The concept of the Dark Paradise project is based on the manifestations of life in Chornobyl zone after 35 years of devastation and destruction. After all, the abandoned lands have revived and carry their own unique code.

Viewers will feel the energy of life of Chornobyl region of the past and present, bypassing the bitter page of the tragedy. Chornobyl is an amazing place, where nature is innocently rampant, and people, who have returned to their homes, preserve the traditions of everyday life of this region. Our Atlantis — Chornobyl Polissia has been preserved by the supportive work of the participants of the historical and ethnographic expedition in the radioactively contaminated territory. As the result of 30 years of work, a huge museum and archival collections have been formed, among them there are no small things, every detail of this cultural environment is important.

The collected artifacts, information and personal interviews with the residents of Chornobyl region were transformed into a source of inspiration for artists, and Chornobyl became a kind of Mecca for artists.

The exhibition consists of 12 parts, which include archival documents, video/audio materials, photographs, video installations, paintings and objects of decorative and applied arts — all works and objects related to the history of the special life of the region.

The Flower of Dark Paradise, which depicts daffodils blooming next to abandoned houses in Chornobyl zone, embodies the idea of the concept and has become the symbol of the exhibition. Flowers can be seen near the collapsing houses, through the destroyed ones nearby — bright flowers, fresh as the breath of life, as a message and reminder to all, who will come, about the victory of nature, life. This is a picturesque work of project participant Ihor Rudenia, a hermit artist, who created his own little world in an abandoned village of the affected territory.

"Polissia covers a fifth of the territory of Ukraine — north of Kyiv, between Uzh, Prypiat and Dnipro rivers, stretching all the way to Belarus — these lands have long been famous for their picturesque nature, river fish fishing and a variety of animal and bird populations. Impenetrable swamps and meadows of Polissia saved their inhabitants from enemies and invaders — the region flourished for thousands of years, enriching every inhabitant of this paradise corner of the Earth with gifts of nature. But, in 1986, a ruthless and hitherto unknown enemy covered most of the Land with a radioactive cloud — a demon escaped from the reactor of Chornobyl nuclear power plant, ruthlessly taking the lives, dreams and homes of residents of Prypiat. Sadness, emptiness and loneliness settled in the cities and villages of Polissia. However, animals and plants did not bow down to the enemy — step by step they continued to fight for their own and human lives. Trouble doesn't come alone. Another dangerous enemy is the bureaucrats and their hatred of everything human and sincere: negligence, prohibitions, corruption and fires destroy villages, forests and fields, the population of wild animals, the cultural heritage of the region, and its soul — squatters. The land does not belong to people — people belong to the land.
The paradise, covered by the darkness of human nihilism, exists — there is life here, and one day, a frightened animal seeking shelter from the weather will enter a leaning hut with peeling walls and broken windows, where vegetation has already sprouted from the floor. Its gaze will rest on the yellowed black-and-white photo: "When will you be back? We are waiting for you, people!".
Ihor Rudenia (Chornobyl zone, March 2021)
Daffodils
Author: Ihor Rudenia
Painting
2015

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Iconostases
Author: ZINAIDA
Installation
Rushnyks, light box
2021
The family altar of unity with the heavenly world is an icon corner with images of holy patrons, framed with floral embroidered or ornamental woven rushnyks for the icons, fragrant potions, flowers and it is a traditional element that protected house and family.
When people were leaving their homes due to forced relocation, at least one icon was left to protect the house. There is the corner is in every abandoned house in the Chornobyl zone.
Rushnyk is a traditional decoration of the home, perhaps because it is embroidered with the flowers, the most beautiful things that the human eye enjoys in the world.
Zinaida's installation represents the icon of light instead of painted icons as an invitation to the paradise and the light of life as well as picturesque, simple, natural flowers from ZINAIDA and Igor Rudenya's art works are used on the rushnyk instead of traditional embroidery.
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Bread. Revival
Author of the idea: ZINAIDA
Author of the bread: Oksana Barabash, master of ceremonial bread, researcher of traditions, expert of natural organic nutrition
Consultant: Olena Boryak, Ph. D (History), ethnologist
Installation
2021
The essence of the people is evinced by its worldview values, expressed in attributes. Bread for Ukrainians, as a nation that generated from grain production, is a defining spiritual guideline and synchronizer in material life. Bread. Revival unites Olena Boryak's research, living ethnography and sensitive reflection of the master of ceremonial bread Oksana Barabash. The master managed to feel the values and transformed ancient knowledge into the modernity.

