“The Circle of Paradise” and the role of art during the war. The story of Svitlana Fedieshova.

“The Circle of Paradise” and the role of art during the war. The story of Svitlana Fedieshova.

Svitlana is an actress of the Chernihiv Regional Academic Music and Drama Theater named after T. Shevchenko, the wife of a military man (her husband was a director until February 24, but now he is defending Ukraine) and a young mother.

Svitlana was born in Lviv, lived in Chernihiv for many years and now, because of the war, has returned to Lviv again.

Svitlana is a young mother, and we talk in a free format – I ask, and Svitlana answers by the voice or text messages. Sometimes – when carrying a child, sometimes – when walking down the street. Sometimes she manages to answer questions that have not yet been asked.

I asked Svitlana to tell me about herself, about the possibilities and role of art during the war, and about the “Circle of Paradise” project – a unique Ukrainian Christmas carol, which was born under the art direction of Uliana Horbachevska and united completely different creators from all over Ukraine: professional musicians of various genres and amateurs, children and adults.


– Svitlana, how did you meet Uliana, and how did you get into the project?


– We met personally in 2020 at a master class led by Uliana. I have been following her activities for a long time and wanted to learn from her. Uliana influenced me a lot, with her approach to the song, with her system of finding and developing your own voice. After this intensive, I really wanted to go to her again to study, but I was always too busy. Since then and until the beginning of a full-scale war, we didn’t have a chance to work together. Svitlana says that Uliana invited her to the last pre-war master class, but she did not go because she was pregnant, and her due date was approaching. Even then, I had a feeling that childbirth would not be easy.

And so it happened: we had to go directly from the bomb shelter to the maternity hospital. There was a tank on the road, along which she and her husband and a colleague were going to the maternity ward.

Svitlana is laughing now: her husband and his colleague ran out of the car and waved at the tank to let the car pass. As if they wanted to move the tank with their hands because his wife was giving birth. And everything around the maternity hospital was on fire – that area was constantly shelled.

Then it turned out that these were only the harbingers of childbirth. Svitlana and her husband had to escape and leave Chernihiv under shelling: this journey took them four days. Svitlana gave a new life to this world already in Lviv.

– In Lviv, we met again with Uliana, I was already with the child. We talked and Uliana offered to join the project. Since I was not going to go on maternity leave, I immediately agreed. Before that, I often had a feeling that we still would work together. It seems to me that the fate brought us together. In general, I think that this project is not only for me, but also for all participants – a fateful thing, in terms of influence on further life and creativity.

For me, participation in this project is a life jacket. Now more than ever it is relevant to do this: both from the point of view of benefiting society, and from the point of view of one’s own psychological salvation. After all, you can sing about different things: what hurts you, or, on the contrary, what you want to share. An authentic Ukrainian song has a certain energy, and it is life-giving. This is the basis, the foundation on which our nation stands.



   – How did your creative side react to the events? After all, people in creative professions are people who always feel subtly. With the beginning of the war, the creative part of many actors, musicians, and artists “turned off”, unable to withstand the emotional load. And for many, on the contrary, it became more active. What about you?

   – The creative part… I think I’ve reacted like many other people: the question arose, why are you in all of this at all? Considering all the circumstances and events that happen to us. Involuntarily, you begin to ask yourself, “Who am I in art?” and why?”. Historically, various perturbations affect creative people and make new forms appear, a new worldview, and even a society of feelings is being born. Tragic events always give birth to new forms of art. I continue to follow what is happening in Ukraine in the theater sphere: many artistes have begun to look for new forms. It is very important. At the same time, there are those who continue to work “on the spur of the moment”, engaged in art detached from today’s reality. I think that creativity should not be separated from life. When you see this, you begin to think: “Why do you need all of this? Why would you waste your life on you don’t know what?” We may not have time at all to chew snot. And you can try to do something worthwhile, or to remain as an observer.

