Beauty and Inspiration From the Ukraine: Kseniya Simonova's Sand Painting

If your spirit is in need of a lift — this is it.  Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian artist who uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and “sand painting” skills to interpret the peaceful pre-WWII state of her country — then the tragedy and heroism of the invasion, resistance, and eventual liberation in 1945.   If you give this two minutes you’ll be hooked (the whole video takes 8 minutes.)  You don’t have to speak Russian or fully understand the Ukranian experience to appreciate this– the poignancy is inescapable regardless of whether or not you know the backstory. Check it out The artist won $120,000 in the Ukranian version of “America’s Got Talent”. Watch the judges crying near the end. I was teary eyed too. Really amazing. Also — after the video, scroll down to find a very detailed explanation of each part of her performance, from Steve Huffey who created a website to explore the meaning of Simonova’s art.


Following is a copy/paste of the text from Steve Huffey’s wonderful website devoted to exploring the video of Kseniya Simonova’s performance.  You can go to the site at:   http://home.earthlink.net/~sshuffey/ …..meanwhile, here’s what you will find there.

W e L c o m e !

In an attempt to more fully appreciate the sand drawing by Kseniya Simonova, this site offers comments on the video for- –

overview,

the story plot,

music names and lyrics,

translation of closing words written in sand.

These items were gathered from your video comments made over months and from my verifying most items on the web.

I hope your questions will be provided answers on your visit. Feel free to offer suggestions or helpful corrections.

The video used for timing comments to the sand drawing storyline is http://youtube.com/watch?v=3qOmST_yz-4 [[THIS IS THE VIDEO EMBEDDED IN THIS POST. MDS]

Music has video cross-references put as attachments to the basic http://youtube.com address, for example: /watch?v=DCTPc2iRtr8

Overview

During the long four years of WW II, about 20 million people of the Soviet Union died. Often, each day was like five 9/11 tragedies. That sense of loss, sorrow, and longing is seen in this video.

Nazi Germany’s invasion of Russia tore apart the country. The Ukraine is a large area north of the Black Sea. The Crimea is part of the Ukraine and is a historical naval marine center for the area.

Deaths of Ukrainians during the war were the second highest listed per-capita percentage of all population groups in Russia, ( per http://www.infoukes.com/history/ww2/page-29.html ) and nearly equal to the highest listed percentage group, Poland. Everyone lost loved ones: sons and husbands in warfare, children from aerial bombings, parents, grandparents. The loss if felt three generations later.

Ukrainian deaths are estimated at 5 to 8 million people [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine at references #’s 51 and 52 ]. If total deaths were 8 million, then: 2.5 mil. military, 5.5 mil. civilian, 19.1% population [ infoukes.com/history site, above ]. This includes over half a million Jews killed by the SS paramilitary death squads called Einsatzgruppen; sometimes helped by local collaborators.

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Continuity of the music and sand drawing scenes – –

The continuity of music and scenes is listed as minutes . seconds.

Comments are given to help connect the music with story telling, and the progression of the scenes. People might appreciate the trace of Eastern Orthodox influence in the music. After this section, lyrics are presented for songs that are sung. Following the lyric section, there is a summary that leads to one question for thought.

0.0 – a candle of hope ? [ Unsure comments have a ? mark ]

0.0 – music, Cirque Du Soleil-Jeux d’eau “Circus Of the Sun – water games” /watch?v=WTe1nJ3i4oQ

First scene – Happiness – Ukraine or Russia as a whole: A couple sit on a bench under a starry sky.

1.36 – radio declaration of Nazis invading Russia, 1941: “Attention people of Moscow and the entire Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Today, on the 22nd of June, at 4am, there was a declaration of war when the German forces invaded our country….”. WWII is referred to as “The Great Patriotic War” in the lands of the Ukraine, Russia and some other states of the former Soviet Union. Germany attacked the Soviet Union along the entire frontier. In the Baltic, the first aircraft attacks began at 4 a.m. upon airfields, ports and communication centres. Also, strategic cities such as Zhitomir, Kiev, Sevastopol, and Kaunas were bombed. About two hours later, German ground forces moved forward on a second attack wave. The commander of the Soviet 8th Army, Lt.Gen. P.P.Sobennikov, later wrote that by the afternoon of the 22nd, the aviation section which was supposed to support his Army had been reduced to 5 – 6 airworthy aircraft. [ http://www.latvianaviation.com/WW2_June41.html ]

1.46 – music ????????? ????? – Svyashchennaya Voyna – “The Sacred War”, written in 1941 shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. It memorialized the war. /watch?v=mK2T2aPooy4

Warplanes appear in the sky. Happiness is replaced by a crying woman, not to be consoled.

