Artist Alexander Doroshenko: “We had to return to support our country”

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Honored Artist of Ukraine Oleksandr Doroshenko and his wife had to endure the hellish days of the occupation in the village of Mikhailovka-Rubezhovka near Kyiv. Constant shelling, murders of neighbors by Rashists, existence between life and death – this remains in the memory for a lifetime.

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Taking advantage of the brief opportunity of the “green corridor”, Doroshenko was still able to evacuate – of course, not without difficulty, because Alexander has been moving in a wheelchair for many years. The artist was given asylum by acquaintances in Germany. It would seem that finally you can calmly exhale and wait for the inevitable defeat of Russia in a cozy European country. However, the artist did not agree to such a fate and decided to return to Ukraine in the midst of a great war.

Alexander Doroshenko spoke about the motives for such an act, about his work and the peculiarities of life in Germany for people with disabilities.

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Every bus in Germany says “Stop the war”

– Alexander, after the start of a full-scale war and almost two weeks spent in occupation, you and your wife were evacuated to the EU. Tell us how you were received?

First we ended up in the Czech Republic and spent two weeks with our good friend. The Czechs treated us very well: in fact, they had no reason to help us, because we did not register as displaced persons, because we did not plan to stay in the Czech Republic, but we were still provided with a food card at the local village store. With this card, the wife went to the store, and then the local mayor's office paid for it.

After that, we ended up with friends in Hamburg, where we lived with my wife from March 30 to September 2. A friend registered us at her place, then we registered with the city hall, the migration service, and after this registration they immediately began to pay us 330 euros per person per month. The Germans are actively trying to adapt the immigrants to life in Germany: you need to register in a job center and go to German language courses. This training is five days a week, almost like a job, and if you stop going there, your payments will stop.

— Have you confirmed your status as a person with a disability in Germany? How difficult is this procedure?

Actually, it's necessary. For example, I traveled in my own car, which I evacuated, and in Hamburg there is a big problem with parking in the city, in addition, it is quite expensive. And people with disabilities are entitled to free parking. Also, disability status provides additional financial assistance, because it is believed that a disabled person needs more to live than an ordinary healthy person. They should also offer accommodation that is wheelchair accessible.

But! It's hard to prove disability. The problem is that it is quite difficult to get a doctor in Germany. You have to sign up first and get an appointment via the Internet – and this is quite difficult. You can sit at a computer all day to find this data somewhere. And in order to confirm disability, you need to go through something like our MSEK. I tried to do it, but it's all very difficult and almost unrealistic. I left this idea, I was going to return anyway.

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

—You were forced to travel around Europe to escape the war. Can you compare how people with disabilities are treated? Is it better than in Ukraine, is it the same or is there no difference?

What struck me in Germany is that there are a lot of people with disabilities on the streets. All buses, without exception, are equipped with a special ramp for people on a trolley that can withstand 350 kilograms. Each bus has one or even two places for wheelchairs, which are equipped with special buttons. If you need to get off, before stopping you press this button, the driver must get off, push this ramp for you and, if necessary, help you get off the bus. One driver even explained that he must definitely get out, because if something happens, he will be responsible for it. The metro is the same: there are special elevators with which you can go down to the desired line. A person with a disability can enter any store. If the store has several floors, then there must be an elevator. That is, everything is adjusted.

In Ukraine, people have become more sensitive to people with disabilities, because now there is a war, many have received disabilities at the front, and this causes a certain feeling of respect and compassion. But still, our country is far from being so adapted for people with disabilities, one might say, it is still at the initial level. You can’t get into minibuses, trams, trolleybuses are not equipped with ramps, but the Germans still have accessibility fixed as a status quo: if it’s necessary, then it will be.

— The Germans understand why we have there is a war in the country, “what” is this war about?

They understand. It even says on every bus: “Stop the war.” The attitude towards Ukrainians is very decent, they understand why the refugees are in Germany, they understand that Germany should help them. Every Saturday, crowded rallies against Russian aggression were held in the city center. On the central square of Hamburg on the city hall building there are three flags: Germany, the EU and Ukraine. And there are flags of Ukraine in other cities of Germany, we met a lot of them.

But yes, there are people there who fled Russia because it was bad for them to live there, and, enjoying all the privileges of life in the free world, they continue to love Putin and Russia. They don't understand that Putin and Russia can only come to them in tanks. Once, a motor rally was even organized with Russian symbols under the sauce of the struggle of Russians for their rights. This rally was pelted with eggs, and when they stopped for the night, some of these cars were burned. There were no more such runs.

The Russians stole paintings of Ukrainian themes: a portrait of a Cossack, a kobzar with a bandura

— Did you have the opportunity to paint abroad?

In two weeks in the Czech Republic, I wrote six works: I gave three as a gift, one was bought from me, and I took two more with me. During the time spent in Germany, I painted about 70 paintings, participated in local volunteer and diaspora programs, there was an exhibition “Anxiety suitcase” and there they even gave participants 100 euros for paints.

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

—How does it feel to paint in the midst of a war? Need mental strength? Or vice versa – there is some kind of powerful motivation?

It's very difficult for artists these days. It's so complicated that I don't even understand how they make ends meet. Paintings are almost never bought. People have other problems. In addition, wages have fallen, the number of people in the country has decreased, business and production have closed. If people have extra money, they give it either to the Armed Forces of Ukraine or to volunteering. And even those artists who felt pretty good, had their own clientele, are now very hard. But the most problematic is the content of the workshop. People work in workshops without heating because they have nothing to pay.

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

Artist Alexander Doroshenko:

—So why didn’t you stay in peaceful Germany, but decided to return to Ukraine?

We had to return to support our country, because we pay some taxes, and all this money goes to the budget of Ukraine. And of course, we feel like Ukrainians. In addition, there are things that are much more progressive in Ukraine than in Europe. For example, getting a bank card. With us, you can simply come to the bank and get it in half an hour. In Germany it takes two weeks. Or like fishing. In order to catch fish in Germany, you need to take three-month courses, pass exams: how to catch it, how to kill it humanely, you can’t catch it with live bait. And a lot of that. Everything is too regulated.

When you returned home, what did you see there? What condition was your home in? What did the occupiers do there?

The roof and the gate were slashed with fragments, the windows were shattered, Russian occupiers and command staff lived in the house. Naturally, the house was filthy. The doors to the terrace, the doors to the garage were broken. They liked our conservation, they ate almost all the stocks. Of course, things were missing, such as fishing rods and seven paintings. Moreover, what surprised me, the Russians stole paintings of a purely Ukrainian theme: a portrait of a Cossack, a kobzar with a bandura, several landscapes. The neighbor saw how they were being carried out, but what could he do, because they would have been shot, especially since in our village more than 25 people died. And now I am very worried about a possible new offensive from Belarus. I would not want to experience this horror again.

You can learn more about helping Ukrainians with disabilities on the website of the organization Enable Me Ukraine , and get help in EnableMe Ukraine .

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