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Iryna Shostak and Tetiana Peresunko

Iryna Shostak is a creative communications project manager, poet, and former sociology and public relations student at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. As a co-founder and director of linza agency, she also creates her own creative projects and initiatives.

She authored the poetry collection “Changeable” and has been published in several almanacs. Iryna has participated in group exhibitions, including “Procrustes and the Rest” at the O. Zamostian Gallery and “Where I Am.” She is a participant in the poetic and musical project EVTERPA, co-organizer of the “White Readings” series, and curator of M. Matiashova’s exhibition “On the Body.”

Her debut short film, “My Dad is a Lightning Researcher,” created through the Indie Lab programme (2022-2023), won an award at the Kyiv Doc Fest (2024). She is currently co-directing “In Between the Ends of War” with Tetiana Peresunko, part of the “Reporting from the Future” project by the WARM Foundation in Sarajevo.

Iryna’s work spans various media, exploring themes of existential search, identity, and memory preservation.

Tetiana Peresunko is a Ukrainian filmmaker and activist, specializing in documentaries, fiction films, social advertising, and music videos. She holds a master’s degree in television directing from the Kharkiv State Academy of Culture.

Tetiana’s notable works include her debut documentary “VIS” (2019), which explores the journey of a transgender military woman, and her award-winning feature film “Tanin Quarantine” (2021). She is also known for her work as a director, editor, and cinematographer in various documentary projects, such as “The Road Home” (2019) and “The Colored Violin” (2020).

In addition to her filmmaking, Tetiana is an activist involved with the Kharkiv LGBT+ choir Queer-essence and the NGO PrideHub. Her photography exhibitions and educational YouTube show “Triggered” address taboo topics in Ukrainian society. Currently, she is co-directing the film “Between the Ends of War” with Iryna Shostak, part of the “Reporting from the Future” project by the WARM Foundation in Sarajevo.

Between the Ends of War

by Iryna Shostak and Tetiana Peresunko

“Between the Ends of War” is a documentary film and an author’s attempt to comprehend and compare the experience of living through the war that ended 30 years ago and the war that is still ongoing.

Something in all this is indescribably similar – personal losses, doubts, pain. Something is different – the countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine), the time (1992-1996 and 2014-present), and the willingness to understand and continue living together. Does time put everything in its place, and do we just have to wait?

Between realities

A series of sketches from Sarajevo

by Iryna Shostak, 17. 04. 2024, Sarajevo

In solidarity of pain

There is a great energy in Sarajevo.

From the space, from the people.

I touch this space carefully. Because if I lean against it a little harder than I can afford right now, I instantly start crying.

From the very beginning of my encounter with the city and its people, I tremble with the realization of the similar nature of pain with them. And from the realization that I can plunge into this pain for a little bit, because there is a little more (such a shaky safety) around me, in which I can taste this pain, look at it up close, without fear of being numb. To freeze and not be saved. Not to have time to make a decision, not to be able to react. To be unable to fight back at the same time. Or even run away.

Numbness and distance

I recently realized that I had deliberately avoided the topic of war all these months in my work. Except for a few poems that were more of an escape than a reflection. Maybe I was avoiding it, or maybe I was too proud. On the one hand, everyone is talking about it, at least in the media. And also when you go for coffee, work, or vacation.

On the other hand, what else is there to say about it and to whom? On the other hand, what can I say about it: I am not a soldier, I am not an internally displaced person, I did not lose my husband in this war. And to be honest, what worries me is not the fact that the war is going on, but that my life is going on in this war in a very dotted line.

There is something going on that cannot be stopped. And something very desirable remains only in thoughts, doubts, and conversations. And a lot of things disappear because of losses. Loss of connection with those who died, left, or mobilized. The loss of supports that allow you to relax and follow the impulse. The uncertainty to which we are probably already accustomed, but which leaves you in a mute spasm for so long. Or maybe in a trance? In order not to waste your strength and emotions until the moment when you suddenly need to break free and run? Or fight? In the end, to react somehow.

But before that, it’s better to freeze, numb, abstract and pretend that everything is normal.

We were driving and talking to Tetiana about something tangential. We talked about how only after crossing the border and for a few more days afterward could we finally immerse ourselves in the history of the Bosnian war. Before that, it was just dry facts, photographs, stories, not memories of something that cannot be understood with the head alone.

