With Athena’s courage seething in the depths of her core, Dasha has been fighting through life like an Amazon. As a photographer and an aspiring filmmaker, the Slavic creatress left her hometown Kiev in 2014 and migrated to the island of Cyprus. At that time her native country was going through tragic turmoil: the aftermath of the Euromaidan Revolution. Ukraine’s political uncertainty was followed by a rise in crime and an increase in nationalism. A rare opportunity presented itself to Dasha and the young woman enrolled at the European University in Cyprus.
We sat down for a beer in Cyprus to talk about her experience and her art. Little did we know that the discussion would trigger so much pain in both of us and wake our inner demons, entangling them in a dance. As Dasha said “It’s like an old, open wound that you keep scratching and picking at, never truly giving it the time to heal.”
I wrote about Dasha extensively and yet I could not fully express what I wanted to say about the creatress’ life, her ambitions and her photography. My mind was searching for words while constantly making detours, producing an academic, jargon-loaded piece but allowing a distance that I subconsciously sought. I noticed that my 10-year-old self was rebelling against me, telling me how I have no right to write about a creatress from a country I have abandoned. My inner child was yelling and shaming me for leaving my Ukrainian hometown, for not being there during the revolution in 2013/2014 and especially for not being present at the referendum which led to the annexation of my home Crimea by the Russians. I wasn’t even able to conduct the interview with Dasha in my mother tongue, a language we both share. “How can you anyway? You got rid of your national identity a long time ago.” complained my 10-year-old self.
Dasha packed her suitcase in the midst of a national chaos. What at first seemed like a peaceful demonstration in the Independence Square of the Ukrainian capital, quickly transformed into a blood-filled revolution. In solidarity, the crowds barricaded and lived in the square with (in my opinion) minimal assistance coming from outside the capital.
When the violence subsided, Dasha explains how she felt while being confronted with the political uncertainty: “Everything was falling apart because of the crisis. Everything became so expensive and the future for the younger generations was looking rather blurry. I wasn’t sure about my university anymore and what I actually wanted to do with my life.”
While Dasha bravely migrated to Cyprus, I was shamefully watching the events develop from afar, from a country that is almost deluded with its sense of security.
In Cyprus, the creatress started her journey of simultaneously falling apart (as in shedding layers of grief and of heartbreak) and moulding her stronger and wiser self.
“When I first arrived to Cyprus everything looked so progressive and advanced! The crisis in Ukraine left us with bare hands and empty pockets. When I saw the university in Cyprus, I was convinced that this is what I want my life to be. Obviously my perspective has changed a little. Everyone is Ukraine is dying for an opportunity to leave the country and move to Europe. I feel like I got so used to living in Europe that I stopped noticing how lucky I actually am, and that makes me feel guilty at times.”
While reminiscing about her childhood in Ukraine, the young woman shares a few stories of the different artistic paths that she’s been on so far. From dancing to writing, she was always drawn to the creativity that emerges from movement and writing. Before moving to Cyprus, Dasha was singing in a rock band called BFB (Bare-Footed-Band).
“It was a joke at first but we ended up performing and of course barefoot! During that tough time, the music we were playing saved my sanity in a way. It made me let go of my monkey mind. During our rehearsals I felt like I was doing something meaningful and yet effortless. The band provided a sense of safety for all of us, I guess.”
In Cyprus, the young woman didn’t have an opportunity to connect with anyone musically yet “I find it hard to find people who I click with. Cyprus is very different from Ukraine, especially because of its people’s leaned back attitude. It’s hard to be productive in this sort of environment and to get people together to play music.”
The at first frustrating nonchalance of Cyprus became a contagious quality that Dasha is still learning to accept and work with. “The boiling climate makes me lazy most of the time. I learned how to relax, indeed. But I’m a very active person so I need to remain productive and live in a place where my environment is in harmony with my inner being.”
The island’s culture, its youth’s constant involvement in activism, transformed Dasha’s awareness and pushed her to look deeper into issues of feminism, sexuality and politics.
“The island cleared out my vision a little. I have noticed that in Eastern-Europe, we tend to be extremely judgmental! In Ukraine people gossip excessively, they have horrible prejudices about what you wear and what gender you have sex with. It might not seem like a big deal to the European kids, but it was quite a step for me to learn how to tolerate and how not to judge those who are on a different path than me. I am grateful to have met all the open-minded people who taught me how to respect people’s beliefs and accept them for who they are, even if I don’t agree with them. I think it’s a big step for someone coming from Ukraine!”
Currently on her photographic journey, Dasha likes to stroll around the streets of the Southern and Northern parts of the island and capture moments of joy, rawness and of union between people. Her photography depicts details that we wouldn’t usually notice when moving about. A familiar street always reveals something new to the onlooker. A crack in a building that we have overseen immediately transforms the familiar space into an unexplored territory in Dasha’s photographs.
According to her, the everyday is more exciting than we tend to think. The silences that are present between sentences have a particular feel to them and she is willing to work with these unnoticed details in the future as a filmmaker.
“I wish I was brave enough to engage with more controversial and raw themes of our society. This is one of the reasons why I am interested in filmmaking. It gives me the ability to stage scenarios that I don’t dare explore in real life. Improvisation stresses me out as well, I like paying attention to every tiny detail! Filmmaking allows you to orchestrate the entire picture and be in control of everything that goes into it. At the moment, this is the only way I am ready to tackle the taboos of our lives!”
The creatress’ aim is to deliver imagery that will shake people up and make them understand that judgment is counterproductive. Understanding others opens doors to understanding oneself, she believes.
“There are many things that I miss about home. I keep comparing Cyprus to Ukraine and I know I shouldn’t. I become easily annoyed with the inconvenience of Cyprus and its way of life but then I catch myself and remember that it’s all about the journey. I have no idea where I will be in a year, it does freak me out a lot to be honest.”
With courage and an ever-growing drive for life and discovery, we finished our discussion by letting our inner demons do their dance at Woland’s midnight ball. Our wounds, although different in nature, shall heal and give us strength instead of muteness. Both of us know that we have a tremendous amount of stories to tell.