Bread accompanies Ukrainians from birth to death - granny's porridge and pies for birth, a wedding loaf, memorial colivo and a piece of grievous hot bread, the steam of which was treated ed to the souls of the dead. There are also Christmas didukh and kutia, the tradition of leaving a piece of bread at the harvesting place, the ceremony of showering the newlyweds with grain, meeting or seeing off - bread is everywhere. Researchers have described the forms and meanings of baked bread, a countless number of which our people know. Baking bread is a special process and a special state of a person who puts the power of his thoughts into it. The purpose of bread is not only to feed, but also to accompany, see off, meet, protect, to be a symbol of life itself, fertility, continuation.

Bread. Revival – is Oksana Barabash's embodiment of all guises of bread that was baked for the rites of passage: birth, wedding and death. After all, those what happened on the Chernobyl land destroyed the usual course of these events. Because of pain and fear, death remained unacceptable, and the land does not know birth any more. The baked loaf is basing on the essence of the earth, white and black grain, morning spring water, salt, honey, coriander (acceptance), flax (unity), nettle (heals regret) and wormwood (spirit of Chernobyl). 12 birds around the loaf – is the connection between the world of the living and the world of ancestors, they also symbolize flow of the year, because from spring to spring people are born and die, and there are 10 flower rosettes (so that each soul is in a pair) made of black, white and gray dough – the spirit, soul and body. The two-braided plait on the loaf represents the union of male and female family lines at the wedding, the tree-braided plait represents the trinity of time past-present-future. The wheat spike in the center represents food and prosperity on the land and in families. Spirals symbolize the unity with our descendants to continue life on the land.

This loaf was shared with the residents of the Chornobyl zone, who sincerely believe in the revival of their land.

Cooking of the Bread of Revival – is a process of harmonization of space through the spiritual and material worlds. For cooking of the Bread of Revival, an intention and a blessing are given:

Єднання та прийняття, повага та визнання. Духовного та Матеріального.
Чоловічого та Жіночої енергій. Є радість і краса жити. Земне життя. Шанувати Предків, наші Роди. Шанувати мить та Вічність. Благословляти своє Життя та передати віру, силу та любов нащадкам. Єднання минулого. Настояного. Майбутнього. Відродження радості та свободи. Життя. Жити. Для приготування. Приймаю Благословення Вищих сил і Благословляю весь процес приготування. Особливий одяг. Воскові свічки. Піст. Молитва.Під намір готується простір кухні. Обираються цільні зерна, для приготування власноруч борошна на закваску та тісто. Обираються трави.
Ранкова джерельна вода. Сіль та мед. Особлива відповідальність за емоції при приготуванні, довіра, радість і гармонічний святковий стан.
Закваска вистоюється 3 години.Тісто заміщується і вистоюється 6 годин.
Формування тіста. У тихому стані всходження 2 години та випікання 1,5 години.
Як народження, дозрівання короваю-обрядового Хліба Відродження 3 години. Частування.
Ламати руками. З вдячністю всім, хто посадив, зібрав, приготував. З вдячністю собі за вибір Життя та нашого часу втілення. З вдячністю Роду та Предкам. З вдячністю Природі й Матінці Землі. З вдячністю всім, Хто Був, Хто Є. І з вдячністю, Хто прийде після нас. Після споживання, такий хліб коровай зцілює природньо тіло та Душу. Дарує силу та спокій. Повертає та розкриває віру.
Зцілює страхи. Надихає жити своє життя.
З любов'ю до Природи,
Оксана Барабаш

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Tail of the DARK PARADISE from Swamp Monster
Ihor Rudenia
Painting
2006-2021
Ihor Rudenia, the artist, creates hyper-realistic paintings in Chornobyl zone.

He was born to the family of serviceman in 1983. He graduated from school with gold medal and received higher economic education. In 2004 he lost faith in development of human relationships and become a hermit. Since 2005 he has been living in Chornobyl zone, in Ladyzhychi village in full autonomy among the swamps, where there is no people, only wild nature. He started painting in 2006.

Ihor Rudenia created his first works on old sheets with gouache paints without priming. He used frames he found or Soviet folding-beds to make frames. Subsequently, the artist began to make frames himself from oak planks, barrels, red vines that grew in the swamps near the house.

Now Ihor creates his paintings using gouache and acrylic paint on cotton fabrics also he uses oil paint on hand-woven linen canvases. The author writes the title of the painting or the philosophical text in verse form on the back of the painting. He covers the completed works with varnish to protect the paint from moisture, dust and fumes. Today his creative work is more than 70 paintings: "In the works, there is no human world, in some places there are remnants of civilization that are absorbed by the green world and solitude. A world, where there is neither good nor evil, a world, where there is one truth and the unshakable laws of nature and the universe, a world that goes to the stars and carries the spark of life for rebirth".
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House (from the Architecture of Chornobyl series)
Author of the photo: Valerian Skibinskyi
Photo
1998
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Shchaslyvi (Blessed) Installation
The State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Technogenic Disasters
Installation
Photo, audio 2021

