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Donbas and Civilians BLOG of Natalia Yemchenko, a member of the Supervisory Board of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation


Once a year, the European Foundation Centre (EFC), the largest European philanthropists’ organization, gathers its members. Once a year, the main topic is chosen. As a rule, it is the main challenge for the European (and not only) philanthropy. The main point of pain. What should be in focus And hundreds of representatives of the charitable sector and NGOs seek for solutions in discussions for three days.

This year, at the conference in Brussels, the key topic was the reduction of space for civil society institutions and the role of culture in development of society and solution of humanitarian problems. For the first time in my memory, the representatives of foundations, donor organizations and volunteer associations discussed culture rather than the issues of fundraising or individual humanitarian problems. Culture as a safe space for dialogue, for unification, for finding solutions to the greatest challenges. Culture as an instrument. Culture as a common place, as a universal language. Culture as a core, as a basis, as a necessary, though insufficient, condition for the success of civil society.

Culture matters means culture is important. It is the motto of the congress. Culture matters is one of the main laws of the XXI century that have not been learned yet. Commandment. MAXIMA.

I believe that culture is a universal creative weapon. I believe that the power of this weapon is almost unlimited. I believe that for Ukraine and its successful future the issue of culture is not just relevant, it is critical. Culture of dialogue, culture of compromise, culture of citizenship, culture of cities and culture of townspeople. Culture of unification. Culture of growth (indeed, growth is one of the cultural phenomena).

Culture - as a union of people. One hundred percent hit with a message for us, the people who are going through the fourth year of the war and are looking for the answer to the question: what should be the basis for building the common future?

The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation has been providing assistance to the peaceful population of Donbass since the first days of the armed hostilities, where the UN reported about 4.5 million people who suffered as a result of the armed conflict. Until March 2017 - on both sides of the line of contact.

Everyone we met and helped over the years are different people. Everyone is equally important to us. They are not pallid statistics. They is more than 1,000,000 people. Everyone has his own story, his testimony of an undeclared war. The only way to preserve, carry through the time their memory, their experience - the way of working in the field of culture. Literature, photography, cinematography, art, theater, music.

After four years of war, four years of work of the Akhmetov Humanitarian Headquarters in the Donbass, after a million of the Peaceful stories in this war, we know for sure: these stories should be spoken, heard, preserved, lived, and understood. They should be told. And better yet shown. Misunderstanding between people is also due to the fact that it is painful for one to speak, and it is unbearable for another to listen.

Thus, the idea of ​​the project «Donbas and Civilians» started up in  the Akhmetov Foundation. The project is compressed into a photobook "Donbass and the Peaceful". 11 stories of different people of the military Donbass.

The book is not a requiem, but an anthem, an ode. Ode to life, joy, hope. The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation presented it in spring and now brought it to the conference of the European Foundation Center and presented in the panel "The Importance of Culture: Civil Society and Democratic Dialogue in Central and Eastern Europe".

And suddenly it turned out that little is known about our war in Europe. And suddenly it turned out that the book of the children and the elderly of the war is the best way to tell about the horror of the war and the hope for peace. And suddenly it turned out that the stories of the Peaceful from the Donbass are so prominent that they do not need many additional official words. And suddenly it turned out that really Culture matters. That Culture works. That Culture wins.

«Donbas and Civilians». See. Know. Help. Right now it is so.