After a long pause, the OKO International Ethnographic Film Festival is finally returning to the information space! Now, like all Ukrainians, we are going through difficult times because the brutal aggression by Russia is still ongoing. However, we do not lose hope for a brighter future and are actively preparing for a new edition. Meanwhile, we would like to share our warm memories of our short trip to Europe.
From March 19 to 26, members of the OKO team, including director Tetiana Staneva, technical director Yan Lelyuk, and editor and translator Dana Mitanova, visited Belgium and Switzerland with special screenings. Let's remember how it was!
The first event took place at the Bulgarian Embassy in Belgium on March 19, and was opened by the Ambassador of Bulgaria in Belgium, Plamen Bonchev, with a speech. After his speech, Tetiana presented her documentary about Bulgarians in southwestern Ukraine, The Place of Power. The guests also had the opportunity to see with their own eyes the terrible consequences of the Russian occupation of the Kyiv region in the spring of 2022, as captured in the photographs Different Ukraine by ethnophotographer Oleksandr Baron.
The second event was held on March 21 at the European Parliament. Among the speakers were Radan Kanev, а Member of the European Parliament from Bulgaria, Natalia Anoshyna, Chargé d'Affaires of Ukraine in the Kingdom of Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Sylvia Atipova, head of the organization Da, Bulgaria in Brussels.
After them, Tetiana Staneva, the director of OKO and a Ukrainian filmmaker of Bulgarian descent, spoke from the rostrum of the European Parliament about the war. She called on Europeans not to stop supporting Ukraine, which defends democratic values at the exorbitant cost of its people's lives. We need the help of civilized countries to preserve our culture and identity, to win back our legitimate right to exist, and to defend our own. This was illustrated in the film Own by Myroslav Lutsyk, which presented the stories of residents of Irpin, Bucha, and Borodyanka who survived the Russian occupation.
On March 24, we held a charity party Yes, Bulgaria Stands with Ukraine organized by our friends Ivaylo Toshev and Silvia Atipova. In addition to the mini-concert by the AMPLICAN band, we also held a charity fair and auction, where we raffled off a Ukrainian flag signed by the 88th Marine Battalion, dry rations for Ukrainian soldiers, and photos of Oleksandr Baron. In total, we raised 620 euros in Brussels to buy a drone for our army.
On March 26, the OKO team arrived in Switzerland. At a local cinema in Zurich, we screened the films Terrykony by Taras Tomenko and Own by Myroslav Lutsyk.
The next day, on March 27, we demonstrated the film The Place of Power by Tetiana Staneva at the Quartiertreff Enge Center.
We felt great support from our audience, who wholeheartedly believed in us and our victory. However, we brought more than that back to Ukraine. In Zurich, we managed to raise funds for a drone for the 88th Separate Marine Battalion and added a little something from ourselves. So, in total, we brought 800 euros for our defenders.
We would also like to thank the people who made the OKO trip possible. Among them are Ivaylo Toshev and Sylvia Atipova, the head of the organization Da, Bulgaria (Brussels), who took over the organization of all the events in Brussels and thanks to whom, our voice was heard in the very center of Europe.
In Zurich, our screenings took place thanks to the efforts of Georgi Georgiev, Manuela Maleeva, and Margarita Kuseva. They became a sip of living water for us, giving us the strength to move forward. This is just the beginning, there are many more projects ahead!
And on the way home, we visited Bulgarian book publisher, volunteer, and great friend of Ukraine Manol Peikov in Plovdiv. It was a bright spot on our trip. More details are in our video.