Authors of photos: Rostyslav Omelyashko, Mykola Seminoh, Valerian Skibinsky, Vladyslav Tsuman, Yaroslav Myshanych, Vasyl Pavlun, Olena Kosinska, Tetyana Tregubova, Oleksandra Bogonis, Roman Radovych, Yaroslav Taras, Andriy Shkarban, Nadiya Borenko, Oleg Trebukh
Audio recordings: Natalka Leshchenko, 2016
The photos from the archive 1994-2019
The first part of the installation presents the photos depicting sentimental and blessed people with a strong core — it was this core that gave these people the strength to make the decision to return to their native land. This was a very bold step, because the buildings of deserted settlements are falling to pieces more every year, the territory is overgrown with thickets and becomes a shelter for wild animals. But residents of the Chornobyl region believe that they are at home and this is want counts.

The second part of Shchaslyvi (Blessed) Installation consists of materials that were found in abandoned dwellings of Chornobyl area during expeditions organized by employees of the SSCPCHTD — these are postcards and photo archives of residents of the exclusion zone. The collected photos show happy people of different ages, their friends, families, special family events and peaceful life before Chornobyl accident.

Perhaps viewers, who visit the online exhibition, will recognize their loved ones in these photos.

Viewing the photos presented in the installation, you can hear fragments of recordings of conversations with people from Chornobyl zone: of Lubianka, Kupuvate, Otashiv, Opachychi villages and Chornobyl. Unfortunately, many of them are no longer with us.

Fragments of recordings:

"Radiation, what radiation? We were born here, my children grew up on this land. If it weren't for this land, we would have all died in that city long ago."

"It hurts the residents of Chornobyl very deeply that they call our native land the exclusion zone. I, native resident of Chornobyl, perceive this land the same as it was 50 years ago. This is my city, this is my land, this is my temple, this is Ukraine. This is where our grandfathers and great-grandfathers lived."

"Hey, I kept a cow till I was seventy-five, and a big pig too. Here they lived. See how many barns I have, as many as one can wish. So I had a pig and a cow and milk from that cow… and I saw no radiation."

"I said: I'm not going anywhere. You have no right to touch me! [...] Here our parents are buried, their graves, our ancestors, their graves, and we will live here until the end of our lives."

"Oh! Yes, homeland! Leave own homeland?! Who wants to leave their homeland? Well, I came to my house and lived in my house. [...] and now I live in my house, that is what I need. I'm my own person here. I walk around the town, I keep on walking. I don't want to go to the apartment blocks. I don't want to... I don't want to see the apartment blocks."

"And I choose the homeland, because homeland is not a replaceable person, can you replace my mother? No you can't. And I don't replace my homeland. I wouldn't go anywhere, even if they would have shot me here — and I wouldn't have gone, that's all. Even if they would come shoot me — and I would say, I would kill someone and go to prison, because I have not yet been in prison. I was in no prison, that's all, my darlings."

"No. I think it's lots of people here. I'll come out and sit here — it's quiet now, but in the spring they chirp a lot, yes the nightingales and other birds…And I sit here, asking: Oh, dear Lord, Lord, why did they make us move? It's so nice here. Yes. And that is what I think, that is my opinion. I have it here…I always plant flowers... And I'm already so sick, so restless already... It's already eight-six years, my dear... To think about it...[...] it so nice to walk on earth barefoot
... so nice. There, I planted some potatoes for myself here. I don't (regret it), my daughter, I'm very weak, that's how I live, sometimes I have headaches and here my lower back hurts and my legs hurt so much, but little by little I move."

"I really want it for the land to restore, for it to be all right here. It is my wish, as I am a native resident, my great-grandfather, grandfather father lived here and I been here for two eights. Homeland is homeland."

"Well, I know that I can't leave it all, I can't forget it, it's all dear to heart. Every path, every one of them... Where you lived, where you went, where you worked — it's all very, very dear to heart, and it's all very, very painful today."

"Well, that how it goes, it's like this picture, as storks flew, and here it exploded — they burned their wings and fell. And then this picture, they are already — there the sun rises, and so many years have passed, thirty years, and they are already wings... they came alive. So the things are, as I gather it, the things are that you can live here, the life is slowly returning to these lands. The life comes back to the zone. This is how I imagine that storks came alive and are flying back, returning to Chornobyl, returning life to this land. I think so. And I know that it will be so."

"I, myself, am from Siberia, and he lives in Kyiv. He came here, he lives, and his family is here, It's nice... [...] I say: "What is this homeland?" − "What is it about homeland?". I say: "Yes, but do not lie to me, do not lie to yourself. How long have you lived here? You have lived here for twenty years – your childhood." – "Yes I lived here, and twenty years have passed since I moved out." – "And now answer me: if you dream, what do you dream about?" and he fell silent. "No say I You tell me the truth." And he says: "I dream about homeland". So you dream about where you lived in childhood – your homeland. So am I, wherever I am or whatever, I dream about Atashev (now Chornobyl Exclusion Zone – N. L.). This whole area. And this is important, this is very important. Here, what is it in the human body?"

