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A prologue to a year of Lithuanian and Ukrainian cultural partnership at the Vilnius Book Fair

Džoja Barysaitė photo

One of the highlights of the international Vilnius Book Fair, which was held from February 25th to the 28th, was a showcase of Ukrainian culture. Ukrainian writers, journalists, publishers, book illustrators, directors all presented different aspects of their country’s contemporary creative ideas and looked for opportunities to work together with their peers in Lithuania.

 The events held at the Vilnius Book Fair were an introduction into a cooperative project called “Lithuania – Ukraine: Cultural Partnership 2016” that will begin in April. The Lithuanian Culture Institute and its partners will present Lithuanian photography, design, literature, music, theater and art in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities over two stages – with a cycle each in spring and autumn. lLithuanian Cultural Institute with the participants of the project are organizing seminars, craft classes and other educational activities to the Ukrainian partners.

According to Director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute Aušrinė Žilinskienė, the cultural partnership between Lithuania and Ukraine has recently found a breath of new life and has been opening new paths for partnership between Lithuanian and Ukrainian artists and cultural organizations. Despite significant turmoil, cultural life in Ukraine is very active and interesting, so cultural exchanges are fruitful and full of discovery for both sides.

A delegation of 11 Ukrainian publishers attended the Vilnius Book Fair. The delegation included Leonidas Finbergas, head of the Duh I Litera publishing house (which, together with the Lithuanian Culture Institute, is preparing “Egupec,” an almanac of Lithuanian-Jewish literature and culture being compiled by Mindaugas Kvietkauskas and Lara Lempertienė), representatives of the CALVARIA publishing house (which will publish translations of works by Richard Gavel, Lionginas Baliukevičius-Dzūkas and Vytautas V. Landsbergis), the excellent OLD LION children’s book publisher from Lvov, and others.

 On Thursday, the first day of the Vilnius Book Fair, a creative workshop called “You Can Make a Book” was held in the “Land of Books” hall by Lithuanian and Ukrainian book illustrators for children from Eastern Ukraine living in Lithuania. This activity was led by: director, bard and writer Iryna Tsilyk; illustrators and Agrafka art studio founders Romana Romanyshyn and Andryi Lesiv; Ieva Babilaitė, Kęstutis Kasparavičius and Paulius Juodišius, some of the best book illustrators in Lithuania; and Saulė Degutytė, the director of Stalo Teatras. With support from the Lithuanian Council for Culture, a similar series of workshops will be held in Kiev, Lvov and four more Central and Western Ukrainian cities for child refugees from Eastern Ukraine.

 On February 25th, war journalist, photographer and Los Angeles Times correspondent Sergei Loiko presented his book, entitled Aeroport, which told of his personal experiences in Donetsk airport in October 2014 (he was the only international correspondent to spend four days with the so-called “cyborgs” – the Ukrainian soldiers who defended Donetsk airport). Students from Antakalnis High School also got to meet with Loiko, who has worked in numerous active war zones around the world.

 During the “Your Voice in My Sentence” program in the Book Cinema Hall, visitors watched young Ukrainian documentary filmmakers’ films and listened to literary readings by writer Andrejus Kurkovas, poet, translator and literary critic Marianna Kiyanovska, I. Tsilyk (whose film, “Atminimas/Pomyn,” was also shown during the film program), actress Toma Vaškevičiūtė, translators Volodislavas Žurba and Vasylis Kapkanas, poet and translator Vladas Braziūnas, and others. The evening of literary film was hosted by poet and translator Vytautas Dekšnys.

 On Friday, February 26th, the Book Cinema Hall was home to a discussion on the new narrative in the relationship between Lithuanians and Ukrainians, where writers A. Kurkovas, M. Kiyanovska, S. Loiko  and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius shared their thoughts. The discussion was moderated by publicist Rimvydas Valatka.

 At the “You Can Create a Book” creative workshop on Saturday, February 27th, Ukrainian artist A. Lesiv consulted with young Lithuanian illustrators while I. Tsylik held a creative workshop for children called “Life Is So Interesting,” and artists from “Agrafka” invited the fair’s visitors to their “Encyclopedia of Stories.” At the LRT studio forum, Andrejus Kurkovas and journalists Virginijus Savukynas and Audrius Siaurusevičius presented their books – “Maidano dienoraštis” and “Bikfordo pasaulis.”

 A discussion entitled “Crossroads of translation: the path Jewish cultural texts take to Lithuanian readers” took place in the Writers’ Corner, where L. Finbergas, Olga Lempert (Israel), M. Kvietkauskas and Kristina Gudelytė spoke in a discussion moderated by Donatas Puslys.

 The program of cultural events and the participation of Ukrainian representatives at the Vilnius Book Fair were prepared and coordinated by the Lithuanian Culture Institut.

Translated by Dovilas Bukauskas