lunedì 5 ottobre 2009

“I leave a part of my heart in Ukraine” - One personality in strengthening Ukrainian-Italian friendship

By Tetiana POLISHCHUK, The Day
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day


Quotidiano "Den" ("Il Giorno" / "The Day), September 22, 2009
Many Ukrainians were saddened to learn that Nicola Franco Balloni, director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine, is finishing his activities in Kyiv. Balloni’s name is associated with numerous educational and artistic projects, as well as joint events involving prominent cultural figures and scholars. He has also contributed to the improvement of Ukraine–Italy relations. Some readers may remember that thanks to Balloni music fans in Ukraine got acquainted with Stradivari’s legendary violin, cinema buffs—with Sophia Loren, and those interested in history—with a copy of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. There have also been many other events that have left an indelible trace in Ukrainian souls.

Thanks to the Institute of Culture, which Balloni headed for several years, Italians learned more about Ukraine, in particular the truth about the 1932–1933 Holodomor. On the other end, in Ukraine, new translations of Italian writers appeared; exhibits and concerts of popular bands were held. Today the language of Alighieri Dante, Francesco Petrarch, and Giovanni Boccaccio is being taught in universities in Lviv, Odesa, Kyiv, and Mariupol. The entire list of significant events is very long indeed.

With his time in office about to expire, Balloni met with Ukrainian colleagues—university rectors from Odesa, Mariupol, and Kyiv. Ivan Vakarchuk, Ukraine’s Minister of Education and Science, was awarded the Star of Italian Glory order for his special merits in the development of Ukrainian–Italian cooperation in education and promotion of the Italian language. This highest reward from the Italian President was presented by Pietro Giovanni Donnici, Italy’s ambassador to Ukraine. In the evening the National Opera team had a surprise for their big Italian friend. They performed opera buffa L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti. This was the last joint project of the Institute and the National Opera.

“We are greatly saddened that Mr. Balloni is leaving Ukraine. Thanks to him the best samples of Italian classics appeared on the playbill of our theater,” Petro Chupryna, general director of the National Opera, told The Day. “Today we have seven operas in our repertoire that were staged by Italian directors jointly with Ukrainian musicians and singers. Mario Corradi staged La Gioconda, Turandot, and Faust, Italo Nunziata—Manon Lescaut, Un Ballo in Maschera, Macbeth, and L’elisir d’amore. Let me also tell you that the premiere of Turandot in Kyiv was broadcast on the Italian TV, and the festivals Viva Verdi! and Italian Opera on Kyiv Stage increased the number of classical art fans in Ukraine.

“I hope that the seed that we have sown together on the artistic field will not dry up after Balloni leaves but will grow just as well. Hopefully, by the end of this theatrical season the dream to present Kyiv opera fans with La Cenerentola by Gioachino Rossini will come true. I do hope that in a few years Mr. Balloni will come back to Ukraine because people in Ukraine respect, love, appreciate, and wait to see him again.”

Academician Mykola Zhulynsky stressed that he had the honor to express gratitude to Balloni on behalf of the President of Ukraine for all his efforts to improve cultural cooperation between Italy and Ukraine. Moved to the depth of his heart, Balloni said in Ukrainian: “In L’elisir d’amore, the protagonist, Nemorino, says these words: ‘A tear rolled down my cheek…’ I am deeply moved. After I working in Kyiv for years, I learned more about Ukraine, came to love your culture, art, language, and people. I am leaving, but I leave a part of my heart in Ukraine. Good-bye!”


sabato 26 aprile 2008

“Culture is measured by people’s attitude to their heritage”