(residents of Chornobyl Zone)

"Most of them are elderly people, who no longer travel far from their homes. Their narratives are quite life-affirming, vividly marked by a complete disregard for radiation and a strong attachment to the place of residence, unwillingness to leave the places they have been living for long time in. Local residents are dismissive of radiation and the fear of it by newcomers, therefore, there can be no refusal of a hospitable offer to share a meal with the hosts. All products are of local origin: meat, vegetables, fish, mushrooms, berries. In this situation, everyone can act at their own discretion, but recording of materials requires trust between the recorder and the informant. It should be remembered that the refusal of meal in a Ukrainian village is a reason for the host to be offended; that is an evidence of the archaic custom of treating the guest. "Squatters", or, more precisely, "returnees"– which, perhaps, does not sound so offensive to people, who have returned to their own home – often faced with fear and disgust, which is an unpleasant situation for them. Their choice of work and their contacts in public places were restricted as they were considered "infected" and "Chornobyl victims". More than once, these situations are confrontational, therefore, to distance yourself from the offer of a joint meal and even with local moonshine is a risk for full communication between the recorder and the informant. The Small Homeland, and this is how we understand the terms "home" and "homeland" used by the residents of Polissia, is one of the important factors that reflect self-identity, along with language, traditions, ideas, folklore and other social practices."

Natalka Leshchenko, Researcher of narratives about Chornobyl disaster
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Rooted
ZINAIDA
Video Series
"The things we can do for others is only a small part of the contribution to changing the world for the better."

The Rooted project is based on rare documentary footage of the daily life of residents of the exclusion zone and is designed to draw attention to the disappearing culture of Chornobyl Polissia. The video contains stories, confessions and reflections of residents of the region.

In 2017, the artist inspired friends, folklorists and volunteers to create a tradition of caroling in the exclusion zone and, having received the full support of employees of the State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Technogenic Disasters, began to come to the Chornobyl region. The tradition of visiting residents of this region on the Feast of St. Basyl has become widely publicized and attracts more and more like-minded people. Each trip contributes to the exchange of emotions, exploration and archiving of the traditions of the Chornobyl Polissia, which are still preserved thanks to the few inhabitants of these territories.

"Caroling among friends in the capital, where a sense of security and prosperity do not contribute to a deep perception of this tradition, usually sounds in the background — the meaning of carols is not listened to. This is not the feedback that our caroling group expected, so we spontaneously came up with the idea to go to Chornobyl. Our arrival was unexpected for the residents of Chornobyl zone, because it is known for certain that it is very difficult to get into the closed territory. The eyes of the residents shone with happiness from the meeting, carols and shchedrivky were genuinely sung — the local people remember traditions well and are deeply rooted to their land."

Last year, references to Chornobyl accident and its catastrophic consequences for humanity would have lost their relevance against the background of information about the coronavirus epidemic, if not for the fires in Chornobyl forests and smoke that covered most regions of central Ukraine and in particular Kyiv. Therefore, in order to draw public attention to the consequences of the tragedy, for the first time, the artist ZINAIDA presented two videos from the project "Rooted" to the general public in 2020.
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Natives
Serhii Mikhalchuk
Photo
2021
The natives of Chornobyl Polissya live on the territory with a special status. They know the price of unity with their homeland. It is a conscious choice not to leave your home despite the circumstances and prohibitions. Without fear or prejudice, they manage their households: chopping firewood, carrying water, cultivating the land, caring the house, meeting the car shop and retirement pay once a month, baking Easter cakes and pancakes for calendar holidays, believing in God, their own powers and the forces of nature. They are full of energy, because they absorb it from everywhere, from the process of interaction with the surrounding space.

This is a series of photos created during a visit to residents in the Chornobyl zone. This project is about an unconditional love for life and the ability to share this feeling with everyone who steps on the sill plate of their home. These people, as no one else, can tell about the life with their own faces, even the actions that they take in everyday life and are a declaration of life itself. They believe in the revival of their land above anything else.
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And quiet, quiet
Author: PlesoFolkArt
Video
2020
Wormwood Star
Authors: Mykola Semynoh, Rostyslav Omeliashko
Installation
Photo
2009
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Rescuers of Ukrainian Atlantis
Archive of the State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Man-Made Disasters
Authors of photos: Rostyslav Omelyashko, Mykola Seminoh, Valerian Skibinsky, Vladyslav Tsuman, Yaroslav Myshanych, Vasyl Pavlun, Olena Kosinska, Tetyana Tregubova, Oleksandra Bogonis, Roman Radovych, Yaroslav Taras, Andriy Shkarban, Nadiya Borenko, Oleg Trebukh
Photo
1994–2016
The photos show reportage illustrations of the work of the historical and ethnographic expedition of the State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Man-Made Disasters in the Territories Affected by the Consequences of the Chornobyl Accident. During 30 years, the expedition has been working to save the cultural heritage of Polissya region. The photos are arranged in chronological order from 1994 to the present. The work of ethnographers and archaeologists, the most interesting finds, communication with local residents is shown on them.