1.57 – A train in the background transports young men and husbands to war. Women look on as a train whistle is heard, followed by the clackity of the railroad track. [ one commentator to the video likened the smoke as a remembrance of German gas chambers. Jews were taken there from Ukraine. ]

2.25 – Song, ?????? ???? – Temnaya Noch, “Dark Night”, Russian, during WWII, lyrics below: /watch?v=9dkAEHgmtWM Song lyrics are from a front-line soldier’s letter to his beloved wife back home, taken from a 1943 Russian film “Two Warriors”. He is saying that as long as he knows her love, he is sure to come back to her. She remains at home with a baby. Her sadness is lessened by hope, perhaps encouraged by her husband’s tender letter. She smiles again. See lyrics below. A light from a candle shines hope.

3.07 – War hits home. Hopes are dashed. Sand obliterates life like bombs and splashes destruction.

3.19 –

Music – “Harmageddon”, by cello band Apocalyptica, /watch?v=nhdmlGcIprI The word “Harmageddon” is the Greek pronunciation of the Anglicized “Armageddon”. The Greek ‘har-magedon’ is a transliteration of the Hebrew har-megiddo , likely referring to Mount-Megiddo, an ancient city in northwest Palestine [ present Israel ] on the southern edge of the Plain of Esdraelon. In early history, it was the scene of many battles due to its strategic military position on the crossroads connecting Egypt with Mesopotamia. The Greek is referenced once in the Bible, at Revelation 16:16.

3.43 – Music “Auschwitz Birkenau” – Schindler´s List Soundtrack-08, /watch?v=DCTPc2iRtr8 The violinist might be Itzhak Perlman. Terror is seen on faces. The war is in full force. Where is hope?

4.09 – Either, 1. – a young woman receives a letter informing of her husband’s death, or his missing in action. Or, 2. – It is the former endearing letter promising that their love will reunite them. She grows old as a widow. Time does not separate her memory from his love, nor does it separate the nation from their memory of loved ones; still remembering. From the woman’s face, a memorial is formed.

4.50 – In most city subdivisions and towns, there are memorials to fallen Soviet soldiers. Some memorials are in the shape of an obelisk with a red, green, or gold star atop; like a stele with an eternal flame. Perhaps a list of names are inscribed on its side, of loved ones who died in the war. It might cause a person to ask if there is hope, seen in the light of a candle amid the darkness, or with a star more brightly in our awareness atop these stelae. Many fallen soldiers were buried in communal ‘brother’ graves near where they fell. Memorials are the absent grave markers, for our remembrance.

5.06 – Song – ??????? – Zharable – “Cranes”, /watch?v=yB1J7JBszys – Russian song about WWII.

People are crying because song lyrics bring remembrances of: “… fallen hero soldiers … Were never buried in the ground … But fly in the sky as snowy white cranes. … we look up and can’t turn our eyes from them …. Maybe, it is a place for me.” Lyrics are found in the song section, second part.

As generations: grandparents, parents, and children go to a memorial to remember, whether located in Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Georgia, or to go war cemeteries with crosses put in long rows and columns such as in my country, the U.S., what images from memorials can give us hope?

5.36 – As Russians moved on to rebuild life and buildings from rubble, what societal structures were challenged to change? What institutions which remain today are challenged to purify their purpose?

6:10 – music, “Nothing Else Matters”, played by Apocalyptica, a cello band; from their album “Plays Metallica by Four Cellos”. The song is by heavy metal band Metallica. /watch?v=rbTozgoj9OQ

From the safety of home, as a woman looks out a window to the world, what allows both her neighborhood to remain a pleasant sight of stability and also our home on Earth? As families grow, what preserves happiness between the larger family under the stars? From earliest times, there is one fact, there is a problem on both personal and world scenes: evil. The marine, shown by his cap and clothing, and who looks in the window is probably leaving to go serve in the “bond” OF PEACE for his larger family. Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine has long been a naval marine base. In the arms of the young woman is a baby, wearing a like cap; in the image, and in the likeness. In that likeness, what will the child likely become? Perhaps the child might grow to fill the cap, or might find another way to serve society and preserve goodness. Happiness can happen when we remember history, 1945.