By Nadia TYSIACHNA, The Day

"Den" ("Il Giorno" / "The Day"), 15 aprile 2008
On April 7 a photography exhibit called UNESCOITALIA opened at the Kyiv Sophia National Museum Complex, a collaborative effort on the part of the Italian
Institute of Culture in Ukraine
, Italy’s Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy. More than 40 Italian monuments of culture, part of the world’s heritage, are represented in the works of 14 photographers, who captured eternal Rome, a romantic Venetian lagoon, exquisite villas designed by the Vicenza architect Andrea Palladio, the spire-crowned cathedrals of Modena, and the multicolored center of Naples. The photographs show many familiar landscapes and interiors of palaces and churches, such as the Coliseum of Rome, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Cathedral, and the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie with its famous fresco The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.
(Italy tops UNESCO’s list of heritage sites.)
“Why did we decide to organize this kind of an educational exhibit?” Manuel Guido, an official at the Italian culture ministry, explained: “We did it primarily to attract the international community’s attention to our cultural heritage. After opening in Kyiv, the exhibit will go on a tour of the world’s major cities, first and foremost to those that have Italian cultural institutes.
We want to boost interest among our young people so that they will be educated on the basis of the finest creative and architectural examples of their national culture and feel that they are part of it. These photographs have already been exhibited at Rome’s National Library.
“This exhibit begins its worldwide tour in Ukraine,” said Nicola Franco Balloni, the director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Kyiv. “This is no accident.
The architecture of many Ukrainian cities and towns is vivid proof that your
country was an artistic laboratory and often the second homeland of many Italian architects since time immemorial. Most of the Renaissance- era and Baroque structures of 18th-century Lviv, which is on the UNESCO heritage list, were created thanks to the inspiring work of a group of Italian architects who lived and worked in Lviv (some of them were the city’s chief architects). They acquired local nicknames, for example, Petro the Italian, Petro Krasovsky, Petro Barbon, and Pavlo the Roman.
“I would also like to express the sincere hope that, thanks to the joint efforts of Ukrainian and Italian institutions, a few other outstanding monuments of our two nations’ common history and culture, such as the medieval Genoese castle in Sudak and St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv, a gem of European Baroque designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, will be recognized as soon as possible by UNESCO as part of the world’s heritage.”
(The Kyiv-based publishing house Hrani-T is about to issue a photo-illustrated book entitled Secessionist Lviv, which is devoted to the unique buildings in this western Ukrainian city, dating to the turn of the 20th century. Last year Hrani-T Publishers issued a wonderful album entitled Ioann Georg Pinzel: Sculptures and Transformation.)
The Italian photography show, organized by the Italian Cultural Center, has once again confirmed that Ukrainians should learn to take care of their historical and cultural heritage. They should also stop presenting it in the Soviet way.
This is revealed everywhere, except for the exhibition halls at the Kyiv Sophia Complex, which should serve as an example of how to showcase our cultural treasures. It goes without saying that cloakroom attendants should not be chewing on sunflower seeds at their stations, and when visitors ask them in Ukrainian for directions to the exhibits, they should refrain from responding indifferently in Russian, “Go to the next floor.” The entire approach must be changed. Our history and culture should be presented ambitiously and brilliantly.


Maria LEVYTSKA, chief set designer, National Opera of Ukraine:
“It is very interesting to look at these photos. Last summer I traveled to a few cities in Italy. I was just standing in front of the photograph of the Basilica of St. Francis and wondering about the angle from which it was taken because it is next to impossible to find this point: you have to walk a long way to reach it. We should also learn how to represent our culture in a dignified way. But in order to do this, you have to love it.”

Oleksandr BYSTRUSHKIN, head of the Main Service of Humanities Policy:
“Looking at the exhibit, I think that Italy is strikingly beautiful. But many visitors will talk about this. I would like to say that Ukrainians should also promote themselves abroad. It will take several centuries of statehood to understand that our identity is being formed now. It will never occur to anyone who walks in Rome’s ancient center that something will be reconstructed instead of being restored. There were so many financiers who could have rebuilt the Coliseum and turned it into an entertainment center. But they never even discussed this, unlike our businessmen who have zeroed in on Andriivsky Uzviz.
Obviously, each of us should develop an awareness and feeling of being a citizen of a state called Ukraine. Only then will it be said 50 years from now that Ukrainians love their history and culture and display them in a loving fashion.”