As a result of the Chernobyl catastrophe, the entire continent of Ukrainian spiritual life was absorbed as the mythical Atlantis by the radioactive dead zone where civilization stopped. More than 170 Polissyan villages and towns with their unique cultural and historical face, monuments of antiquity and talented works of contemporaries have turned into landfills of radioactive waste were doomed to gradual self-destruction and looting by marauders. Hundreds of other settlements in Polissya were hit by a radionuclide cloud. The indigenous people of the Chornobyl region were scattered around the world, losing the most precious thing - the connection with the native spiritual environment in which they grew up and from which they organically adopted the language of their parents and deep cultural traditions.

The historical memory of this unique territory could have been lost forever, if not for the sense of nationhood of a group of enthusiasts (R. Omelyashko, G. Honcharenko, O. Nezhiviy) and the active participation of poetess Lina Kostenko, who raised this issue and achieved its solution at the state level.

In 1991, a Historical and Cultural Expedition was formed within the structure of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and Protection of the Population from the Consequences of the Chornobyl Accident, which organized scientists from academic institutes, educational institutions and museums to save the spiritual heritage of the affected region. Since 2001, the entire complex of rescue operations has been taken over by the Center for Protection of Cultural Heritage from Emergencies, which in 2007 was reorganized into the State Scientific Center for Protection of Cultural Heritage from Man-Made Disasters, which is now subordinated to the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management.

Thanks to the tireless research work by many scientists, almost 30 years of comprehensive historical and ethnographic research have covered 686 affected Polissyan villages (including 161 villages in evacuation zones, 525 settlements in other areas of radioactive contamination), as well as 97 compact settlements of migrants. The program of inventory survey of immovable monuments of history and culture surveyed about 500 settlements, during that more than 1000 historical and cultural sites were inventoried. Archaeological excavations in the exclusion zone have revealed 50 new monuments. In particular, the discovery of the settlement of the annalistic Chernobyl of the XI-XIII centuries (which was first mentioned in 1193) became sensational. As evidenced by numerous artifacts, already in the tenth century there was a rural settlement, which in the following centuries grew into a medieval city, which served as a kind of watchtower on the Route from the Varangians to the Greeks. Excavations at the ancient settlement continue to this day.

Today the museum-archival collection of the Center concentrates more than 60 thousand ethnographic and archeological objects of museum significance, 175 thousand photo documents, 7.5 thousand hours of audio and video recordings with folklore and ethnographic information and 21 thousand archival paper documents. More than 30 scientific and popular science publications, 5 CDs with traditional music of Polissya, 18 ethnographic and archeological exhibitions were organized on the basis of field research materials.

The collected museum-archival collection is already a unique scientific and general cultural achievement, as in its entirety it provides a comprehensive reconstruction of the lost cultural and historical environment and in the future will serve as a knowledge base about the folk culture of Chornobyl Polissya.
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The World Entered the House through the Window and Was There
Author of photos: Vladyslav Tsuman
Installation
Photo, video
2008
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Bortnytsvo (Wild-honey farming)
Archive of the State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Man-Made Disasters
The authors of the expeditions: Rostislav Omelyashko, Mykola Seminoh, Valerian Skibinsky, Vladislav Tsuman, Yaroslav Myshanych, Vasyl Pavlun, Olena Kosinska, Tetyana Tregubova, Oleksandra Bogonis, Roman Radovych, Yaroslav Taras, Andriy Shkarban, Nadiya Borenko
Photo, 1994-2013
Photo exhibition that includes apicultural logs taken from Chornobyl zone, and reportage photos of Bortnytsvo craft from the expedition archives of the State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Technogenic Disasters (DNTSKSTK).

Bortnytsvo (Wild-honey farming) is one of the most archaic manifestations of traditional husbandry — the procurement of honey from wild bees. The person takes care of bees in their natural environment. The system of knowledge and beliefs about bee care has been passed down from generation to generation, since ancient times. It is known that Bortnytsvo rights were separately defined in Russka Pravda in the times of Kyivska Rus, they defined strict liability for violation of articles. Wild honeybees are the part of an ecosystem of Polissia and they are still around thanks to Bortniks (people, who engage in Bortnytsvo).

The photos show the process of making an apicultural log, its installation on a tree, the ritual of procuring of the first honey, the method of climbing a tree using a climbing rod (zhen, lesivo), as well as the left apicultural logs in the exclusion zone.

