by Renata Nalysnyk
Sometimes it happens that the most successful projects begin with a great love. This one is exactly like that. This story is about a great dream, friendship, love, creativity, music, culture and art. This is a story about people in a small town in Ukraine, who together have changed everything…
Part 1. Phoenix rises
In the winter of 2013 I returned from Kyiv, where I studied, to my hometown – Ivano-Frankivsk. I was in an academic vacation for health reasons. That period was not one of the best in my life. Actually, nothing really happened around me. My only consolation were my best friends and my boyfriend Andrew, who helped and supported me in everything.
For a long time I had dreamed about my own cultural and artistic centre. But, of course, to start such a project, you need a lot of money, which of course we did not have. In addition, I first had to finish university. So the dream stayed locked in the drawer.
One evening we were sitting beside each other and reading and Andrew suddenly, without interrupting his reading, asked me: “Listen, one of my friends organises a literary evening. The owners of the place, where they hoped to do this event, refused in the last minute. Maybe we can invite them to spend the evening with us?”
Something in my heart happily jumped. At first I thought: Oh, but the apartment is not repaired. It looked too bad for inviting people and that was kind of embarrassing for me. Also two tenants still lived with us.
I told all my arguments aloud and we understood that this is quite real. I agreed finally. I will tell you honestly, I worried a lot about everything.
What if they don’t like the place? Will they be scared and run away? And if something goes wrong?
The first swallow
On March 21, our first event was organized. The name of it was ХоП (Ukrainian Хто пише!), in English WoW (Who writes!). This day is celebrated in Ukraine because of the birthday of the famous poet Lina Kostenko, a leading representative of the Sixtiers. This group was distinguished by their liberal and anti-totalitarian views in the 1960s. So the organisers decided to dedicate this evening to her creativity.
They came and were pleasantly surprised how we had arranged everything.
After half an hour the first guests came. They looked happy and even brought cookies, sweets, tea and coffee. I did not know most of them. Then I realized that they were just a younger generation than me. In my thoughts I called them children, but they were 16-20 years old and I was 23.
The guests enjoyed the opportunity to communicate, get acquainted with each other, share their creativity and simply spend time in a good atmosphere. I looked at them and felt so much happiness inside. That was exactly what I needed.
When the evening was over and everyone gathered to go home, people came to me with burning eyes, full of joy, and asked: “And when will the next Kvartyrnyk be (in Communist times, house concerts held by illegal or banned groups or artists in private apartments)? The modern format is more an alternative form of spending time together for creative youth.”
We looked with my boyfriend at each other and said in unison: “Next week!”
Almost immediately the idea of Phoenix’ room came to us. All the events were conducted in the big room, and we used the name Phoenix, because it was my literary pseudonym from the school years. Anyone could organise their own events. After a few weeks, we said good-bye to the tenants. Because art and culture were more important for us than money.
With time, more and more people came to us. For six months we organised about twenty events, including master classes, film club, concerts and performances with varied subjects.
Here creativity and peace were settled; live music was constantly circulating in the Room: guitars, violin, percussion, bong, sopilka, drymba, etc. There was a lot of joy and laughter, and happy, creative people. Sometimes people appeared from other cities especially for our events. Once in my apartment there were more than fifty people. Some people climbed through the windows from outside, because of the sounds of great music. And we had never had a drop of alcohol. We just did not need it.
I constantly asked myself: what attracted these people to our Room? Exactly to such a format? Why did they have so much excitement and desire to create? Then they confessed to me that here they felt like home, in safety, here all are friends. And you can escape from the monotony of everyday life. I began to feel great responsibility for what was going on.
What is success?
Very quickly and unexpectedly for us, we became popular. We did not have any outdoor advertising, we did not invest money. However, sometimes people themselves threw money into a jar, because of gratitude and because they wanted to support. Then the local newspapers, bloggers, visitors on social pages started to write about us.
One day we even were invited for an interview at the radio. I understood that if you have a great, unattainable dream, you should not wait until all the possibilities for it have appeared. You can start just here and now, do little steps towards the realisation of your dream. This will lead you to something great. It will change you and everyone around. It will give you the whole world!
From our Phoenix`s Room has grown a whole generation of creative young people, as well as many successful art-projects. Want to join?
Renata Nalysnyk, Ukraine, has graduated in culture studies and worked as a volunteer coordinator on art and music festivals and PR manager in non-governmental organisations. During 2017 she was a European Voluntary Service volunteer at Lecti / IBI in Bulgaria.
(c) Renata Nalysnyk, text and photos 2017