Nelia KUKOVALSKA, director general, St. Sophia of Kyiv National Museum Complex:
“This exhibit confirms that Italy can be compared to an open-air city-museum.
This year the Italians are going to add new monuments to the World Heritage List. We should learn this kind of love for our own culture and aspire to show it off to the world. Places like Kamianets-Podilsky, the old downtown quarter of Chernihiv, the Stone Grave, Chersonesus of Tauris, and the Sudak Fortress have been waiting for several years to be placed on the UNESCO list.
“Ukrainians and Italians are going to submit a joint nomination of all the fortresses of the Genoese period in Europe, including the famous one in Sudak.
Italy and Ukraine have endorsed this idea, while Turkey is still thinking it over. I think that our country should pursue a more active foreign cultural policy, although the domestic cultural policy is no less important. There are many ways to do this: establishing Ukrainian cultural and informational centers all over the world, inviting the foreign media to popularize our culture, organizing all kinds of exhibits, etc.”

The UNESCOITALIA show ends on May 14.


giovedì 21 febbraio 2008

Pane e segatura, Ucraina alla fame

Documenti Tradotti i rapporti dei diplomatici italiani nel 1932-' 33
Dragosei Fabrizio

Corriere della Sera, 21 febbraio 2008
Mosca - Un pezzetto di pane nero mezzo crudo, impastato con segatura, venne spedito nel febbraio 1932 dalla città ucraina di Kharkov a Mosca e da qui procedette per Roma dove, forse, finì sulla scrivania di Mussolini. Era un campione dell'unico cibo che gli ucraini affamati riuscivano qualche volta a trovare e faceva parte dei puntuali e sconvolgenti rapporti che le autorità consolari italiane preparavano e inviavano ai loro superiori. Un quadro preciso e obiettivo della drammatica carestia provocata da Stalin che si portò via 6 milioni di persone. E che oggi viene usato in Ucraina per dare forza alla richiesta che tutto il mondo riconosca in quella carestia, l'Holodomor, un genocidio. I documenti dei diplomatici italiani (Lettere da Kharkov) raccolti dallo storico Andrea Graziosi e pubblicati da Einaudi, sono stati ora tradotti in ucraino. «È difficile immaginare che la qualità del cibo sia così cattiva come dimostra questo pezzetto di pane», scriveva l'ambasciatore a Mosca Bernardo Attolico, trasmettendo il «reperto» inviatogli dal console a Kharkov Sergio Gradenigo, autore di molti rapporti. «La carestia continua a mietere vittime su una scala talmente enorme che è assolutamente incomprensibile come il mondo possa rimanere indifferente di fronte a questa catastrofe», scriveva il 31 maggio '33. Il mondo ha conosciuto i dettagli e la reale dimensione di quella tragedia solo negli anni della perestrojka. Ma nelle carte del ministero degli Esteri italiano c'erano già allora tutti i dettagli e le cifre. I diplomatici italiani contavano i morti nelle strade, riportavano le soffiate avute da conoscenti in contatto con la polizia segreta, la temibile Ogpu (prima era stata la Ceka, poi sarebbe diventato il Kgb). Gradenico raccontava di aver visto di notte camion carichi di corpi che si fermavano per le strade e uomini con forconi che raccoglievano cadaveri. Scriveva a Roma l'ambasciatore Attolico il 20 giugno 1933: «Nei primi sei mesi del 1933 la carestia avrebbe ucciso almeno tre milioni di persone». E l'11 luglio citava la cifra complessiva di sei milioni di vittime, quella ritenuta oggi prudenziale dagli storici. Su gran parte delle lettere era stata apposta con una matita blu la sigla di Mussolini. Il regime italiano sapeva, ma non usava queste notizie a scopo propagandistico. In quegli anni il Duce puntava ancora sull'amicizia con il giovane stato sovietico. E poi denunciare i crimini di uno stato totalitario, guidato da un despota avrebbe potuto far pensare proprio all'Italia di quegli anni. L'incontro «Le Lettere da Kharkov» pubblicate in Italia da Einaudi escono ora in Ucraina. Il libro sarà presentato il 25 febbraio dall' Istituto Italiano di Cultura a Kiev. Sarà presente il presidente ucraino Viktor Yushchenko.