At the end of the twentieth century, one of the last clusters, where Bortnytsvo was preserved, were the territories affected by Chornobyl accident in 1986. Hundreds of unkempt apicultural logs remained in the woods. Some of them are incredibly large, standing on old oak trees, even in cemeteries. Many Borts (apicultural logs) remained in the resettled yards of residents of Polissia. The people of Chornobyl region loved and revered bees for a long time, but now the connection is lost — the logs are now empty without a person attending to them. The expedition of the State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Technogenic Disasters still managed to record information about the last Bortniks of the territories that fell under resettlement. The tradition continues on in other regions of Polissia and is spread by young people.
Wildlife traditions
ZINAIDA
Video
2020
Artist ZINAIDA created «Wildlife traditions» video, in which she conducts her own research on the ancient Ukrainian tradition of Bortnytsvo (Wild-honey farming) — the procurement of honey from forest bees. This craft is characterized by multidimensional nature, environmental friendliness and deep traditions. The secrets of the craft were passed down from generation to generation. We are talking about a whole layer of generic knowledge about the material and spiritual aspects of Bortnytsvo. The craft itself exists in complete harmony with nature. The wild bees that settled in the hollows of trees and received human care, thank both man and nature. Bortniks (people, who engage in Bortnytsvo) have a special attitude to nature, to bees and to each other.

The bee was considered a "God's fly", it should not be killed. They say about bees that they do not croak, but die — thus emphasizing their special status. The beekeeper was called "a godly man", at the same time, fellow villagers somewhat demonized Bortnik in their view of his figure. But Bortnik was always a specially revered figure in the community, they sang a special Christmas Carol for Bortnik as an order-wish for a good year for him and the bees. People were afraid to steal honey, because they believed that the Bortnik could send trouble on the thief, or make the thief return the stolen honey on his own. Some of the honey was left to the bees for the winter, so they could survive the winter, but if the bee family didn't give enough honey, the honey wasn't taken at all. It is believed that cutting a tree with the apicultural log is a great sin. Thus, Bortniks save trees from being cut down.

Bortnytsvo is a male subculture. The preference for knowledge transfer was given to children, who did not have a reaction to bee stings. It was believed that a bee sting for a Bortnik is like a kiss. Bortnytsvo products were not given or sold to just everyone, because if the honey was given/sold to a bad person, bees could disappear. And if the bee families of Bortnik disappear, then his family will share their fate. If the Bortnik died, then often the bees "followed him", that is, they also died. There were rituals, when someone, who was supposed to inherit the apicultural logs, could save the bees. The absence of fear of heights speaks about the naturalness of the tradition of Bortnytsvo: "My grandfather did that — and I do it," and the way the Bortnik approaches the log with the help of zhen (lesivo) on a tree looks like a ritual dance.

Bortniks also have a special relationship among themselves, they do not consider each other competitors and share their experience; a colleague can look after bees of other Bortnik, should the former ask. There are special signs that Bortniks used to indicate their Borts (apicultural logs) and equipment, and there was also a system for indicating the number of Borts. Information on the Bort signs in general has already been lost, but they looked mysteriously beautiful. Borts witnessed the history of the family, they were inherited from their grandfather-great-grandfather, however, they could also be given to other Bortniks. It was also believed that Bort was a special wedding gift.
This video is a 3D panorama. You can move the image 360° with a computer mouse or arrows in the upper left corner of the video (while viewing on a computer), or simply by moving your smartphone (while viewing the mobile version of the page)
Spohad (Memory)
Installation
Authors: Vitaliy Tatarchuk, Vladislav Tsuman, Natalka Leshchenko, Waldemart Klyuzko
Children's drawings, photos, and videos
2016
This is the story of Vitalii Tatarchuk, a resident of Prypiat, who was 10 years old at the time of the accident. All that remained in his memory of a happy childhood is an album of children's drawings, a photo book about Prypiat city before the accident, children's impressions. Together with his family he lived in a young city, went to school, became a pioneer, was fond of aircraft design, went with his father to the dacha (cottage house) in the forest. He was a child, when evacuation from the city took place. The heart of this child felt the rapid change of the world, how Chornobyl accident contributed to the fall of a powerful ideology.

30 years after the accident, we filmed his tour of Prypiat. We visited an apartment, kindergarten, and school.
This video is a 3D panorama. You can move the image 360° with a computer mouse or arrows in the upper left corner of the video (while viewing on a computer), or simply by moving your smartphone (while viewing the mobile version of the page)
86
Author: Waldemart Klyuzko
Installation
Balloons, household brooms
2021

This video is a 3D panorama. You can move the image 360° with a computer mouse or arrows in the upper left corner of the video (while viewing on a computer), or simply by moving your smartphone (while viewing the mobile version of the page)
Klasy (Peevers) Installation
Waldemart Klyuzko
Mirror
485 cm × 125 cm
2016
The scale of the disaster was hidden for a long time and people did not know anything about radiation and how to protect themselves from it, so like children, they formed their own understanding of the situation in their imagination.

