Ярослава Волненко-Небесна Yaroslava Volnenko-Nebesna

* 1969

  • "I didn't send him anywhere. The war just started. Everything was spinning. I was making mosaics for Zhytomyr, at the workshop in Borshchahivka. And in August, at some point, I realized that I couldn't do it. I hopped on my bicycle and went to the military enlistment office. Of course, they turned me away from there, and I rode, I don't remember... Well, I went there again later. But here's the thing, on that very day, Mykyta decided to go there, you see. But it wasn't just like that. There was some training base near Hlevakha. And he got to know the guys and girls who trained there and just hung out with them and trained. He's into airsoft, you know. He knows something, he doesn't know something. He ran with them, trained with them. And when they started getting ready to go because initially he had no plans to go, he decided that he should. But the funny thing is that his decision and my trip to the military enlistment office happened at the same time. Well, that's right. An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Well, and what can you do? We had the money. I packed him. We went shopping, bought everything, ordered patches, gloves. And he went. They were sent to the border with Transnistria at that time.”

  • “Well, right on the barricade near the Column, the guys were standing. Everything was burning in front of them. That's when I stayed until the evening. Yeah. They were being sprayed with water [from water cannons]. And everything was clanging and rumbling. I walked around, bringing them water, bringing gloves. I don't know, something there doesn't... explosions don't scare me at all. It's just that they are standing on the barricade, all smoky and exhausted. I came to ask something, to bring them water, tea, milk. Right there on the spot, in that tent... that's where I stood in the tent across from the Conservatory, near the subway exit. They were pouring milk there. Because the most... the most in demand was milk to drink. Those “muzzles” were distributed, well, somehow... clothes. Clanging and rumbling. Here is fire, there is water. They're shooting constantly. From time to time, someone would come up and say, “Don't move too much, stay here.” Well, more at night. The only thing is that towards morning... Just visual moments again. But that was around half past six, probably, earlier. Because at night, it was rumbling, clanging, but the night passed more or less peacefully. And the girls who were standing there with me near that little tent — one had to go to school, well, to university, and the other — to work. I say, “Well, you see, we've made it through the night, it's already half past six, or maybe even half past five. Well, probably half past six. I'm telling you, by the time you reach some metro station and get home to clean up, sort things out.” And so they left, and from the moment when some very interesting actions started happening... That's the observation, what I saw. So, on one side, there was this grandfather who stood on the barricade all night, covered in soot, in dirt... So he came up to our little tent, and there was a puddle. And he starts washing his hands in the puddle, wiping something off himself. I say, “Let me give you some water, I have plenty of it.” No, no. He sloshed there a bit. I say, “Maybe you want some water, tea, or something else... Let me really give you some water or change something from your clothes.” Because he was all dirty, black. He says, “No, my child.” So he sloshed in that puddle and went back on the barricade. And right after that, after seven o'clock, the “tourists” started appearing. So this grandpa, dressed in some kind of plastic raincoat, and people fully equipped. They had helmets with all sorts of gadgets, and he had this half-face respirator hanging there, something else. And they just came in that gear to have tea on Maidan. And then people started coming. Well, first of all, those who were standing on the barricade, they kept coming because we had a pile of clothes there to take off the smoked ones and throw them away right there. And put on something fresh and go back to stand there. Or wet. They were all smoky here, being sprayed with water. So someone threw the wet clothes, took some jacket, some sweater, and went back there. And then these “tourists” arrived. Or again, such a thing that impressed me. Purely visual. Like a movie. If I were to make a film, this must be included... A young guy, well, not a guy, rather a young man. And he came to the tent to change clothes. So he takes off his civilian clothes, and he has two stainless steel plates on chains in place of kidneys. And there's something else covered there. Well, it was visible when he was changing his clothes. And so calmly, in a business-like manner, the person changes, asks to keep an eye on the bag with his civilian clothes, and goes there. That's how it was. A contrast. Then the massacre began. It was clanging and rumbling even more terrifying than at night. But, as I say, before you arrived, when you came to Maidan with “Dama” [Volodymyr Nasiedkin, a famous Kyiv speleologist, Vice President of the Ukrainian Speleological Association] and Zubkov [Serhii Zubkov, a famous Kyiv speleologist], I have no visual memories. I mean, later when I looked at photos and watched videos, I saw that there were people lying just two meters away from me, but I don't remember anything. It's just that people would come, someone slightly scratched would come because something had grazed them. I was working. I still remember that, but overall, it's as if it got erased. Then at some point, people came and said, “We're already upstairs.” And that's it.”

  • “Yes, I was at home. Then, after that vote, there was a lot of scary information. I was simultaneously listening to the radio and watching TV around the clock. Taras Ponomarenko came over, and we sat together. And this information started appearing... I said, “Maybe we should go.” Because something was already brewing there, tents were being set up, although it wasn't yet a definite decision. And we went. It happened that we stood near the tent where the medics were. Up on the hill, near the monument, near that column. We talked about something, and I stayed there. And then I stayed with those medics for the entire Maidan. At first, I acted as a matron…a housekeeping nurse. To see how things were going, keep records. Because the medics would come, they would take shifts there. Well, they had their own work in the hospital. After work or after their shift, if it was a night shift, they would come there. There were medicines, a small journal was kept: who received what treatment, what medications, how much... Everything. Plus, there was even such control. Very young, smart boys and girls. It even came to the point that they would walk around Maidan to check and make sure people weren't given tea with raspberries. Because raspberries, temperature, people sweat, then cool down, and get sick. I stayed with the medics the entire time on Maidan. Well, and then I started working as some kind of a paramedic. They explained to me what to do for whom. And when the medics were away, I took care of it. My little son initially went to school for a few days. And the school... he studied at School №25, the former Belinsky School. When he enrolled in that school, there was an interview. And the principal or the deputy head, I don't remember who it was, said, “You understand that you're sending your child to a Brezhnev-type school.” Well, to make sure that we wouldn't have any illusions, that they would toe the line, as it should be. And on the second... Well, he attended the school for two days, although he would run to Maidan to see me, and on the second day he brought a diary. In the diary, it was written, “Thank you for allowing your child to attend school.” At that time, many people who joined Maidan were no longer sending their children to school. I wrote a note saying, “Sorry, due to political reasons, Mykyta won't be attending school for now.” So he took that diary, showed it to the teachers, and continued coming to Maidan to see me. He would use the phone to ask for homework at school and would sit with me in the tent, doing his homework. Such a well-behaved boy.”

