People go to art through pain, what made you write? Where did so much power come from? What has shaken you in your life?
“It’s probably more about adults after all. For me, creativity is about sharing joy, or at least hope. Of course, the stories themselves can be sad in their own way, but that’s exactly what I want to give people – hope for the best. I’ve never really thought about my powers, to be honest. I think there are a lot of things that help you keep going, even if you are ready to give up and stop.”
What do you want to say with your creativity and to those it reaches?
“You are probably right, people really go to art through pain, but I was pushed to this by someone else’s pain. I love it when people smile, and now smiles on the faces of passers-by are rare. Everyone goes about their own business, everyone is in a hurry somewhere, worried about something and forget about the moments. Since childhood, my mother, brother, and I tried to watch the sunset every evening. It is clear that there is not always the time, desire, suitable weather, and many more things – some important and some not so much. But each such sunset is unique, it will not happen again and it is worthy of a smile. This, I think, and my stories are a reminder that it is easy to frown or be upset, but do not forget that this is not the most important thing in life and there are many other things that are bright and inspiring. And even if everything falls out of hand, you can try to find the strength to fix everything. That’s why I can’t say that I write only for children or only for adults.”
How does war change people, and why? What does it reveal in people?
“It’s a complex issue. All people are different, so they probably change in different ways. In 2018, the Gorky library hosted an exhibition of works by student artists dedicated to the war in Donbass. I was at this exhibition with my brother and mother. What I remember most of all that day is not even the paintings themselves, but the moment when my mother, standing at one of the works, burst into tears. For the first time in years. And I just stood there and didn’t know what to say or do. I still don’t know. I think that war reveals in people not some feeling or quality, but the soul. In ordinary life, it is somewhere inside and is safe, but here, in war, it’s another life and another world, even if it is a little bit like the usual one for everyone. Here the soul is not hidden, here it is outside and protects the person, but becomes defenceless itself. I think that’s why people in war are capable of both strong actions and at the same time are so fragile.”
What do you think about people on the other side [living on Ukrainian-controlled territory – ed]? What are they?
“People are the same everywhere, aren’t they? They are not changed by imaginary boundaries, but by beliefs. And after that, the imaginary division becomes real, bringing misunderstanding and hostility. I don’t hate them. I just want adults to understand what their decisions lead to and learn to take responsibility for it. It doesn’t seem fair. At 11 years old, I am taught that I can do whatever I want, but I am also responsible for my own actions, and I do not run to my parents with accusations and screaming for help every time I mess up. And some adults can’t even admit their mistakes, let alone correct them.”
You have very good stories and work. Where do you find kindness?
“In a special store☺ I try to see it in the world around me, in the way I like it. But I realised that any creativity is not only what you create, but also what others see in it. So it’s a little strange: sometimes people almost completely change the meaning of what they read, adjusting everything to themselves, finding something completely new. In fact, it is very interesting and allows you to understand what kind of person you are looking at. It turns out that my fairy tales are not so much my thoughts and moods as they are the thoughts and moods of the reader. Unless, perhaps, for some reason they are hidden from others and almost forgotten.”
Which people do you like and which do you not like? Do you feel good and false people?
“I love my loved ones, and I’m just trying to be nice to the rest of them. Towards all. It is clear that so far I am often mistaken about people. To understand and feel who is in front of you, you can only communicate with a person. I have a friend who always keeps his promises and has not deceived me once, even in small things. But there are not many people who are responsible for their words. I also don’t like being flattered. This is not only unfair, but also does not allow you to see and correct your mistakes in time, if there are any.”
If you had one wish, what would it be?
“Well, it’s not fair, even the golden one fulfilled three wishes☺ Of course, so that the war would end faster. Sergey Galanin, whom I recently met on Facebook, has a song called ‘Paradise’ and there’s a line: ‘Once again, paradise is full of children – they are responsible for adults.’ I would like it so that every time adults make decisions, they remember these lines.”
Do you think art can reconcile people and end the war?
“I said earlier that art is what people want to see. I’m afraid no art of reconciliation can help. Creativity can change and make peace only if people themselves want to change and come to peace with someone. It can become something that will give you the strength and confidence to take the first step on this path, I consider it a magic kick to give yourself acceleration. But if a person does not want to go, then art will not change anything.”
Do you want to come to Kiev and walk around the city?
“Yeah, sure, I like to travel. I have read a lot about Kiev and would like to see it in-person, because it is a completely different feeling to read about something and really see it in real life, and not in your own imagination. But I’m afraid it won’t be for a long time. Because of my participation in the festival ‘Stars over Donbass’ I am not sure that I can come to Kiev without problems. At least, adult participants of the festival were definitely included in the list of ‘Mirotvorets‘, I don’t know about myself.”
Do you think that people who want war or are indifferent to it are capable of good art?
“To be honest, I don’t know what is good or bad art and who decides. Art is about personal experiences and thoughts, right? Therefore, everyone determines for themselves what is good and what is bad, and it turns out that it is not just a matter of political beliefs. If the word ‘good’ meant ‘fine’, then it is unlikely. If a person wants someone to die, and war is death, then it is unlikely that this person can be called good and what they do will show their hatred for others or hypocrisy in some cases. Although, I think there are many who will not see anything wrong with this.”
Where would you most like to visit and with whom?
_“I like to travel, so I would like to go everywhere. I would like to go to the Russian city of Rybinsk, where my friend, the wonderful musician Mitya Kuznetsov, lives. Yes, many places. A friend of my mother, whom we have not seen for a long time, because she can not come to us, and we to her, lives in Berdyansk. The world itself is so huge and everywhere you can find something interesting. Even your hometown, which you seem to know like the back of your hand, can sometimes be a great surprise if you go to the local history museum. Of course, traveling is best with those you love. For me, it’s family.”_
You have so many adult friends, but do you have friends of your own age?
“Yes, I’m an ordinary person. I have classmates, some of whom I am friends with. Friends in training, with whom you hug after every fight on the taekwondo mat, because you can not mix a confrontation in sports and real life. We are rivals only in battle, but not enemies in life. On the Internet, I often communicate with my peers/friends from other cities.”
What do you want to say to the Ukrainians who are on the other side of the demarcation line?
“I do not like to divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘those’ and ‘these’. Perhaps I would like to wish for peace rather than say so much. For all of us. And happiness.”
If you were speaking at the UN, what would you say to the world?
“I don’t think they’ll let me in there. But if this suddenly happened, I would not blame anyone, but would ask them to end this whole nightmare in Donbass.”
What is the most important thing in this life? What do you think?
“Oh, I’ve never even been asked about that, except in social studies. For me, this is family, the ability to be yourself, the ability to hear others. Everyone decides what is important to them. That’s right! The most important thing is to be able to decide for yourself what is important to you and what is not.”
LPR Resident Faina Savenkova: As Long as the Story Is Told, the World Lives in Hope
“Alive”: War in Donbass as Told by an 11-Year-Old Girl
Interview conducted by Denis Zharkikh