The last words, ?? ?????? ?????: “you are always near” or “you are always by my side”, is not only sentiment felt by the woman toward her husband who is either – 1., leaving for duty, or – 2, a representation of history looking with hope toward our actions; that we have a future from their past. But the words are also our remembering multiplied millions who died in patriotic wars of brotherhood and in wars of repression from lack of brotherhood, too. It is in essence for us: “You are always near to us”.

Another commentator wrote in part, “That’s not a man standing outside… that’s her little son reflection in the window in which she actually recognizes her husband. That’s why Kseniya wrote in the end: You are always nearby. 1945.” Okay, and as the child learns about his image, it will grow to become the image, and go out to the world as that image; recreated to act in the name it has become.

Another commentator wrote, “I think the last scene, of the woman and the baby seeing the vision in the window – it’s like a flashback. I mean the story develops years beyond the War (ageing, the family visiting the memorial-grave). But then the last scene is a flashback into 1945 when all the women were waiting for their men to return, but this lady only got a desperate wishful image in the window…” Kseniya wrote at the end “you are always near”. Goodness and evil are also always near.

Love can triumph hate. As we consider what is love and what is hate, and as we ponder how to make choices, and as we divorce from events caused by poor choices, how is it that our choices in life can often wrongly fuse and mix-up love with hate, as is often evidenced by “unjust” war and repression?

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Songs – –

Song: ?????? ???? – Temnaya Noch, “Dark Night” or “Dark is the Night”: a famous WWII Russian song; sung in 1943 by ???? ?????? – Mark Naumovich Bernes, a Soviet actor and singer of Jewish ancestry ( his father’s last name was Neumann ). The song is about man in WWII, who’s thoughts at night and between battles is about his wife at home, sleepless for both him and their baby in it’s crib.

Lyrics: translation

1 – The night is dark, only bullets are whistling in the steppe,

Only wind is wailing through telephone wires, stars are faintly flickering…

In the dark night, I know you my love are not sleeping,

And, at the child’s crib, out of sight, you wipe away a tear.

How I love the depths of your gentle eyes,

How I long to press my lips to them!

This dark night separates us, my love,

And the dark troubled steppe has come to lie between us.

2 – I have faith in you; in you, my sweetheart.

That faith has shielded me from bullets in this dark night…

I am glad, I am calm in deadly battle:

I know you will meet me with love, no matter what happens to me.

Death does not frighten me, we’ve met with it more than once in the steppe…

And here it looms over me once again,

You await my return, sitting sleepless near a cradle,

And so I know, nothing will happen to me!

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Song: ??????? – Zhuravli, “Cranes”, Russian song about WW II, written much later as the result of the author seeing the result of war in Japan, at the Hiroshima memorial where he saw origami cranes. See site below for its history. The author of the text is Rasul Gamzatov; lyrics revised by Mark Bernes who asked Yan Frenkel to compose the music; premiered 1969. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhuravli

Lyrical translation – –

Sometimes I dream that fallen hero soldiers,

That were not to return from fields of gore,

Did not lie down into their beds of honour,

But fly in the sky as snowy white cranes.

Since then, they wing, calling out to us from afar,

We recognize the hearty dear voice.

Maybe it is the reason why we often stop talking ruefully

When we look up and can’t turn our eyes from them in sky.

The weary wedge of cranes is flying in sky,

It flies at the end of the day.

And there is a small interval inside this wedge,

Maybe, it is a place for me.

Maybe will come a day and I shall fly

With the flock of cranes in the same blue sky

And I shall call everyone who I left at the ground,

From the sky, with the language of these birds.

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Summary – THOUGHTS AND A FOCUSED QUESTION – –

– – THOUGHTS – –

Focus on the World – – –

Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Kazakhstans, Jews, Tatars, Georgians, Armenians and many other peoples were part of the ex-Soviet republics. During WWII, around the world, at least 50 million people died in war deaths. Wars removed generations of accumulated wealth in property and finance, and decades of hard work. Trust was violated. Future generations were stunted, and families broken.