I’m an actor, and to me “theater” that is just entertainment/distraction – never was a real theater. I do not believe that a person should go to the theater just to relax. I’m not saying that you should leave the theater and make an appointment with a psychologist. Although in fact it would be a fantastic effect: if a person watched the play and decided that he needed to see a specialist. Because now we are all traumatized, we all make mistakes and influence each other’s fate. In fact, actors are also psychologists, because we understand the roles, we delve into the biographies of the characters, try to understand the nature of their behavior and build relationships on stage.

Answering the questions about creativity during the war, Svitlana touches on the topic of genres. Nowadays, it is often said that comedies are “out of date”.

   – To say that now is not the time for comedy is wrong. Comedies should not be, in the first place now, as if nothing happened. But this is exactly what our enemies want: that we only cry and be in a constant state of a despair. There can be a place for everything. Is it important, how and why? Everyone now answers these questions in their own way. But the answer should not be detached from the realities of life circumstances in which we all find ourselves. Because art is a ground for reflection and can be a healing tool.

   – And how do you feel yourself in art now?

   – How do I feel about this… Oh. Motherhood has made its adjustments: probably now I can’t embody myself exactly as I would like. But the creative part of me did not turn off. It is wounded, like many others, but my soul aspires not even to find peace, but to give something to the world. Sometimes I have to fight apathy: constant worries about my husband and our military have a general  effect. But we have to hold on despite everything – to live life to the fullest; not to let the enemy take away our joy, zest for life, desire for life.And art can heal both the creator and the viewer/listener.

“Circle of Paradise” is as well a project about life and healing. This project is generally a very life-giving thing.

   – Cultural tools are also weapons, and the most powerful ones.

– Yes, it is a powerful weapon. And we are also responsible for what we do. For what influence is and can be on a potential viewer.

  – How do you feel about the “Circle of Paradise”? After all, this is a Christmas story, the holiday in itself is full of meanings, and Christmas during the war… Such meanings have never existed in our life, as it seems to me.

  – It is not the first time that the Christmas carol sounds when we as a nation are going through the attempt of extermination. This is a shield. This is something ours, unique and strong. For me, it is a light in the dark times. Literally and not literally. Now, both ancestors and descendants – everyone is watching us. For all of us during this difficult times. Because this war has been going on for centuries. And right now it’s time to put an end to the imposed foreign culture, language and, in general, the imposed worldview. Destroyed, tortured, lost souls breathe behind our shoulders. We face a struggle. For what is in our hands. This is our future. In particular, our children. We have to become powerful talismans for them.

– Please tell us a little about how you see the development of Ukrainian culture in the near future? Fundamental changes are really taking place now: both in the country and on the world stage.

  – The war increased informational flow about us in the world. Our actors now have the opportunity to work in various European plays, directors stage plays abroad. The topic is mainly one – about who we are now and who we have always been. And these works are mega important. Because while we were waiting, the neighboring country had already developed the necessary image… That is why it is sometimes so difficult to convey to certain world audiences who we are and what our struggle is about. Now more than ever, you can’t be indifferent and close your eyes. Work here is like a family. Everyone should contribute their work to the structure of relations and “us” in the future. No refusals about “it’s more convenient, I don’t understand, it’s just a book, music” etc.

On the other hand, gentleness is needed. No matter how hard it is. Historically, this is how it happened: what we have is what we have. But we have to finally stop it. Otherwise, our children will have to defend the land and everything related to Ukrainianness as such. We are these children now.

So, regarding development… Despite all the difficulty of being and the uncertainty of the future, new forms will certainly be born. Tragic events, unfortunately, but it is true, open up new possibilities of expression. We are seen as a strong nation. Because it is so. In particular, what concerns our own geniuses – we have an incredible number of them. Unfortunately, most of them were shot at the time. And we should never forgive this, either! Our task is to stand up and show ourselves with the authentic baggage of treasures that we have.

And this is exactly what our Christmas carol is!