sabato 1 dicembre 2007

The truth about the Holodomor through the eyes of Italian diplomats

Letters from Kharkiv

Quotidiano "Den" ("The Day"/"Il Giorno"), Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Our newspaper recently published an interview with the Italian academic Andrea Graziosi, which he granted to Marianna Soronevych, editor in chief of Ukrainska hazeta v Italii (The Ukrainian Newspaper in Italy). The interview was held at the Embassy of Ukraine in the Italian Republic after Dr. Graziosi, a professor at the University of Naples Federico II, was awarded the Order of Yaroslav the Wise, 5th Class. This high distinction was conferred on the Italian scholar “for his considerable personal contribution to researching the manmade famines in Ukraine, for urging the international community to recognize the 1932-33 Holodomor as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people, and his intense civic activities with respect to honoring the memory of the victims of this tragedy,” states the decree issued by the president of Ukraine.

In the following interview, Graziosi opines for the first time that “Stalin did not intend to exterminate all the Ukrainians; he just wanted to kill a few million in order to make the others obey his power.” He also talks about his publications on the Holodomor. “Archival documents, including the dispatches of Italian consuls in Ukraine in the 1930s, were published long ago in the US, Italy, and France. I called them by the same title as the file in which they were kept — Letters from Kharkiv . Now I am writing a history of the Soviet Union from its formation to its collapse, as well as about the 1930s civil war in Ukraine and the Second World War. I hope these works will be published soon,” Graziosi said.

After publishing this interview, we explored the possibility of translating Letters from Kharkiv into Ukrainian. By sheer coincidence we learned that this is already being done. We asked our regular contributor Prof. Yuri Shapoval, who acted as a consultant to the Ukrainian edition of Letters from Kharkiv , to tell us more about Graziosi’s work.

In a few days, the Kharkiv-based Folio Publishers is expected to issue an extremely interesting and important book called Letters from Kharkiv. These letters are in fact reports from Italian diplomats who were posted in the USSR in 1930-34, in which they describe the famine situation. The book is being published through the efforts of the Institute of Italian Culture in Kyiv. This academic institution invited me to take part in this interesting project as a scholarly editor and the author of a brief afterword.

I agreed with pleasure, not in the least because it was Prof. Andrea Graziosi, a colleague and a good friend of mine, who discovered the Italian diplomats’ letters, which he found in 1987 at Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “These documents lead one to reckon with one of the 20th-century’s biggest European tragedies,” Prof. Graziosi writes in the foreword to the book. “They radically changed my idea of Soviet history and my overall vision of the last century. This is why their publication in Ukraine fills me with joy.”

What is also important is that these documents were found even earlier by Basilian monks, who handed them over to the US Commission that researched the famine in the mid-1980s. The Italian diplomats’ accounts were attached to the commission’s Report to Congress. So this evidence is of paramount importance for understanding the causes and consequences of the Holodomor. Published in Italy, France, and the US, these documents are finally appearing in print in the very place where these tragic events took place, fortunately long ago.

As Prof. Nicola Franco Balloni, director of the Institute of Italian Culture in Kyiv, rightly states in his foreword to Letters from Kharkiv, the Ukrainian-language edition is the most complete documentary evidence of the 1930s famine in the USSR, gathered by members of Italy’s diplomatic mission. “The evidence of Italian diplomats,” Prof. Balloni emphasizes, “who were forced to work in the difficult conditions of the Stalin and Mussolini regimes, but were able to remain impartial witnesses of these infernal events, was in fact of no use to Il Duce. For certain reasons, he wanted to maintain good relations with the USSR. However, the times of dictators are ending, but documents remain and, aimed at the descendants of the victims of tyranny, they teach them to remember the tragic past for the sake of the future.”

