← Back to Project | Artists

Valeriya Boyko

Valeriya Boyko is a human. She writes, makes movies and researches processes of group conflict. Born in Donetsk, which she left shortly before the onset of the war, Valeriya has lived across multiple countries and caught a serious obsession with Sarajevo. After stepping into the movie world through a happy accident – by befriending a stranger on the street, she started writing scripts and got involved in film production. “This Was a Graffiti” is her debut film.

Ovo je bio grafit / Here Was A Graffiti

“Ovo je Srbija. Ovo je pošta, budalo”, “This is Serbia. This is a post office, you fool” was a graffiti that appeared in Sarajevo briefly before the onset of the Bosnian war. In a series of conversations with local personalities, the film explores the story behind the graffiti that everyone knows yet few have seen.

The Time Machine

by Valeriya Boyko

I fly into Sarajevo and take a cab from the airport with “Maybe Airlines” into the city. That same night, I go out, forgetting my upaljač (lighter) in the rented apartment. Some moments later, an unassuming lady at a night kiosk hands me an upaljač with a clock on it. It couldn’t be more fitting–here, I am entering a Time Machine, an experiment encapsulated by one question: “What might happen if we bring 20 Ukrainian artists who are living through the war into Sarajevo, a place that experienced one of the most gruesome sieges 30 years ago?

And so, we Ukrainians experience it. Some take trips to sites of genocide, and some interview locals about their culinary solutions when rice is the only available food. Some investigate the difficult Ukrainian heritage of (UN)involvement in this conflict, while others take pictures of sites that used to exist and are no longer.

In the first days, I observed something completely fascinating. Someone’s voice has gone missing, someone forgot their contact lenses and now can barely see, many speak so little they seem to be barely present. It feels as if, with our senses dulled, we are both here and not here—interacting and retrieving from this place of deep pain, wanting to enter a dialogue but at the same time disengaging.

We are yet to discover the toll that time travel takes: It takes courage to see and to face the consequences of the present in the future. “WHO says that 70% of people in Sarajevo have PTSD… To be honest, I feel more pity for those that fall into the 30% category,” shares one of the brilliant journalists who was in the city during the siege. As you converse with the locals, you fall for the depth, the narration of the stories, and the beauty of “light” statements like, “Where did we get the guns? I know where I got mine, from our neighbor Mirza on the second floor.” The flair of lightness is knitted together with the hard, the real, the inevitable, and the unbearable pain of shared experience of the siege, the war that unfolds and is inflicted upon you by that one neighbor who used to be a close friend, and then one day, suddenly, not only prescribes you to a different ethnic group but starts to live an absurd reality in which your group’s future must be destroyed.

After shots of rakija and dancing, I walk home, and in contrast to the vivacity that breathes through Sarajevo, I am faced with its scars–the traces of the life this place has lived. Here is a “Sarajevo rose,” a scattered trace of a mortar shell in the concrete, poured over with red acrylic, just to remind you–pain was here. Pain was here, pain is here, pain is found in a sentence from your Sarajevo friend who stops translating a veteran two minutes into a fascinating conversation: “Sorry, darling, I just cannot talk about war anymore.” The truth is, he hadn’t even begun talking about the war yet.

As I sit in front of the Cathedral early in the morning, before the city fully wakes up, and light my cigarette with the upaljač bearing a clock, I notice that the Cathedral’s clocks are both missing their hands. Inevitably, I ask myself if time stands still in Sarajevo.

It doesn’t. Time flows here, maybe a little like the Miljacka River, persistently, shallowly, with varied speeds, attracting trucks and seagulls. Similarly, Sarajevo is attracting us Ukrainians, like those famous Miljacka seagulls–by all logic, we should fly away from this history-filled, pain-breathing space, as there are places full of sea, places where contemplating the past and future should take less toll and energy, places where you can freely converse about the deep and the difficult without falling into the vortex of the real consequences of those statements. Yet, as we arrived here, just like those seagulls, we all inexplicably want to stay, just to stay in Sarajevo a little longer.

Presumption of beauty

My dear Sa,
You bleed, and bleed in a very real way.
Your scars, those scars that sieved your gentleness, the care, the depth, they vibrate in hurt, they feel pain.
And I am here just lost – just lost within the things that make you both real and unreal.
I cannot be a sniper.
That’s what I learned.

Be a Sniper

I am not a sniper,

I am not a sniper

I am not a sniper.

I keep on thinking

I cannot be a sniper,

And for sure, I cannot be a sniper in Sarajevo.

I become a sniper.

Quickly, I become a


In Sarajevo.

Sa’s Talas

Pain is here: it’s in the veteran club, where you meet D. As Balashevich’s “Kao Talas” is playing, D., the welcoming boss of the place, grabs my palm and places it on his shoulder blade, making me feel his wounds. As I touch his arms, I see them just as talas–waves of flesh, rising and falling. He utters: “I have to tell you something. I met Ukrainians. Two of them shot at me. I have their names written down.”

The Power of Against

“What were you fighting for?” I ask him, open yet hoping to get an illuminating answer.

“I was not fighting for anything,” he responds so quickly, almost jumping after my question, not leaving me space to ponder, to predict what his answer might have been.

He continues: “I was fighting against the evil.”

* * *

The one with heart,
He lost some words.
War is no longer,
It’s only užas.
Sa’s way of Being


Reda radi