The idea of the installation combines innocent children's game and danger. Klasy (Peevers) — a figure drawn with chalk on the asphalt for jumping from cell to cell. Often this figure is drawn on a road. And playing in the road is dangerous, because at any moment a car with an inattentive driver can appear and hit children.

Using the form of a children's game, the author shows that the management of that time did not take the accident seriously in a childish way. The reports did not reflect the reality of the situation, it was hidden, as in childhood: if no one knows, no one will get punished. Instead of the usual numbers, the cells contain numbers with indexes — the scale of the disaster in different units of measurement, and each number is an objective reflection of Chornobyl accident: the scale of the zone, the year of the accident, the strength of the explosion. The material is a mirror that emphasizes the responsibility of each of us for mistakes in our professional activities.

Meaning of numbers:
1 — It only happened once. There is no number on the cell, the viewer sees their own reflection in the mirror.

2 — 2R — two R units is a safe dose of radiation for the body per year in medical institutions.

3 — 30-kilometer exclusion zone — the area with restricted access that has been intensively contaminated with radiation.

4 — power unit No. 4 had a capacity of 1000 Mwatt and was equipped with a graphite-water type RPCR (High Power Channel-type Reactor)-1000 reactor. The accident occurred on April 26, 1986 at the 4th unit of Chornobyl nuclear power plant.

5 — 50 thous. m/R units per hour — is one of the indicators of radiation contamination that dosimeters showed, this was the maximum indicator for some dosimeters, so the level was much higher in reality.

6 — 6 with the Sv — Sievert (Sv) is a unit of radiation measurement or a unit of measurement for the equivalent dose of ionization radiation in the SI system.

7 — this figure does not have a specific explanation, but it can mean that all 7 days of the week, 24 hours a day, for many years to come, this area will be polluted. And it can also be the date of birth of Marie Curie, or anything that the viewer himself suggests.

8 — 8 with index 6 and index 1 before the digit 9 form a combination 1 9 8 6 — the year when the tragedy occurred. With this date, the life of Chornobyl Pollissia was divided into "before" and "after".

10 — 10 in the 13th power — this is the estimation of real background of radiation release at the time of the accident, no dosimeter could record the real figure.

Chornobyl nuclear power plant is located at a distance of 2 km from Prypiat city, 18 km northwest of Chornobyl city, 16 km south of the border with Belarus and about 110 km north of Kyiv. The explosion that completely destroyed the reactor occurred during design tests on April 26, 1986, at approximately 1:23.

At the beginning of 1986, V. I. Lenin Chornobyl nuclear power plant, abbreviated as the CNPP was the most powerful nuclear power plant in the European part of USSR.
This video is a 3D panorama. You can move the image 360° with a computer mouse or arrows in the upper left corner of the video (while viewing on a computer), or simply by moving your smartphone (while viewing the mobile version of the page)
Flowers of Chornobyl
Author: Yurii Solomko
Painting
95 х 77.5 cm
Paper on HDF, acryl
2006

This video is a 3D panorama. You can move the image 360° with a computer mouse or arrows in the upper left corner of the video (while viewing on a computer), or simply by moving your smartphone (while viewing the mobile version of the page)
Cosmic Prypiat
Author: Tim Korpa
Photo
2016

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Zazemleno (Grounded)
Authors: Vladyslav Tsuman, Waldemart Klyuzko
Installation
Photo printing on a galvanized sheet
Baskets woven of wire, light bulbs
2016
2 images of pine trees photographed in 2004 in a 10-kilometer zone of unconditional mandatory resettlement. Mushroom baskets are a form of weaving common in Polissia. The baskets are woven from used aluminum wire, inside there are electric light bulbs shaped like mushrooms. Thus, the author conveys the idea to the viewer about mandatory carefulness regarding the food in radioactively contaminated areas. Zazemleno (Grounded) signs indicate that over time radioactive elements have penetrated the ground, remaining invisible to the human eye. For the first time, the installation was presented at Beautiful Chornobyl (Poznan, Warsaw).
Nature at Home
Sandro Koridze
3D-installation
2021

This video is a 3D panorama. You can move the image 360° with a computer mouse or arrows in the upper left corner of the video (while viewing on a computer), or simply by moving your smartphone (while viewing the mobile version of the page)
In the evening of April 25, Chornobyl Polissia. Dark Paradise spectacular light performance will be given on the facade of the Ukrainian House on the Yevropeyska Square.

The spectators will be able to see the performance live, walking around the city from anywhere in the Yevropeyska Square, while remaining safe and observing all quarantine restrictions. The organizers will also make video documentation of the performance so that everyone can see it as a part of the online exhibition on other days.