We said that it felt as if a spasmodic body was slowly letting go, and you were involuntarily starting to feel something. Sometimes. And because of this, you suddenly begin to empathize and hear in a deep and unusual way. And to feel that you are heard too. For me, out of habit, this seems to be a very intense and exciting experience, in which something human seems to return. Needs, compassion, emotions. Something that I can afford less and less in Ukraine. In this endless string of madness, it is too much for my brain to handle.

To live or to freeze in order not to lose

Sometimes I catch myself thinking that I should have left a long time ago. When I see airplanes in the sky. People outside bars at night. Pregnant women. Caring and joyful fathers. The opportunity to remember the war, not to live it in my experience and in my body.

Then I ask myself if I could really go and where. And suddenly I start clinging tightly to the surface, which is slipping out from under me, breathing hard, involuntarily touching my hands, neck, face, things around me and images/images in my head. As if trying to feel and find real supports in myself in what I love so much. I try to remember everything that keeps me in Ukraine: my home of happiness, my husband, my communities and alliances, my memory of places and the memory of my life together with other witnesses of all events and conditions.

Sometimes it makes me feel calmer. I push the war and worries about everything to the back of my mind and start planning: let’s buy this two-room apartment in the center, renovate it slowly, and plan for a child. And what if we renovate the attic in the “house of happiness” and arrange a place for retreats there? I need to go to my great-grandmother’s village, flooded by the reservoir, and ask people nearby if anyone else remembers anything. My nephew is about to turn 13, he’s an adult, I need to spend more time with him, I’m so afraid of losing him. I want that breakfast and a big coffee again, my little routine that I escape to next door to the house when I wake up early because of the explosions, and for some reason I don’t have the energy to cook breakfast afterward.

Sometimes my efforts to cling to the “other” reality do not help. And I start telling myself that it’s all in vain and too scary. That living and building in a country at war is like putting all your eggs in one basket, shaking that basket, and piling on big blocks of powerlessness. And hope that these eggs will survive.

At such moments, my body becomes unbearably tense. And heavy. And in order not to explode, I pretend that all these thoughts should be over by now. I break contact with reality – both “that” and “this” – in order not to choose – and stay between them. Not to choose, so as not to lose and to be. For a while. At least in my head.

Which of these lives is mine? Which one is real? In this state, it’s hard to feel close to anything. In this state, it’s hard to feel anything, after all. But it makes my existence possible.

To live, or to wait [for the war to end]? The irony is that no matter what answer you give to this question. Whether you feel it or not. You continue to live.

It is impossible to hate, to coexist.

What I hear here from everywhere is that 30 years after the end of the war, you will be forced to establish relations with the Russians. Business, the nearest border, not everyone participated in this, and you cannot blame the entire nation, let alone those who will be its foundation in 30 years. Some people suggest hating only those who were ideologically involved.

But how do you know who was and who was not?

Honestly, I understand everything. And I blame myself a little for feeling differently.

But I still can’t imagine how something can be “normal” after so much pain.

For me, in metaphorical terms, the future with this neighbor is possible in the format of “building a great wall up to the sky, seizing all weapons and destroying all factories for their development – and forgetting about his existence.” At least for a few decades. Because for some reason (and this is honestly one of my biggest fears), it seems to me that all this will be repeated again and again. In a circle.

Seriously, for me, in 30 years, it will not be about establishing relationships, but about a tacit agreement to coexist next to each other. Even with those who will later, when it is safe and convenient, say that they were never involved in this war. Did not elect Putin. I did not go to shoot in our faces. Did not create missiles. Some suggest that we should hate only those who were ideologically involved.

But how do you distinguish between those who were and those who were not?

But how do you distinguish between those who were involved and those who were not? If you are still mostly silent?

Then let’s keep silent, at least until the end of the days of those who will remember.

The fragility of security

The future, in which the war ended, remains quite illusory for Ukraine. The only thing that is clear is that I would like not to miss this life while waiting for Godot’s “victory.” Do I feel the future of Ukraine in Bosnia? Can I understand it? To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s possible.

There is a different context, different circumstances, nuances, duration.

But all the days (all three of them) since the beginning, I have been trembling with the realization of the similar nature of pain with these people. And from the realization that I can immerse myself in this pain for a little bit, because there is a little more (of this shaky security) around me.

At night, Iran launched more than 300 rockets and drones at Israel. We are sitting, drinking wine, and I feel a little nauseous, either from talking about the war or just from having an extra cigarette (I think it’s the third one in a row today). The horizon of my reality is filled with fatigue, and I shut down, at least for a little while longer. Because tomorrow I will go to Kyiv and joke that it’s time to plant a garden. In case of the third world war. Or just to feel the ground under my feet.