Liliya Syvytska’s Elegy of Living Voices documents war in Ukraine at The Polygon Gallery, April 27

Elegy of Living Voices is a 15-minute documentary that follows life in Ukrainian villages, as residents adapt to a new reality after liberation from Russian occupation. On March 3, 2022, Russian troops entered the village of Yahidne in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, and kept an entire community of 367 people—including more than 70 children—in a small school basement. As a result, 11 people died.

For a month, residents lived in horrific conditions, without food, clean water, or fresh air, sleeping on a concrete floor next to the corpses that they were not allowed to remove and bury. The constant shelling and bombing of neighboring territories yielded destroyed households; mined gardens and fields; and left rubble in place of cultural centers, schools, and churches. Local communities have embraced help from volunteers to rebuild their houses from the ruins, and share moments of joy and music despite the grim reality.

Syvytska travelled with volunteer organization Repair Together for several weeks across the affected area. She assumed the role of an invisible observer, documenting daily life in the post-battle zone. This process allowed her to create an intimate portrait of the realities presently unfolding in Ukraine, in a film that is full of hope and light, despite the destruction and darkness that comes with the war. Elegy of War, a series of 10 inkjet prints by Syvytska, will also be on display at the gallery. The film photographs—taken in central and northern regions of Ukraine during spring and summer 2022—depict the aftereffect of the Russian occupation by bringing landscapes and portraits into visual dialogue. Her work shows the indelible dark stains of ash and burnt walls riddled with bullet holes, which resemble wounds and scars that won’t heal; and wrinkles on faces which hold memories of devastation and death.

Yellow-Blue Charitable Foundation, Liliya Syvytska, Elegy of Living Voices