In the early 1930s, Italy had an embassy in Moscow, as well as a well-ramified network of consular agencies, including consulates in Leningrad, Odesa, and Tbilisi, and vice-consulates in Kharkiv, Batumi, and Novorossiisk. It is the reports from the three latter consular offices and the Moscow- based embassy that were included in Letters from Kharkiv. The people who headed the consular agencies in Kharkiv, Batumi, and Novorossiisk were not professional diplomats but former army officers, who had served well during World War One. Most of the documents cited in the book were prepared by Sergio Gradenigo (1886- 1966), who had worked in Ukraine in 1931-34. He headed the Kharkiv vice-consulate (later elevated to a Royal Consulate) and, at the end of his mission, the newly-formed Consulate General in Kyiv, where the capital of Soviet Ukraine moved in 1934, and, later, a consular representation in Italy. After finishing his term in Ukraine, he served as a volunteer in the Tevere Division in the Italian-Ethiopian War of 1935-36. In 1948 Gradenigo immigrated to Argentina, where he taught and wrote until his death.

What were these reports by the Italian diplomats? They contain very specific information as well as reflections — sometimes merciless, sometimes sympathetic — of foreigners, which were by and large correct assessments and analyses of governmental actions and human behavior.

But let me make a general remark before going into greater detail. Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus had been supplying more than half of all the grain produced in the USSR. Speaking of Ukraine, Stalin noted in 1931that “a number of granaries are in a state of devastation and famine.” Yet the Kremlin believed that Ukraine had enormous reserves of grain that the collective farms and independent farmers were allegedly hiding. This is why the government resorted to brutal measures to procure grain. More than 150,000 people died in 1931 alone. In March and April 1932 there were large numbers of starving people in Ukrainian villages, and cities were full of children who had been abandoned by their parents. This was a distress signal that did not, however, stop the authorities. On July 7, 1932, the Central Committee of the All- Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) passed a resolution on the state grain deliveries. The main idea of the resolution was to fulfill the plan at any cost.

The Stalinist leadership clearly saw two genuine enemies: firstly, the peasants, who were unwilling to work on collective farms and die in the name of industrialization (seeking to avoid the famine caused by meeting the compulsory grain procurement targets, peasants began withdrawing en masse from collective farms); and secondly, the not-so-reliable political-state leadership of Ukraine, which to a certain degree was pursuing a “flexible” line in its dealings with the Kremlin’s demands and tragic local realities. This is why Stalin sent his trusted lieutenants to Ukraine and applied tough sanctions against the peasants, which turned into genocide. In late October 1932, in pursuance of the CC AUCP(b) Politburo resolution of Oct. 22, 1932, an extraordinary commission headed by Viacheslav Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, began to work in Ukraine. As early as Oct. 29 Molotov cabled to Stalin, “We had to severely criticize the Ukrainian organization, especially the party’s Central Committee, for failure to launch full- scale requisitioning.” Sharing Stalin’s mistrust of the local authorities, Molotov also demanded that Moscow officials be sent to the Ukrainian SSR to achieve the desirable effect.

Molotov gave a powerful impetus to the repressions. The Politburo of the CC AUCP(b) resolved on Nov. 5, 1932, to increase coercion in the state grain delivery campaign, in particular to boost the role of law-enforcement bodies. A number of measures were drafted, such as immediate trials of cases connected to the state grain deliveries, the organization of circuit court proceedings and the creation of additional courts in every region, and meting out severe punishments. All cases were to be spotlighted in the national and local press.

“The famine continues to take a heavy toll of human lives on such an enormous scale that it is absolutely unclear how the world can remain indifferent to this catastrophe. Through merciless requisitions (which I have repeatedly reported), the Moscow government allowed not just a famine, for this is not quite the precise word, but the complete absence of any means of existence,” a stunned Gradenigo pointed out in his communication dated May 31, 1933.

A little earlier, in February 1932, Gradenigo sent a piece of bread, the kind that was being consumed in Kharkiv at the time, to Italy’s ambassador Bernardo Attolico in Moscow. In one of his messages to Rome the ambassador wrote about the shortage of bread: “It is difficult to imagine that the quality of the food item, so important to the dietary regime in the USSR, should be so bad, as this little piece of bread shows. The hidden in the real conditions of the decline into which collectivization has thrown Russian agriculture, which is too patriarchal to endure without disastrous consequences an injection of modernization in the shape of collectivization.”

