The artist Tobias Zielony visited Kyiv in 2017 for a series of conversations and portraits of the underground queer and techno scene. His series “Maskirovka” documents the complex reality of Ukrainians and the conflicting claims of diverse actors struggling to occupy the country’s contested symbolic and political space. Zielony uses the term maskirovka, commonly referring to a Russian tradition of covert warfare and military deception, to describe Russian politics toward Ukraine since the Maidan Uprising. The “hybrid war” in eastern Ukraine has never been officially declared, yet in Crimea the masked special forces, so-called “green men”, occupied Ukrainian territory. Masks also played a crucial role in protecting the Maidan protesters from tear gas, and helped to hide their identities from the authorities. The portraits and still lifes reveal the fragile and treacherous situation in which the protagonists live and act in the city in Kyiv. When we read these conversations today, we can visit a time that is past – and really not. The aftermath of the 2013 Maidan Uprising, reflected in these conversations, is still present. This war, these conversations show, has been going on for at least eight years. This is his interview with Vicky on healing.
Tobias Zielony and Vicky on Healing.
Vicky, can you briefly say what you do?
I’m a psychologist and I work for an NGO, a non-governmental organization for LGBTQI people. I also have my private practice with private clients.
You do psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.
How long have you been working as a therapist?
For five years.
Have you noticed changes since Maidan?
During Maidan, I was working a lot with journalists who covered the events. Those who received this initial wave, the first wave of violence, were deeply involved. From a professional perspective, I can say they weren’t ready since they were really in shock, all of them. You could see within a year after the events whether people could manage their trauma or not. Some could and some couldn’t. Also, you could see exhaustion. Tiredness. This exhaustion, I could say, is a topic not only for journalists but for most clients. You notice how important it is because it comes like a line, an obvious line of expression, which, however briefly, everyone mentions.
Can you describe more specifically where you think this tiredness is coming from and how it manifests physically and mentally?
People were involving themselves a lot in the political struggle, and now they feel tired, not able to do as much as they did. They still feel obliged to keep going, obliged to be working. This exacerbates the other issues clients have. Because normally I didn’t have this, but now I see it again and again.
You’re sitting at home, witnessing the end of the world, but you don’t feel much because you have gone through this emotional hell before.
Are you speaking of people who were involved in an active role in the revolution? Like journalists or activists?
No. It’s about even very normal citizens. Everyone was involved, if not physically, then emotionally, especially in Kyiv. People were not prepared for what happened, nor was I, and now I feel that I have more work than I am prepared for. It’s what people come with and what they have, problems that they were not ready for. For instance I know only a few projects that are working with soldiers, and they are not richly financed, not highly professional. They are just small projects. I have many colleagues who are afraid to work on this topic, afraid to work with people with this kind of trauma.
Why do you think they’re afraid?
They are not ready, as I was not ready. They feel they will not be able to do it professionally because they will not be able to help with the trauma. I know about the situation because the NGO that I work with is running a shelter for LGBTQI people, especially those from eastern Ukraine fleeing the war. Through working with these people, I have come to know how complicated it is. My colleagues who are not involved in this kind of therapy are really astonished when I tell them about my work.
I know it’s difficult, but could you give a general picture of the situation in the Ukraine right now? You had the revolution, then the war, and things are not clearing up. Are there psychological terms for this kind of situation?
Better than a psychological term is an artistic association: you’re sitting at home, witnessing the end of the world, but you don’t feel much because you have gone through this emotional hell before. You think, here I have my heater, here I have my rifle, that’s it, I’ll drink tea and see it happening.