Євген Чистоклетов Jevgen Chystokletov

* 1961

  • “Then I found such a club in the city center, where my first teacher... she was... She graduated from the Kyiv Institute [Kyiv National I. K. Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University] and worked in the theater. Her teacher... was [Kostiantyn] Khokhlov. He was a director in Kyiv after the war. <…> No, she wasn't from Kyiv, I think she was from Russia... Then she lived in Ukraine, in Kyiv. Her husband was very famous — Mykola Kabachek, he was actually an interesting figure in Ukrainian theater. His father, the father of Mykola [Kabachok Volodymyr Andriiovych], was a bandurist, one of the founders of the Bandura Ensemble in Poltava. Kabachek. This is his son, he became a director. He finished his studies in St. Petersburg, where he even knew [Vsevolod] Meierhold and attended his classes or something like that. Then he became a director in theaters in the Ukraine, including the Lviv Opera Theater. But then he was repressed, he was even in a labor camp. He was in a labor camp, and then he started working in Lviv, and then someone... started denouncing him, and he was fired and transferred to Donetsk. In Donetsk he was a director... and there were denunciations against him again. Those were the times when it was hard, I think, to hold on. Later he became the director of a children's and youth theater club, a simple club, that's the story. I started with my teacher, and she was the wife of this [Mykola Kabachek]... He was also one of my first teachers, he helped me when I was still in school, finishing school. This was during my time in Donetsk. I used to go to the city center in Donetsk, even though it was very far; Petrovskiy district, where I lived, was very, very... It took 45 minutes just by bus… <…> [Location of the club]: The building was from DMP, Donetsk Metallurgical Plant, Lenin Palace, it seems. It was right in the center, not far from the TV tower.”

  • “The main event that happened, as I mentioned, was the collapse of the Soviet Union. That was the primary event. Then everything began. This happened not only in Ukraine but everywhere. That’s why the event of 1991 was crucial. It was perceived as if it were a matter of course, calmly, and that’s how I saw it. There wasn’t a ‘wow’ factor; it felt like it was the right thing, a logical progression. We continued working the way we had started in the late 1980s, just the same. That’s how it was in Donetsk. Why was it like that? On one hand, it was wrong. Where was it wrong from where I’m standing now? If we had gained independence in 1991, the state and others should have focused more on Ukrainian culture, and invested more in this region. There should have been a cultural campaign. More should have been invested in this region; there should have been some kind of a cultural assault. But at the time, there was no such feeling there, none of that. We just continued with the Russian repertoire, the classic Russian repertoire, nothing new. Such an event didn’t happen. For me personally, the significant event of the 1990s was me, again, not from the top but personally. I went to Lviv. <…> In the mid-1990s, I went to Lviv. There was a theater festival there, and just the atmosphere, the place, the city; all of this scenery, where I place myself, my plays, my life. I know, but I left, and a few others left as well. But what about the majority of people? They know nothing about this... They’re staying there... To be honest, very few people went to Lviv, a bit to Kyiv, but to Lviv?... So I knew. Although I was raised in Russian culture, it struck me that I am still... Lviv is Europe... You know, I'm like Ilya Repin. They say Repin was from Ukraine. Do you know that Repin is Russian? He’s considered a Russian artist who painted many famous works, and a member of the Peredvyzhnyki art movement. But he also painted ‘Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks,’ which is a famous painting. But later, I found out that he painted many Ukrainian paintings, and nobody talks about it. ‘Hopak’ was his last work, and before that, he had many Ukrainian-themed paintings. Towards the end of his life, he considered himself Ukrainian. He separated, and lived in Finland in Kuokkala; it was easier for him there. He was, essentially, a Ukrainian artist. But for me, like Repin... Maybe it happened earlier with [Ilya] Repin? It began to dawn on me in the 2000s that something needed to be done about this region... True, it was already late. But it’s never too late, anyway. So, the event of the 2000s that somewhat pushed me towards this, and made me think about it even more, was the revolution. The Orange Revolution in 2004. I was in Kyiv at that time, by the way. It made a much greater impression on me than any other event... It was just a bomb... I believe there have been few revolutions like that, or I don’t know of any other revolutions... You don’t just know about it. When I was studying there, I was involved in directing, finishing my directing degree, and I lived there... Such a bloodless revolution, you could say, that’s how you could describe it, completely bloodless... People still don’t believe in it. Perhaps other nations do not believe that it could be like that. And Russia, they have a different worldview, a different perspective; they’re entirely different. They don’t understand that it could happen. But it did happen, and it wasn’t scary to go anywhere, day or night. You could enter anywhere. You could walk into theaters, doors were open, and you could watch performances.”