Peasants were fleeing Ukraine to save themselves from the famine. The authorities blocked their departure, captured them, and sent them back. The report of the Italian consulate in Batumi, dated Jan. 20, 1933, provides a detailed description of the way the authorities pushed out the Ukrainian peasants who were fleeing from the famine to Transcaucasia: “The expellees are herded into customs warehouses, where they wait for a steamship. Those who can pay for the passage are separated from those who cannot. The latter are gathered a few hours before departure and escorted by police to a free market, where they can sell what they have with them in order to raise money for a ticket. The police keep curious onlookers away from them and only let in those who are really going to buy something — a coat, a pair of boots, etc. Clearly, lack of time robs these wretched people of the opportunity to bargain, which is advantageous to buyers. All this occurs in complete orderliness and silence, which does not diminish the sad impression of this scene, which turns a marketplace into something like a slave market for a few hours.”

The organs of repression and punishment vested with the exclusive right to record deaths, block information on the famine, and carry out punitive actions were a mighty force. The diplomats’ letters cite some influential secret police officers describing the tragic situation in quite a realistic way. For example, Gradenigo writes in May 1933, “Comrade Frenkel, a member of the OGPU Collegium, admitted to an acquaintance of ours that about 250 corpses of those who starved to death are picked up on the streets of Kharkiv every night. On my part, I can confirm that I saw trucks carrying 10- 15 corpses past the consulate at midnight. Since there are three large neighborhoods under construction next to the consulate, one of the trucks halted by the fence, and two operatives wielding pitchforks got off to search for corpses. I saw 7 people, i.e., two men, one woman, and four children, being picked up with these pitchforks. Other people woke up and vanished as if they were shadows. One of the operatives doing this job said to me, ‘You don’t have this in your country, do you?’”

Incidentally, when I was writing the commentaries, I kept in mind the aforesaid “Comrade Frenkel,” about whom I will write more in detail some other time. This Mikhail Frenkel (1888-1938) held top administrative positions in the GPU of the Ukrainian SSR and was later the chief billeting official at the Administrative and Economic Directorate of the NKVD of the Ukrainian SSR. In 1924 he had been prosecuted for smuggling, but the case was dismissed. In February 1938 he was arrested and accused of spying for Poland and “wrecking” (creating “poor” living conditions for the highest-ranking NKVD officers). He died on March 8, 1938, as a result of savage beatings that were administered to him in the inner prison of the Directorate of State Security of the NKVD of the Ukrainian SSR.

On March 20, 1933, Italy’s Ambassador Attolico, wrote to Rome: “The impression is that the only strong link, the real backbone of the entire Soviet system, is the GPU, which is usually able to achieve, through its typically fast and violent methods, what even the best propaganda cannot.”

Meanwhile, we find in these diplomatic documents evidence of what communist propaganda was doing. Leone Sircana, the vice- consul in Novorossiisk, reported the following to the Italian Embassy in Moscow on April 8, 1933: “It is like mocking the beastly condition to which millions of people have been reduced to claim that the Soviets have launched the world’s most powerful radio transmitter, which is supposed to overwhelm perhaps all the other voices on the airways and beam to the oppressed peoples of Europe and Asia Moscow’s revelations about ‘the incredible achievements of the Bolshevik miracle’. Or we read that the workers of Novorossiisk are donating one percent of their starvation wages (in paper rubles) to the cause of combating fascist terror, and so on. This typical revolutionary fervor catches your eye in banner slogans, newspaper headlines, the hidebound and mindless phrases of articles and speeches, but it never finds any response. Countering these purely bureaucratic onslaughts on capitalism, fascism, and kulaks and the no less bureaucratic glorification of Bolshevik successes is the huge, patient, callous, and indifferent mass (or herd?) of these hapless people, who listen without hearing and look without seeing and whose mind, now even more stupefied than ever, has only one vision: a small piece of brown bread, underbaked and mixed with the most incredible and most varied ingredients, to which they are still entitled and which they must share with their large family, old and infirm relatives, not to mention those who do not have even this right, or the painful and bitter despair from the fact that Moscow requisitions everything that the earth offers and, as the peasant deceives himself, is supposed to belong to him.”