Chornobyl Polissya is a mixed forest, a dense network of rivers, swampy lowland plains and a special original culture of polishchuky. The Dark Paradise project is dedicated to this aspect of the history of Chornobyl.

The light performance will include elements of the cultural code of this beautiful region: architecture, embroidery ornaments, painting, nature, traditions of bortnytsvo (wild-honey farming).
ZINAIDA
artist, project curator
«Now the time came, when the majority of the world population's dreams, stereotypes, energy sources are being destroyed incredibly quickly, life orientations, values and plans for the future are changing at rapid speed. The events of recent decades have contributed to the distortion of fundamental knowledge and historical experience, which have always helped humanity to explore past traditions of preservation of a balance with nature.

Today we have the opportunity to preserve and explore Chornobyl Polissia — a micro world that clearly demonstrates the victory of common sense over the trends of the modern world, including: excessive consumerism, ineffective use of natural resources, indifference to climate change, pollution, unwillingness of people to preserve the memory of their roots.

By protecting the nature of Polissia, helping the residents of Chornobyl, we can contribute not only to the preservation and restoration of the region, archiving, rethinking and presenting the traditions of its inhabitants with artistic means at the exhibitions and museum spaces of Ukraine, but also to make an example of rational consumption of natural resources by people after man-made disasters for the international community.

Dark Paradise exhibition is a touch, a reminder of obvious, simple and understandable emotions and things for everyone».
Waldemart Klyuzko
co-curator, architect of the online exhibition
«"Chornobyl is our home" — these are the words we hear from people, who left their homes, from those, who stayed in the exclusion zone, and those, who returned there after the accident. Chornobyl is a part of our home, a part of Ukraine that we almost lost forever. Chornobyl Polissia is a mixed forest, a dense network of rivers, swampy lowland plains and peculiar original Poleshuks culture — a living pearl of the history of Slavic peoples.

The region, which has rich natural resources and traditions, received a negative and tragic context of the world's largest nuclear disaster in 1986, which occurred at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat city. The day of this tragedy divided life in this fabulous place into "before" and "after".

Dark Paradise Exhibition is about life history, traditions, memory and hopes for rebirth. Within the frame of this project we talk about the historical, cultural and ecological value of the Chornobyl region as part of the Ukrainian Polissia. Our project is dedicated to the part of Chornobyl's history that was preserved by the efforts of ethnographers, archaeologists, art historians, dialectologists, architects and researchers of natural ecosystems. Our goal is to show Chornobyl as beautiful, joyful and vivid in contrast to the ruins of abandoned cities and villages and impressions, which are painted for our minds by mass media. Each life-affirming project about Chornobyl contributes to the preservation of memory and revives the life of this ethnocultural space.

The bigger part of the exhibition presents the results of the heroic work done by the historical and ethnographic expedition in radioactively contaminated territories.

As the result of 30 years of work done by the team of scientists of the State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Technogenic Disasters under the leadership of Rostyslav Omeliashko, 575 authentic villages of Polissia were covered, including 159 ones in resettlement zones, 416 in other zones of radioactive contamination, as well as 97 settlements of resettled people. The collected archival materials and objects of museum significance are partially presented in the permanent Memory of the Homeland Exhibition (Chornobyl city, 51 Radianska street). This exhibition creates a complete historical image and will serve as a platform for exploring the folk culture of the Chornobyl Polissia in the future.

We created a virtual exhibition, which artistic representation and spatial solutions for the topics were chosen by the curators, to help people to discover the ethnocultural phenomena of Chornobyl region. The exhibition features collected materials of the expedition, archival documents, video/audio materials, photographs, video installations, paintings and objects of decorative and applied arts, portraits and stories of people, who could not leave their homeland and were happy with their conscious choice. The exhibition will contain a video work about the traditions of archaic beekeeping — "bortnystvo", materials about the traditional architecture of the region, a record of the story of a young man, who lived in Prypiat and returned home 30 years later, a painting by artist Igor Rudeni, who created his micro world in Chornobyl zone, as well as artistic reflections of the project authors».
Project team:
Author and curator — artist, culture activist ZINAIDA
Co-curator, architect of the online exhibition — Waldemart Klyuzko
Ethnographer, consultant, doctor of historical sciences, employee of SSCPCHTD — Olena Boriak
Ethnographer, consultant, employee of SSCPCHTD — Natalka Leshchenko
Master of ritual bread, researcher of traditions, expert of natural nutrition — Oksana Barabash
Artist — Ihor Rudenia
Photographer — Serhii Mikhalchuk
Project coordinator — Natalia Rudnik
Co-organizers:
State Scientific Center for the Protection of Cultural Heritage from Technogenic Disasters (SSCPCHTD)
National Center for Business and Cultural Cooperation "Ukrainian House"