Focus on Ukraine – – –

During the interim between WW’s I and II, Soviet Ukraine farms were collectivized. During the 1920’s, the Soviet government was flexible, thus Ukrainian culture enjoyed a revival. By the early 1930’s, Joseph Stalin had gradually consolidated power, and government policies were sharply reversed. Farm workers were not allowed to eat produce until unrealistic farm quotas were met. All foods were forcibly removed to maintain quotas, done by the Soviet government through NKVD (predecessor of KGB) and secret police. People starved to death. A larger part of the purpose for the famine was to break the Ukrainian farmer-land owners of their spirit by depriving them of property, food, and means of survival. Stalin and his followers understood that no normal person would ever voluntarily give up hard-earned property for the idea of a ‘bright communist future’. In 1932 – 33, this man-made famine known as Holodomor – “Great Famine” claimed from 2.6 to 10 million Ukrainian lives [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor – and – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine ]. And starvation became widespread in all the Soviet Union. This was an internal war prior to the Great War.

Next, during 1937 – 38, Russian repression in the Ukraine brought mass killings, known as the “Great Terror”, killing 80% of the cultural elite, 75% of higher-ranking army officers, writers, artists, and intellectuals. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine ]. The consolidation of the Soviet power devastated the Ukraine. There is a saying: Hitler killed millions, but Stalin tens of millions! From 1932-39, prior to the Great Patriotic War, 23 million Russian people died from the series of repressive political campaigns and the planned Ukraine famine [ http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/dictat.html ].

20 million Russian people died in WWII’s Great Patriotic War, less than under the repression of Stalin and his loyalist thugs. Compared to 5 to 8 million Ukrainians killed in WWII [ as citied in the introductory overview ], the estimated losses from famine in the Ukraine at 2.6 million to 10 million people, with later mass killings, give a total of untimely deaths probably greater than memorialized losses from The Great Patriotic War. Why are reasons for untimely Ukrainian deaths important? Because as we look to the future, we must fully mourn the pain of the past, and from it find hope.

As stelae memorials stretch their one high star toward the heaven, to blend into a night sky of stars filling the universe, hope exists in darkness. We need an image of hope that shines as bright as our closest star, the Sun. It leads us to love, to sacrifice for the best good of all, to share help, and to lift us away from a base of false pride; toward a humility of truthfulness from where we can fly together.

– – A FOCUSED QUESTION > What is the Image?

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Application – – Focusing on the Image:

Deaths from Russian purges and famine ‘war’ equaled or exceeded its deaths from WW II. How might we successfully try to preserve life, at its best quality, for all people affected by our actions? If we would avoid the foundation of the answer, then everything built upon it would collapse. Solid footing and solidarity must start with humility. Being real about things gets us in the door. But, real things cause pain; often too hard to handle by our weak strategies. Therein is reality: weakness. We need to see light, or we will not get near our pain that is part of truth to help. It seems that this first step is the hardest. We need strength that is not of self-sufficiency. It will be given us if we are real about things, because truth needs a solid foundation. It cannot stick to muddied slimy covered-over un-reality. We need to see a strong Image and see the weak image in the mirror for what it is: needy.

Once the Image is known, we are encouraged to grow. As truth of the Image is developed in us, we will be given the earth; the earth that in our poor power we have wretchedly tried to gain, and never kept it. When we become like the Image, and have grown to become morally strong, then we can use our strength to desire justice. Strength gives and builds. But, weakness takes and destroys.

The Source of strength grows strong bodies and nations which know how to do goodness. It is a mistake to think that we have become self-sufficient and not need to celebrate the Image. If we lovingly act because we have become a people who know Love, then we will continue to gain more strength, especially as we mature to become as the Image. Giving: the “for-” of “forgive” is Latin for “not”, teaching how to “for”-give hate; to grow strong through our understanding the Image. Love not only for-gives wrong, but does so in order to give right in place of wrong. Yes, love does not allow wrong to be continually suffered. It is strong enough to know what is goodness and how to offer it, even in the most awful situations. Otherwise, pain inflicted by evil can become our bad image; the false focus.

Evil confuses, because it wraps itself around the roots of life and is not easily separated. Pain needs truth. Herein is the second critical choice about becoming like the Image: as evil wraps around roots, what fruit do we bear that does not have evil in it? Since anything alive is always active and thereby always giving something, the question is whether we are giving love or hate. Do we know how to apply and give goodness? Or are we stuck in hate, not knowing how to offer goodness in place of badness. If we do not know how to forgive and how to give goodness, then we need to go back to the Source of the Image and take it in, to become like it. If we Source it, then we purify the evil from us, to then go out and bless our generation; making peace as does the Image. We can build peace when we understand the Image, like children who grow to understand the purpose of the Father.

