Graphic Novel Project: Interviews are becoming stories

In the war in East Ukraine already more than 10,000 people have lost their lives. Over 200,000 children need psychological treatment in order to cope with the dramatic changes in living conditions and the associated trauma they are suffering. Moreover there is too little information about the difficulties and challenges of people living in the conflict area, which makes it difficult to imagine this war.

This is what our soon to be published Graphic Novel aims to do. At the end of July the artists Serhii Zakharov and Sophia Runova presented their drawings in Kiev. For the meeting, all the participants of the project “Narrating the conflict” came together from all across Ukraine.

Last project meeting in Kyiv

The illustrator Sophia Runova and the artist Serhii Zakharov have been part of the project group from the very beginning. They have spent a lot of time reading the narrative interviews and have translated the stories that were developed during the first two workshops into pictures.

The comic strips tell how the nine interviewed people suffered violence and human rights violations. Project Manager and Historian Imke Hansen considers the Graphic Novel to be a medium through which to issues that are difficult to express can be depicted. In this way wordlessness and silence can be overcome. The strength of the stories is further observed through their authenticity: “We don’t invent anything, we don’t dictate topics. We just work with what people who are touched by war have told us. Moreover we haven’t tried to choose particularly dramatic fates.”

First drafts of the graphic novel

Sophia Runova agrees with the great potential which lies in the medium: “I hope that the novel will make people take the conflict more personally, and that they will not be satisfied anymore with the simplified and generalized images in the news.” Working on the novel is not always easy since it is impossible to stay detached from the stories. All these stories are happening now and in my country.”

Artist Sophia Runova

The complexity of the conflict and its influence on the daily life of Ukrainians also became evident within the project group. Again and again controversial discussions arose. Especially the topic of nationalism and the question as to who in this conflict has the power to define and create “facts” have been intensively discussed. For example: Should the proclamation of the “independent republics” be mentioned as an event or would it give indirectly legitimacy to the actors? The debates on these questions have not been harmonious. Nonetheless debating and exchanging opinions is an important step towards working on the conflict within society.

Lively discussions

In September the Graphic Novel will go to press and in October it will be presented at MitOst-Festival in Frankfurt (Oder) for the first time. This will be followed by presentations in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities, as well as in Berlin in December. In this way we can advertise the novel and talk with people who are interested in the medium and its potential future applications. We will keep you updated about follow-up projects in 2018 on our website.

The project is financed by the German Foreign Office and supported by the Ukraine-Calling-Programme of the Europa-University Viadrina, the Robert Bosch Foundation and the German Association of Researchers of Ukraine.

Project manager: Imke Hansen, imke.hansen[at]lphr.org
Coordination: Anne Reis, anne.reis[at]lphr.org

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