  • “I thought I would be working with mosaic. While waiting for a person I needed to talk to... oh, I remembered, Phantálin. He was in charge of the artistic part of decorating St. Michael's Monastery. His firm or... well, I don't know. While I was waiting for him to become available... It was in the Metropolitan House in St. Sophia's Cathedral, so the entire sketch, well, the sketch part of the mosaic, was being done in Sophia in the Metropolitan House. It wasn't restored at that time, so the interior was all empty, they only covered the walls with chipboard panels so that we could paint. And I was standing there, someone was doing something... I said, “Let me help you.” I started retouching something. And they asked me, “What, are you going to paint?” I said, “Yes. I'm a certified professional.” And they took me to the sketches, to the cardboard, to Totskyi... Hryhorii, no, Hryhorovych... I forgot everything. When you don't use your memory, everything flies out. So there, it was already September, October, November, December, January, and probably even February. I definitely worked on the sketches and cardboard for almost five months. I went to museums, I really nagged if they laid out incorrectly. Well, the work with the sketches was finished, and they allowed me to lay the mosaic. Moreover, the work I did, both the sketch and the life-size cardboard, it was my work. And I was assigned to lay one of those angel figures. Especially since there were four of those angels. I worked on the face images . Somehow it is considered that face images... well, not considered, it is true that making face images is harder than backgrounds or clothing. Since I was responsible for the sketch part, it meant that I had to do the artistic supervision. Because, especially during the Soviet period, artists would create sketches for the artistic part, but then people who had no connection to artistic work would execute them. Well, you know, placing stones or cutting glass. And that's why there were few people directly involved in the actual mosaic execution, maybe about a third, for sure. These were people who didn't even have basic art education. There were individuals like Kira Kyrychenko, who had attended academies or, well, art institutes, with higher art education under their belts. And there were those who just came after school, tried something, and it worked out. They were allowed in. And I worked on the wall until the completion of the cathedral.”

  • “I started telling how when I went to “Svitlytsia”, to the café, and talked to that semi-dissident youth, that period had a lot of things going on. We gathered there, someone shared information. We just read some poems, organized music and poetry evenings. We were kicked out onto the street for that by the police, it was fun.” — “Was it a club?” — “It wasn't exactly a club. Well, the Ukrainian Cultural Club was like the Ukrainian Cultural Club. Some of those... well, one person definitely went there for the club meetings. But we... we were just nobodies. Well, we were not of that level, not as knowledgeable as all the other people. And he would come back and tell us that they had a great time, they read Skovoroda and discussed some other things.” — “Can you recall any names associated with this UCC?” — “Well, Kiriukhin went there. <...> Eduard Kiriukhin, the guy from our “Svitlytsia” circle. He went there. He was studying history, got kicked out of the history faculty. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital, wrote very interesting songs. He talked a lot about history. And he went there. He later became some sort of political scientist, and then... Well, I don't know. And this... the surname Korchynskyi made a lot of noise at that time. I don't remember other surnames. Although he brought some printed stuff, Edik did. We read it. Well, I personally read what was happening, what they... That's when I first heard about UNA-UNSO. But, well, only Korchynskyi remained in my memory.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Kyiv, 30.03.2023

    duration: 04:12:18
    media recorded in project Voices of Ukraine
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

From childhood, I knew that I am Ukrainian

During the Orange Revolution, 2004
During the Orange Revolution, 2004
photo: Personal archive of Yaroslava Volnenko-Nebesna

Yaroslava Volnenko-Nebesna, a mosaic artist who participated in the restoration of the Saint Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv and has been adorning Ukrainian churches with mosaics for over two decades, was born on September 22, 1969, in Kyiv. Her parents, biologists by profession, were born into families of creative lineage. In Yaroslava’s family, there were architects, painters, musicians, opera singers, and folklorists. After completing the Taras Shevchenko Republican Art Secondary School, Yaroslava studied at the Kharkiv Art and Industrial Institute (now Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts) and defended her diploma work at the National Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture in Kyiv. She was actively involved in youth meetings related to the activities of the Ukrainian Culturological Club and took part in two revolutions. In 2004, she performed administrative work in the medical service of the Maidan during the Orange Revolution. Later, in the intense days of the Revolution of Dignity in February 2014, she sought free passage for vehicles carrying medicines, water, and protective equipment, assisting those who were on the barricades and providing first aid to the wounded. In 2014, when her son Mykyta volunteered to fight in the war, Yaroslava provided informational support to his unit. After the start of the full-scale invasion by Russian forces in 2022, Yaroslava Volnenko-Nebesna continues to create mosaics and bas-reliefs, believing that Ukrainians will find the strength to prevail.