If a Fatherland, including those countries that fomented the Great Patriotic War, is to produce greatness; if a Motherland is to bear greatness, then the family must know what is the common Image.

When matured by being real about old weaknesses, to then gain new strength based on solid truth, we do justice. We know how to problem solve, because we have matured in forgiveness and giving. We will experience persecution, but this time we will not be knocked over. People of the Image understand what to do when other people in weak self-sufficient pride try to cut people low. People focused on the Image have gone through training that teaches how to lift people up, like the Image. Self-sufficient supposedly independent people who are not dependent on the Image cannot face their weakness. Their end is to bear fruit of weakness and reap a harvest of evil. Yes, we must be ready for them. The only successful readiness is to look at the Image. The purpose of the Image is that we survive evil, to do good. Reality about weaknesses in the light of the Image gives strength for when darkness surely comes. People of the light know what to do. That is what training does. They withstand evil and do not-give hate, destroying themselves. They have matured to know how to stand for right. They are not whipped back and forth by history. And they do not whip history. How else are you or I to know what goodness looks like unless it is shown us, or we show it to others? We must learn humility to gain strength, and then give strength to the needy.

Eurasia is a crossroads of historical bloodshed, invading and being invaded. Its historical image of downtrodden peoples causes great concern about how to ‘never again’ be stepped on and stabbed, then demoted to someone else’s false image. Both Hitler and Stalin did not want to be stepped on by neighbors and thought they could prevent it. Yet, it was they and their followers who recreated the horrific miseries of bloodshed by bringing their unchanged weak images to bear upon the needs of Europe and Asia. The results were horrific times of doing the image they supposedly abhorred, carried out in the name of their unchanged weak images. The true light offered for change is the Image that rewards realness of humility with truth for weakness, and training for strength; bringing a secure earth, and a passion for life and justice, to be filled with goodness. It is true hope for a good peace.

Life and death is a choice between light and darkness. As oppressors exult their weak images, they give a false images of weakness; never humbled to reality; never freed from their own gnawing pain of hurt that needs light and hope shed upon them from the Image. They never enter the door. They devour the needy; they mis-train followers to be more evil than they; they create false images that are vacant of meaning and help; they create unmerciful laws that are devoid of weightier matters of justice; they polish their cups that hold extortion and excess; they claim beauty, but contain a core of stench and death. To end upright, we must start our journey in the light that gives hope to reality.

What is the Image of Europe-Asia? What is the Image of every person in the world? The first seven of the previous eight paragraphs were formed from the eight steps in the Beatitudes, in the book of Matthew, chapter 5. The eighth paragraph was formed from the eight Woes in Matthew, chapter 23, which are anti-Beatitudes; positioned 5 chapters from the end of that book. The Beatitudes and Woes, as does the prayer to “Our Father” in Matthew chapter 6, all restate the Ten Commandments which is the personality of the Image. It is offered us, to become us, that we bear its Name. They form the message about the Image: that we might take it in, to become it, then go out as it! It is the basic gospel.

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CLOSING – –

In a night sky of stars filling the universe, hope exists in darkness. The word “consider” has stars as its root: “-sider”, meaning star from Latin ‘siderus’. [ The root is found in words like sidereal time or sidereal month. ] When things are well considered, they are looked at closely like at the gleaming of a star. Then truth is better discovered. The word “respect” is also about how to look at things. The root “-spect” means to look, like spectacles. The suffix “re-” reminds us to look ‘back again’, almost like the sand drawing looking back to 1945 for a new hope. For people we love, we “look back again” to “consider” them. As some people might look up again to a star high atop a obelisk memorial to fallen soldiers, or as I, a person from the United States might consider the Statue of Liberty memorial given us from France; on which are written the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, …. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”, then gleaming hope needs a sun of light to shine into our private places and to enter our doors of humility. I hope you are blessed in your consideration of this commentary, as I was with the sand drawing. As grains of sand which are available to form a drawing in the hands of its designer, are you available to be put into the hands of the Maker, to form His Image? Blessings, Steve Huffey

Email communication is found at Contact Me , above top left.

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