"Slovo" House: film screening and talk with Uilleam Blacker. 1 March 2018, 7pm.
Taras Tomenko’s gripping 2017 documentary ‘Slovo’ House was released in Ukraine to acclaim and now it’s sending shock waves abroad: already it’s been selected for viewing at the Warsaw International Film Festival.
The film shows the heyday of Ukrainian art revival of 1920s passing vividly before your eyes: soon this period of Ukrainian literature would be remembered as the “Executed Renaissance.” With Slovo House writers arrested and shot, the once vibrant and creative community and the dwelling turns into a wasteland.
Ukrainian Institute is delighted to organise this exclusive screening in London, preceeded by a talk with Dr Uilleam Blacker, lecturer in Comparative Russian and East European Culture at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London.
DATE: 1 March 2018
VENUE: Concert Hall of the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile, 21 Binney St, Mayfair, London W1K 5BQ
Admission: The event is free but registration is required. Please register here.
Language: In Ukrainian with English subtitles.
Length 81 min.
The film trailer could be viewed here
In Ukrainian ‘slovo’ means ‘word,’ and this documentary tries to come to grips with the harrowing fate of Ukrainian writers who perished in 1930s. Having first been feted at the very top of Soviet power, the writers are given this communist ‘paradise’ of their own – a building constructed especially for them. The documentary tells the story of the building and its former residents, bringing to life how this supposed communist paradise turns into a living hell.
Designed in the late 1920s in Ukraine’s then-capital city of Kharkiv, Slovo House was built with the personal approval of Stalin. There Ukrainian writers were meant to enjoy lodgings that included 64 comfortable apartments, two solariums, laundry facilities, dining room, service staff and even bomb shelters in case of emergency. But it was also fitted with a special surveillance system, and the network of agents spying on the writers also included their wives. Even famous visitors such as Bertolt Brecht and Theodore Dreiser were kept under control, subject to the vigilant eye of the totalitarian state.
Meanwhile, out in the Ukrainian countryside, forced collectivisation and a man-made famine – now famous as Holodomor – brought peasants streaming into the city, where they lie dying from starvation on Kharkiv’s streets.
The film shows the internal drama of the writers, their loves, denunciations and suicides, as well as their executions and exile to asylums – all with the backdrop of the Holodomor, which also became a reality for the inhabitants of Slovo House. In the end, more than 70 writers from 60 apartments were persecuted and killed by the Soviet authorities.
The film shows the heyday of Ukrainian art revival passing vividly before your eyes: soon this period of Ukrainian literature would be remembered as the “Executed Renaissance.” With Slovo House writers arrested and shot, the once vibrant and creative community and the dwelling turns into a wasteland.
Dr Uilleam Blacker
Uilleam Blacker is Lecturer in Comparative East European Culture at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. His research focuses on Ukrainian, Polish and Russian culture and cultural memory. He is co-author of Remembering Katyn (2012) and co-editor of Memory and Theory in Eastern Europe (2013). His translations of contemporary Ukrainian authors have appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation, Words Without Borders and Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction series.
Special thanks to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile for providing their venue for this event.
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