The famine in Ukraine turned into an instrument not only of terror but also of the “nationalities policy.” This radically distinguished the situation in Ukraine from that in, say, Russia or Kazakhstan, where famine-related losses were also very high. On Dec. 14, 1932, Stalin and Molotov signed a resolution of the CC AUCP(b) and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, which demanded “correct Ukrainization” in Ukraine and other regions densely populated by ethnic Ukrainians. The document also demanded a struggle against Petliurites and other ‘counterrevolutionary” elements, who this time were accused of organizing the famine.

This not only meant the end of the policy of “Ukrainization.” This was the decisive phase of the liquidation of the “Ukraine-centered” potential that was never supposed to revive, and the brutally and carefully organized punishment turned into genocide. “Since famine always begets a revolution (in this case, it would be a counterrevolution),” one of the documents says, “the greatest burden of the famine was placed on the Ukrainian peasants, who were politically the most dangerous and resisted the issue of collectivization as much as they could. No matter what kind of famine he is suffering from, the peasant cannot launch an offensive on the city and become dangerous to the regime, above all, for purely organizational reasons.” The Stalinist regime used the Holodomor and false stories about those who were responsible for it as a concrete pretext for mass-scale repressive campaigns, purges, and the like.

On May 22, 1933, Gradenigo wrote in his regular message to the Italian Embassy in Moscow, “The current disaster will lead to the colonization of Ukraine, mostly by the Russian population. This will change its ethnographic nature. In all probability, we will not have to speak about Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in the very near future and, consequently, there will be no Ukrainian problem because Ukraine will in fact become part of Russia.”

Contrary to this sad forecast, Letters from Kharkiv is being published in independent Ukraine, which remembers its history and — I do believe! — is ready to learn its lessons.

Yurii Shapoval is a professor and Doctor of Sciences (History).


venerdì 28 settembre 2007

Nicola Franco BALLONI: “Sometimes it seems to me that Ukrainians and Italians were born of the same mother”



By Masha TOMAK

The Day, Kiev, Tuesday, 25 September 2007
The Academic Board of Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University has awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa to Nicola Franco Balloni, director of the Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine, for his many years of outstanding research and teaching as well as his personal contribution to the strengthening of cultural links between our two nations. The Day was one of the first to congratulate Dr. Balloni on this solemn occasion and ask him about the new cultural development projects that the Italian Institute of Culture is planning.

When did you start your activities in Ukraine and what are the priorities of your institute?

“I was appointed attache for culture, education, and research at the Italian Embassy in Ukraine in 1992. We organized Italian language courses, film shows, exhibits, and concerts. In 1998 the Italian Institute of Culture in Ukraine was founded as an official mission of the Foreign Ministry of Italy. This was done with the personal assistance of the then President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, who was very surprised during his visit to Ukraine that such a large country did not have an Italian cultural center.

“Today, cultural relations between Ukraine and Italy are more dynamic than they were in the 1990s. Naturally, we also contributed to this. Other nations regard my country as the cradle of European civilization, the birthplace of the Renaissance, opera, and masterpieces of architecture and fine art. With due respect for the classics, we are also trying to promote contemporary Italy, including its fashion, design, cuisine, and cutting-edge technologies. As for our priorities, they are primarily the quality of the projects that we undertake. For example, thanks to our efforts, Kyiv was able to hear the legendary Paganini violin played by the prominent Ukrainian musician Bohodar Kotorovych. Ukrainians will soon be able to hear this rare instrument in Odesa, maybe during the post-restoration opening of the Opera House.

“Ukrainians and Italians are European peoples. We have so much in common, even our character and mentality. You know, sometimes it seems to me that Ukrainians and Italians were born of the same mother.”

