department of Culture of the Vinnytsia Town Council, the Ukrainian Cultural Fund, and many partners, the organisers managed to arrange more than 35 events on different locations of the town during three and a half days. Almost 1500 people attended the festival.
The keynotes of the 2019 festival were: the 100-anniversary of the Unification Act (an agreement signed on January 22, 1919, by the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic) and the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. During the four festival days, we were speaking about the role of art in “sewing” the nation and freedom construction.
Poetic readings at very atmospheric locations, topic discussions, meetings with authors, presentations, musical performances, night events with famous European and Ukrainian intellectuals created a rhythm of a literary visa-free zone in Vinnytsia.
The festival started on Independence Square which is in the centre of Vinnytsia. The first event was an opening of an exhibition about a Yiddish-speaking classic Isaac Joel Linetzky and a concert of Knafaim Jewish signing band.
During the festival, the square really became an intellectual centre. It held a presentation of Natalka Doliak’s book Where the Grass is Greener and meetings with foreign festival guests: Dragica Rajčić from Switzerland, Yulia Tsimafeeva from Belarus, Miruna Vlada from Romania, Lucie Faulerová from the Czech Republic, Maciej Płaza and Aleksandra Zielińska from Poland, János Áfra from Hungary.
The Crimean Tatar literature, Jewish culture, women’s rights, European values, and challenges were also discussed at the festival.
Another atmospheric location was the Kumbary Stairs which led just to the Southern Bug river. It held a poetic reading of significant writers of the contemporary literature: Kateryna Kalytko, Katrina Haddad, Yulia Musakovska, Yulia Brovarna, Kateryna Mikhalitsyna, and Iryna Starovoit.
A tenement building in Soborna Street which got its name and a new association due to the festival also became a poetic centre. Between two former tenement buildings, poems were read by authors whose art had already become hieratic – Yuri Izdryk, Oksana Zabuzhko, Natalka Bilotserkivets, and Mykola Riabchuk. The event was attended by many people.
One of the authentic rooms of the Borukh Lvovych’s estate (which served as an office of the military leader of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1918-1919) Simon Petliura) held a discussion on unity, identity, and Togetherness. Such discussions also took place here: “Island gives birth to the continent: eastern European landscape and Israeli classics” with participation of Anatoliy Kerzhner, Siarhiej Šupa, Maryana Maksymyak and Leonid Finberg as a moderator; and “Bridges instead of walls: 100 years of union” featuring Kateryna Kalytko, Alim Aliev, Katrina Haddad, Mykola Riabchuk, moderated by Tetyana Teren. At last night, the courtyard of the estate held a crowded recital of Oksana Zabuzhko where she presented her books “And Again I Enter The Tank”, “After The Third Call, Entrance To The Hall Is Prohibited”.
This year, favourable weather conditions allowed to arrange one more important and emotional event – Crimean Tatarian musical poetic readings Green Peninsula (this is how Crimeans have called their land) on the island of Campa with participation of poets Seyare Kokçe, Aliye Kence-Ali, Elvira Saryhalil who are living in Crimea now and Vesna Kaserers, a singer from Czech Republic. The voice of the Crimean Peninsula permanently sounded on the former Vinnytsia Peninsula: this is how through the action art, the organisers stated the continent’s unity and support to the Crimean Tatar people and their long struggle for cultural and political rights. Bright black and red threads looked symbolic – the artists were visually separated by them from listeners.
One more literary-intellectual location was arranged on the terrace of the E Bookshop which held a lecture of Iryna Starovoit, a presentation of the book A Woman in Berlin with the participation of Roksolana Sviato and Oksana Lutsyshyna, and also a meeting with the UNESCO City Of Literature Prize winner Petro Yatsenko.
The festival also had a children’s territory – Library №1: here Galyna Tkachuk, Iryna Lazutkina, Kateryna Mikhalitsyna from the Old Lion Publishing House made workshops for children, read witty poems and explained why it is important to care for the environment.
Restaurant Red Zeppelin and bar Bootlegger and Dushechka were chosen and attended by those who wanted a nigh union of poetry and music. Dmytro Lazutkin and Borys Sevastianov brought to Vinnytsia a musical-poetic band ARTERIA, Pavlo Korobchuk, and The Velvel Sun band showed a theatrical-musical play “Amy Winehouse: Body and Soul”.
The garden of the Kotsiubynsky Museum became a traditional open-air location for musical-poetic performances. In the festival evening, you could hear acoustics, mantras, electronics, ceremonial and experimental music.
One day before the end of the festival, a new program Korabli by the Lviv acoustic band Try Kroky V Nich was presented. It was created based on the poems of Ukrainian poets.
At the end of the day, a legend of Ukrainian literature Yuri Izdryk presented his unique program Izdryk: Live – poems, mantras, love and death stories accompanied by electronic music.
The pinnacle event and the closing of the festival was a concert of Mariana Sadovska – a singer from Lviv who lives and performs mostly abroad where she is called a “Ukrainian Bjork”. Mariana presented a program The Night Only Begins which unites a ceremonial and modern electronic music, and also poetry and storytelling accompanied by piano and iPad. It was the most sincere, dramatic, and intimate concert which turned the Garden into a zone of a real catharsis.
By Andrii Khayetskyi
Photos from the official website of the festival