  • “Somewhere before the Revolution [of Dignity], I started to feel something. I was dissatisfied with everything, and I began a project. Before the Revolution, I decided to do it in the theater. But in Donetsk theater [Ukrainian Academic Music and Drama Theater], my path was blocked. In Makiivka, in the Donetsk Regional Russian Theater for Young Spectators, it was possible because there were people there. I made an agreement and did a project there about Shevchenko, Stus, Khvylovy... plays like that. I started working on it and completed it — it was a revolution. It coincided with the beginning of all these events. I started performing it in Makiivka for young audiences. The audience there was mainly high school students, but high school students were needed too. For me. It was late! I should have started a long time ago. I say that I could have... how many plays did I have there, eight or so? Then it became dangerous around April, at the end of April, it was already dangerous to perform there. I stopped, of course. But before each performance, I tried to agitate them. I told them that we are Ukrainians, and they should think about it. It was a choice because the Russians began to enter. I told them, ‘Look, you have eyes.’ I tried to explain all this to them. I don’t know, maybe someone believed me. I think many stayed there, and I believe that some of the boys who watched my Shevchenko plays died in the ranks of the ‘DPR’ [‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ — the occupation regime in Donetsk region]. I think it could have turned out differently. But they listened well. No one said anything like ‘Go away.’ I don’t remember anyone saying ‘Go away’ or ‘Get lost’. Although I know that there were different attitudes in families. In families, it was one thing, but here we told them that this is Ukraine, this is our homeland. For them, I think, for many, it was somehow new.”

  • “When Ihor Hirkin entered Donbas – the ‘Donbas friend,’ I left. I understood. I didn’t go because I was afraid of Hirkin; I didn’t care about him. I just understood that nothing good would come out of it, nothing good at all. How did he enter? They could have killed him. He had a group with him, a small group. It was some kind of mercenary unit; I don’t know... They came from Slovyansk. Ukrainian artillery could have wiped them out. At that time, Arsen Avakov [was in charge of the Ministry of Internal Affairs], a real character. He could have [destroyed them]... But something happened there. And he [Ihor Hirkin] entered Donetsk. He entered, and that was it. That’s when I understood; I knew it before, but that was the final confirmation. I understood that it would last a long time. When I said, ‘I'm going,’ to my wife, she couldn’t come with me at that time. I said, ‘I’m waiting for you. Pack your things here, do your business, and I’m waiting for you.' She said, ‘What? You’re not coming back?’ – ‘No, I'm not coming back.’ – ‘How can you not come back?’... I came right away. My friend, I lived with him for a month, he hosted me. I got into the Lesya Ukrainka Theater at first. [Oleksii] Kolomiitsev was the director there, a long-haired guy. He said, ‘Well, let’s work.’ Then I found a place to stay. But still, about accommodation... okay, when we arrived in 2014, it was not very expensive, you could find something somehow. Of course we found some affordable apartments because we had very little money. But then, when – now I'm going to change my mind for a moment. When people arrived in 2022, the price of housing in Lviv started to rise. I think this was impossible, and the state authorities should have facilitated it somehow. Because the people who arrived had nothing, and paying very high rents for apartments is terrible. But they were housed in schools... I think this desire... I mean, I live here, I have some extra space, I want to rent it out. People come from places where they have nothing. So should I take advantage of them? It kind of lowers my opinion of the people who live here. I think it's wrong.”

  • “In the 1990s it was easy, it was hospitable there. It felt like hospitality. You come as a guest to friendly people who want to introduce you to their culture. At that time it was a bit exotic in that sense. That's part of it. But when you come to live here, it's a different story. The mechanisms and relationships are different. I mean the division into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It remains, and it’s always there, no matter what. I still feel like an outsider here, even now. Basically, people here still see me as an outsider. Initially, they seemed to accept me: ‘Yes, we should help, it’s ok, Yevhen, work here, live here for a while.’ But you can’t just live for free. What about the state? It gave 400 roubles (hryvnias), but that’s not much. At first, they welcomed me at the theater, but then I realized that they were thinking, ‘Well, you've lived here for a while. Now we’re ‘us’ and you... The war has been going on for so many years, long enough. Two or three years already, it’s sufficient. You should leave, that’s enough. We have our own people.’”

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    Lviv, 11.08.2023

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    duration: 02:19:12
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I left with no intention of returning

Yevhen Chystokletov at the Art-Alternatyva Festival, 2010
Yevhen Chystokletov at the Art-Alternatyva Festival, 2010
photo: Personal archive of Yevgen Chystokletov

Yevhen Ivanovych Chystokletov was born on March 31, 1961, in Stalino (renamed Donetsk in November of the same year). His passion for Western music, amateur photography, and impromptu performances for friends led him into the world of theater. Donetsk during the Khrushchev Thaw and Era of Stagnation strengthened his desire to leave the city and never return. Young Yevhen Chystokletov left with the intention of becoming an actor. Later, he performed in theaters in large Russian cities. During Perestroika, he returned to his hometown and, in 1987, became an actor at the Donetsk Drama Theatre. In 1989, dissatisfied with the local processes, he and his wife Olha founded their own chamber theater studio called “Zhuky”, searching for new artistic forms. In 2001, he took part in the Golden Lion festival in Lviv and began to collaborate with Lviv theaters. In 2005, he invited local and foreign colleagues to his first festival of alternative theater in Donetsk, called “Art-Alternatyva.” In the run-up to the Russian invasion of Donetsk in 2014, he and his wife organized a series of performances based on the works of Ukrainian writers. They communicated with young audiences and shared the history of Ukraine. His activities in Donetsk were interrupted by the Russian aggression, the occupation of the city, and the beginning of the war. He moved to Lviv with his wife and “Zhuky”. There, he found work as an actor at the Lesia Ukrainka Theatre and as a director at the First Ukrainian Theatre for Children and Youth. Since 2023, he has lived and worked in Lviv.