Says Andrii: Remember how in the nineties we had cockroaches at home, and when you lit the stove the floor turned red from them? I once stole money that you were saving up for winter boots and bought Snickers bars for all my friends, and then was too scared to go home and you had to go looking for me. And remember when the two of us lugged home eight bags of apples? We laughed the whole time, it was such great fun, and everyone was still alive back then. And the time someone was shot in the courtyard. The shots woke me up and I lay there in unbearable silence. I could hear them downstairs whispering about throwing the body in a lake. “Take his legs, I said take his legs, fuck.” And then silence again. Everyone around me was asleep so nobody else heard it. I was really scared, and you weren’t there anymore to tell you about it.
Thinking about Donetsk in the nineties is like looking at the sun from deep in the water: the light shifts and disappears, blurry shadows move above your head and you don’t know if what’s approaching are fishing boats or sea monsters and dragons that have risen from their mythical depths, ready to black out the sun and eat you up.
Mythologizing a place distant in time and space, and your own experience associated with this place isn’t something unique to us, it happens one way or another with everyone. To analyze this process more deeply, we invited friends, acquaintances, and strangers to share their personal stories about Donetsk in the ’90s, the way they remember it. Lego bricks were used to make models of the places from their stories. These models aren’t perfect representations, but they help create an emotional and material connection with the past, serving as both a symbol and a tool of that connection.
Andrii Dostliev (b. 1984) is an artist, designer, and curator from Ukraine, currently based in Poznań, Poland. Has degrees in IT (MA, 2006, DonNTU, Ukraine) and graphic design (BA, 2015, SoF, Poland). His primary areas of interest are memory, trauma, and identity – both personal and collective. Works in various media. Exhibited his works in Ukraine, Poland, Austria, France, Italy, Norway, etc. Has published several books with his photographic series.