To mark the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, the FGYO is giving young people a chance to express themselves on subjects close to their hearts. Come and discover their experiences, ideas and thoughts.

by Sofiia Holubeva

On February 24, my life experienced a major upheaval. russia launched a full-scale invasion of the entire territory of my country, Ukraine (russia started the war in eastern Ukraine in 2014). Of course, none of my artistic statements today can avoid this topic. My mission is not to let myself and those around me get used to the horrific crimes that russia has been committing for so long. I try to convey this through my artworks, through conversations, through artist talks about my practice, and discussions. But I see that it is through art that this information is most effective. I create my projects by analyzing my subjective and our common Ukrainian collective experience, which I then turn into metaphors, into art...

But this is not about my regrets at all. On the contrary, it's about choosing what it means to be strong and the challenge of taking full responsibility for your life.

A month before the full-scale invasion, I finished my master's degree in Painting at the Kyiv National Academy of Arts. To be honest, I was not yet confident in myself very young artist and a little lost.

In March 2022, a week after the beginning of the russian aggression, my mother, two sisters and I went to France, going through many countries (it is now impossible to get from Ukraine by plane, so the journey can sometimes take 2 days). Then, later, I decided to move to Berlin, having passed an open call for an art residency from “UCC” (Ukrainian Cultural Community), organized by the Ukrainian artist Anastasiia Pasichnyk.

And this is where my growth began. In difficult turbulent times, you have two options: to become a weak person or to become stronger and treat challenges as an opportunity to learn and take something from them. Now, looking back, I am glad that I found the strength to choose the second option. Over the past year, I managed to take part in more than 20 exhibitions (4 solo exhibitions), two art residencies, curated several exhibitions, studied as a guest student at the UDK (Berlin University of the Arts) and traveled 7 times to different cities in Ukraine where I had never been before. Now, from a distance, I especially want to get to know my country more, I want to go to all the cities and villages, climb all the peaks of the mountains of Ukraine, and walk through all the forests.

Performance « almost home »

Almost Home

Since I am a part of the “UCC”, the organizers of FGYO approached our team and invited me to give a performance called "Almost Home" on the final evening of the camp. This performance is about the feeling of support from European countries. For the first three weeks of russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I was weaving a protective net for our soldiers in the city of Uzhhorod, where I had moved with my husband one day before the russian aggression began. During the performance, I covered myself for a few minutes with the woven net with the image of my parents' house. The pieces of fabric used to weave this artwork are a few things from humanitarian centers in the countries I passed through when I left Ukraine.

Before the performance, I talked about my experience and thanked the people of France (where I lived for the first three months) and Germany (where I still live), as well as people from other countries who helped and are still helping Ukrainians.

Sofiia Holubeva sur scène / Sofiia Holubeva auf der Bühne

When I covered myself with this net, I said that all those countries that helped me were almost like home. Of course, they are not my home, but I am sincerely grateful to all those who support me. The minute I was sitting under the net was also a minute of silence in memory of those who fought and are still fighting against inhumanity. These are heroes, people who defend freedom and the meaning of such important words as democracy, the right to life, and other universal human rights.

Next, I would like to share a part of my speech that I said on stage before the performance: "I feel supported... Thank you for your solidarity. Only in this way, together, we can truly resist tyranny in the world. When everyone feels that they are defending common human rights. This war is not just a war between russia and Ukraine, it is a war between tyranny and democracy. The longer this war lasts, the more tyrants feel empowered to continue their violence."

Being a participant of the camp


I was also offered to be a participant in the camp, so I can evaluate my experience from this perspective as well. This year, there were several topics by which the groups were divided. I chose the topic of wars in Europe and what the values of democracy and peace mean. The program was incredibly rich: we had meetings with scientists, the Minister-Counselor of the Embassy of Ukraine, Maksym Yemelianov; and even one evening in the Bellevue Palace with the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

I also noticed many different approaches to how to introduce and bring together people who are strangers to each other. For example, the organizers suggested hanging envelopes with the names of each participant from the very beginning, where everyone else could throw their wishes. Thank you for your kind words, dear. We need to say warm things to each other more often - it's what keeps us going.


It was interesting to discuss with young people and try to communicate our thoughts on one of the most difficult topics in the world - the topic of war. With most of the participants, we have completely different perspectives, because they have lived their whole lives with the idea that war is something impossible, and I know what it is on my own. There were also three girls from Ukraine in my group. This year, the organizers of the camp decided to invite Ukrainian young people to participate in the camp, and I am grateful for that.

Most of us spent time together even after the main program, gathering in the evening to continue the discussion. We talked a lot with the participants about how Ukraine is now defending European and universal values. By the end of the camp, I even formulated a metaphor for myself: "If you only Say that stealing is bad, and not act against it - then at some point you will be found robbed. Rules do not work if you allow them to be violated and do not stop those who break them."

Art is a language

I will probably end by saying that art is a language. A universal language that does not require words. A language that conveys extremely important and complex meanings.

I am grateful that I had this opportunity to communicate in this language with the participants, organizers, and guests of the FGYO. Thank you for your openness to this complex language.

Porträtfoto Sofiia HolubevaSofiia Holubeva is a Ukrainian interdisciplinary artist. She currently lives between Berlin and Lviv. She is the author of drawings, paintings, performances, installations, and videos. Sofiia explores the history of painting and what role the medium of painting can play today. Since 2022, Sofiia has been a part of the Ukrainian Cultural Community team and works as an independent curator. She has participated in exhibitions in Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Germany, Spain, France and other countries.