Barrier-free 17-hour bus ride for Ukrainians at Frankfurt Book Fair – Kyiv Post
Illustrator Oleh Hryshchenko took a 17-hour bus and flight to the Frankfurt Book Fair. But it was worth it, he said, to promote Ukrainian culture in the face of Russian aggression.
“I didn’t join the army but we can fight with our art,” Hryshchenko told AFP on the opening day of the fair, during a photo exhibition by the group of illustrators. Pictoric Ukrainians.
“A lot of Ukrainian artists have joined the army and I’m proud of that, but I’m better at drawing than with a weapon.”
Hryshchenko is part of the major Ukrainian presence at the world’s largest publishing event: authors and industry figures appear throughout the week at the country’s grand booth.
President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to address the fair on Thursday, as part of fair organizers’ efforts to support Ukrainian culture against what they see as propaganda being spread by invading Russian forces.
Hryshchenko traveled with his girlfriend and fellow illustrator Olena Staranchuk – once he got the necessary permission to leave Ukraine.
With no civilian flights, they took a long bus ride to Poland for an event there, before flying to Frankfurt.
“We were tired but we have to be there to present Ukraine,” said Hryshchenko, 37. “I would even travel for 20 or 30 hours.”
– ‘Culture as a weapon’ –
Setting up the large Ukraine stand in the cavernous conference center posed a number of challenges, including getting furniture and books overland to Frankfurt.
Getting them out of Kyiv was further complicated by recent Russian missile strikes there, said Sofia Cheliak of the Ukrainian Book Institute, which is part of the Culture Ministry.
Transporting them from Kyiv to Frankfurt took about two days, said Cheliak, who helped organize the stand. “Because of the attacks, everything was closed. It was quite difficult to find a car and organize the whole process.
But the stand is there, with a wide range of Ukrainian books of all kinds. It also has a scene, above which a large red light flashes as air raid sirens go off in Ukraine.
Forty-six Ukrainian publishers will take part in the five-day fair, which opened on Tuesday. Among the many authors present are the famous “punk poet” Serhiy Zhadan.
Ukrainian officials see high-profile events such as the fair as key to fending off Russian attempts to erase the country’s identity.
“Russia uses culture as a weapon,” Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said in a video message to the fair on Tuesday.
He accused Moscow forces of burning Ukrainian books and replacing them with Russian literature. “Russia is fighting against the Ukrainian people and our identity.
– Stepping out of Russia’s shadow –
While Ukrainians headline the fair, Russian state institutions, which usually run their nation’s stand, have been banned. Instead, prominent opponents of President Vladimir Putin were staged.
While Ukraine’s publishing industry initially came to a halt after the Russian invasion in February, it has since come back to life.
Sales may not be what they were before the conflict, but certain types of books are proving popular, Cheliak said: Ukrainian history for example – and how to deal with trauma.
Pictoric sees the fair as a chance to show the world that Ukraine is much more than a war – their exhibits include not only illustrations inspired by the conflict, but others from before the war, covering a range of topics .
“A lot of people didn’t know anything about Ukraine, and now we have a chance to show them what Ukraine is,” said one of the group’s illustrators, Anna Sarvira.
“For a long time we stayed in the shadow of Russia… We are trying to change that.”