In partnership with the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Arts, your institute held an exhibit of ancient Roman sculptures from Italian museums, entitled Pueritia/Childhood. What are the most high-profile projects that the institute has undertaken since its inception?

“The Khanenko Museum of Arts is one of our regular partners. We launch all kinds of joint projects every year. Kyivites will recall the interesting exhibits of Venetian glass and majolica (from the Renaissance to the present), and an Italian fashion show that presented designs by Versace, Ferre, Ferragamo, Valentino, and others.

“We are cooperating fruitfully with the National Opera of Ukraine. Since 2003 we have jointly staged such Italian and European operas as Turandot (2003), Gioconda (2004), Faust (2005), Manon Lescaut (2006), and Macbeth (2007). We also held the Ave Verdi Festival. Since the entire world is going to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Giacomo Puccini in 2008, we are planning to hold a Puccini festival. For the first time two years ago Kyiv welcomed the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti. It was at our invitation that the superb movie stars Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida visited Ukraine. The outstanding film directors Mario Monicelli and Ettore Scola were guests of honor at the Molodist Film Festival. We are actively cooperating with the National Philharmonic of Ukraine, particularly on the project Golden Pages of Italian Music.

“Another very important sphere is book publishing. Together with the Institute of Literature (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) and Folio Publishers, we launched the Library of Italian Literature. Ten books of Italian classics in Ukrainian translation have already come out. Petrarch’s masterpiece Canzoniere, which has never been published before now in Ukrainian, will come out in October. New translations of Luigi Pirandello and Italo Calvino are also going to be published this year.”

You took part in organizing a conference and producing the book The Death of Earth: The Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-1933. Why did you choose to support this project?

“The Holodomor is a major tragedy of the Ukrainian people, Europe, and the entire civilized world in the 20th century. The main thing is that it should always be remembered and be a lesson for everybody, so that no other holodomors (ethnic, cultural, linguistic, physical) will ever happen again.

“Working in Kyiv, I have always considered it my duty to Ukraine and my predecessors to publish in Ukrainian the documents gathered by Andrea Graziosi, professor of Naples and Harvard universities, which include eyewitness accounts by Italian diplomats who were working in Ukraine during the 1930s (for example, the Kharkiv consul’s letters to Italy’s fascist government, in which he described what was going on in Ukraine). The book Letters from Kharkiv will come out in November to mark the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor.”

How long have you been collaborating with Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University?

“This university was the very first institution that I began to cooperate with when I arrived in Ukraine. Together with the rector at the time we introduced courses of Italian language. Italian had not been studied on a university level in Ukraine before this. I taught Italian language and literature at this university for many years, and now we have opened the Center of Italian Studies.”

What are some of the institute’s latest creative projects?

“There are many plans and they are quite ambitious. For example, we are applying for the Genoese fortress in Sudak to be recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. The application procedure is complicated and requires a lot of documents. We are planning to restore the canvases of outstanding Italian painters now stored at the Khanenko Museum of Arts and Odesa’s Museum of Western Art.

“We will hold the Days of Italian Fashion in October. Residents of Kyiv who visit the exhibit ‘Half a Century of Italian Fashion — The History of Style: Made in Italy for Men and Women’ will see unique items that well-known designers created for such celebrities as Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, and Pierce Brosnan. There will also be a gala show and a workshop on the history of Italian fashion. The guests of honor will be Guillermo Mariotto (creative director of the Gattinoni Fashion House) and Stefano Dominella (president of Alta Roma, a seasonal haute couture show in Rome).”

What is your opinion of current Ukrainian-Italian relations? What do you think should be corrected here?

“The cultural links between our countries are on a high level. I would like there to be less red tape and more funding from both state- run and private businesses. Tobacco and liquor companies frequently offer their cooperation, but I do not think it’s a good idea to advertise their products because this is unethical in my view. I am calling on art patrons and sponsors to help culture because you cannot achieve much with sheer enthusiasm.

“Ukraine should position itself more actively in the world. Unfortunately, Ukrainian culture and art are not as popular as they deserve to be. Ukraine has a colossal cultural potential.”


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?