Places of memory / Місця пам’яті — новий випуск програми «НЕумовно»

Колективна історична память народу без цих місць буде неповною, фрагментарною і, напевно, не завжди правдивою. І для того, щоб суспільство мало змогу розбудувати здоровіше, ніж власне минуле, майбуття, інституції здорових держав прагнуть формувати притомне ставлення громадян до колективної історії. Героїня програми - аспірантка Інституту європейської етнології Берлінського університету імені Гумбольдта, фахівчиня з культурної антропології Дарія Бутейко досліджує саме культуру пам’яті. Виїхавши колись з України, вона нерішуче, ніби вагаючись, пов’язує власні наукові інтереси все ж таки і з Батьківщиною…

The recent fire in the Notre Dame de Paris seems to have been shown on all the television channels. Social networks exploded in memories of the once happy meetings with the cathedral in Paris as well as in pities that people will not see the authentic Notre Dame de Paris in the future. We condole with the Parisians and the French. Different media spent almost the whole day to tell and broadcast about the shrine in blaze, the singing of religious hymns and La Marseillaise, praying. President joined them. He spoke about a French fate and that everything will be fine, that is the cathedral will be saved. The place of cultural and historical commemoration of the French people will be restored. The collective French memory will not be interrupted.

The places of commemoration are not simple, to be precise, not only specific physical objects. The French historian Pierre Nora, in particular

identifies the places of memory not as a physical space, it can be a book, a play, whatever what can unite around itself a group of people and their memory. According to Nora, it can be a nation.’

Daria Buteiko, PhD student of the Institute of European Ethology at Humboldt University of Berlin, a specialist in cultural anthropology, studies cultural memory. Having left Ukraine, she, as if hesitating, started to tie her research interests with her homeland…

Maybe, my interest in memory culture goes back to those transformational processes that Ukraine was going through in 1990s, when we saw that these old narratives of the Soviet Union disintegrating, new narratives were acquiring new meanings every day. Most important, we witnessed how this interpretation of the past was changing.’

Talking with Daria, I sometimes had to help her find words in her mother tongue. Still, it was pleasant that, despite the obvious barrier, she continued to speak Ukrainian. In particular, when telling about her considerable research experience.

I have also worked in some museums of contemporary history like the Berlin War memorial in Berlin, Dachau museum. I also worked on a documentary that told about the lives of the camp prisoners from Eastern Europe who survived these camps and returned home.’

Galyna Denysenko claims that ‘memory does not exist by itself; it needs symbols that support our memory and help it in recollecting. In order to preserve and share our knowledge of certain events and heroes, there are numerous ‘places of memory and commemoration’. Museums, archives, cemeteries, collections, holidays, anniversaries, treatises, protocols, monuments, temples, associations – witnesses of another era. They exist to establish a connection between the past and the present.’ Collective historical memory without these places will be incomplete, fragmentary and, probably, not always true. Therefore, throughout the world, memorial places form the state historical and cultural institutions, seeking to unite their own citizens in the views on the shared past for the sake of a common future. Germany is no exception to the rule. Different agents in the formation of historical memory help the Germans from the East and West overcome various the mental and ideological differences.

They can be political powers, political parties, they can be communities of victims, they can even be the general public’.

Unfortunately, there is an alleged stereotype that the Ukrainians in the East and West have a remarkably different cultural and historical memory. It has not lost its strength and power in the time of the Russian aggression, in the conditions of temporary occupation of the Ukrainian territories and bearers of collective Ukrainian memory by the enemy. The search for the stories of unity and the ways to tell them in an acceptable manner for the citizens is needed not only by Ukrainians. What united the Germans into one society?

The differences I told about the East and West Germany is more like a historical light, though, of course, Germany is not a single space. What can unite them? – From the background of historical narrative that is the memory of the Holocaust.’

A lot of state fund in Germany is allocated to objects that commemorate the Holocaust. School students visit memorials located in the former concentration camps. The memory of the Holocaust is perpetuated also in the physical space. In Berlin, in particular, such a place of memory of the Holocaust is the stumbling stone memorial.

The stumbling stone is the stone with the name of the victims who were deported from their homes. Just walking down the street, you contact history, it is available even today.’

Once a well-known writer and politician of the Ukrainian People’s Republic Volodymyr Vynnychenko exclaimed that Ukrainian history cannot be read without bromine. That is without sedatives. Lina Kostenko, who is undoubtfully a powerful opinion leader for many contemporary Ukrainians, on the exalted Vynnychenko’s phrase responded with a counter-question: ‘Whose history can be read without bromine?’ The history of Ukrainians, Germans, and other peoples of the world is far from tales of victories and triumphs. These are about dramatic stories of mistakes, sometimes fatal, missed chances, lost generations, vain hopes, seductive illusions, constant searches for the guilty ones. And in order for the society to be able to build a healthier than its own past future as well as healthy institutions thr state seeks to form a humble attitude in citizens towards their collective history.

As a country, Germany feels guilty for the crimes that were once done by the previous generations. I have been living there for 10 years and I feel comfortable in that society. Due to my research interests, I have visited Russia several times lately where I experienced the space where I did not feel comfortable because of the historical narrative story.’

Is the collective historical memory always true? Scientists, in particular German ones, prefer not to talk about the truth. They prefer the term ‘authenticity’, in particular the matching of places of memory with a particular historical era. However…

at the same time there is a different approach to authenticity which is fighting a losing battle in the German science. For example, authenticity can be achieved through experience e.g. a work of art is authentic because it produces a definite effect on us. There are other approaches, but they are not always applicable.’

German historians have a particularly sharp attitude to the Berlin memorial ‘Check Point’. It is incredibly popular with tourists who are absolutely unaware of the realities of life in the Soviet republics or countries of the so-called ‘socialist camp’. Its main story is the escape from the German Democratic Republic. On the site of the once real checkpoint to West Berlin is its copy with the soldiers who pretend to be border guards. To all fugitive visitors they give a stamp that they left East Berlin…

This very approach is criticized by the traditional state-financed research institutions and museums. It is believed that to build a tower from which the soldiers observed and killed those who ran away or to build a barbed-wire fence that would not allow crossing the border is an ignorant approach to history. The emotions the escapee experienced cannot be reproduced and this tower will relate to entertainment rather than to science. ’

When the fire in the Notre Dame de Paris was not completely extinguished, a caricature was placed on the cover of the fresh number of the French satirical magazine Charlie Ebdo. On the head of President Emmanuel Macron there was the sacred place of French collective memory – Notre Dame de Paris – in fire. It is necessary to keep the blows of fate and skillfully respond to its challenges… President Macron has suggested that this was a fate of the French. It seems to me that it is not the fate of the French only. Ukrainian historical memory is formed in a difficult, painful and fragmentary way. In particular, the Holodomor data has a range of number of victims. There is no unanimous attitude towards the Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainians even among the citizens. Daria generally avoided answering the question about the Ukrainian historical memory because she did not research it. However, I managed to learn from her something that is important for me on this subject.

I think that the historical memory must be grounded on the real numbers. They can be found in archives. I think that the real numbers cannot be round in the near future because the archives are in Russia or have been destroyed. But one thing is certain – overestimation and underestimation will target the trust to science and the problem. We are living in the era of post-truth and everyone should do something especially if a person occupies a head position like President of Ukraine. We should be as unbiased as possible without playing on the emotions of people.’

The program was prepared by Pavlo Miroshnychenko and Rostislav Diahilev. The text was read by Pavlo Miroshnychenko.