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Kherson: Chronicles of Cultural Resistance


Grant support

About the program

Totem Center for Cultural Development NGO Program

Strengthening and scaling the practices of cultural resistance in Kherson. It is an Association of artists who stay under the occupation, and of forcibly displaced persons, to strengthen the voice of the unconquered Kherson.

From the first day of the war in Kherson, one of the activists has kept a diary "Chronicles of Embroidery." She has recorded observations and created an embroidery of victory (an ancient sign: when the embroidery is finished, a wish will come true, that is, Kherson will be liberated). Her diary is a quintessence of what Kherson people feel under occupation. Since May, the team of the Totem Center has been gathering the creative community of Kherson online to maintain it, so that the de-occupied Kherson does not turn into a cultural desert because now most of the activists and artists are abroad. Totem restores IDPs' ties with Kherson and promotes the creation of new connections.

The project’s idea was to create an online book based on the “Chronicles of Embroidery.” The IDP authors and authors staying under occupation will make illustrations for the volume (each author will choose a day from the diary and live it through together with the author). This will restore communication with the city and with each other. Psychologists will provide support along the traumatic experience. They are from Kherson, one psychologist with an IDP status (has experience of evacuation), the second one stays Kherson (experience of life under occupation).


The goal is to strengthen and scale up the practices of cultural resistance of Kherson, launched by our NGO since February, 2022. It is an Association of artists who stay under occupation and those who were forced to leave trying to strengthen the voice of the unconquered Kherson.  

Relevance and Importance

The relevance of the project has two aspects:

  • The need to preserve the human potential of Kherson, which still suffers from the occupation by Russian troops, in particular, of the city’s creative potential. Most public activists and creative people were forced to leave their homes and evacuate. Most of the artists and creative community from Kherson now stay in other countries, and the issue of their return after the de-occupation is urgent. Although Europe creates comfortable conditions for staying, Kherson people should feel an uninterrupted connection with Kherson, and the motivation to return. Accordingly, there is an urgent need to restore lost ties, emotional bonds in the first place, especially because they were strongly influenced by traumatic factors.
  • The need to support the Ukrainian resistance in Kherson, including the cultural one. The preservation of Ukrainian traditions in Kherson, the dissemination of information about Ukrainians who continue to live and work in the occupied city is a powerful inspirational factor for Kherson residents and not only.

Changes Entailed by the Project

  • Resuming the lost ties of the creative community of Kherson with the city and with each other;
  • Strengthening and spreading the cultural resistance of the Ukrainian Kherson;
  • Overcoming within the community the traumatic experience of life under the occupation, forced evacuation, and personal losses.
Inna Mykutska, a guide of the Kherson region, a handicraft maker. In the occupation, she created the "Chronicles of Embroidery" under the pseudonym Anna Znakharenko. Photo: opening of the exhibition "Chronicles of Ebroidery" in Lviv.


  • Website
  • The number of authors who have joined and created their own cultural products (author's illustrations) – 41.
  • Psychological support services for Kherson IDPs and people who stayed under the occupation – 18 hours. A mutual support system has been developed that has the potential to continue. The number of persons involved during the Project is 25. Strengthening the ties within the Kherson community and the community of IDPs has been achieved. For many Kherson IDP artists, the Project became a bridge to their hometown. It provided a practical tool for involvement. Overcoming/mitigating psychological and emotional trauma among IDPs from Kherson and people who stayed under the occupied city at that time – 25 active participants, participants of group and individual sessions. These sessions also worked to strengthen the community and resume lost ties with Kherson. In particular, the participants established communications to help the elderly people who stayed under the occupation.

Target Audience

Kherson residents who stayed in the occupied city until November, 11, and needed support – both financial and emotional. It was critical for them to have the communication with like-minded people, to have the feeling that they were not abandoned or forgotten, as well as the opportunity to contribute to the resistance movement along with their colleagues.

As soon as Kherson began to restore communication, the people of Kherson immediately began to write words of gratitude for the opportunity to join: Oleksandr Zhukovsky: “Thank you so much for everything you do! It really saves me!” Oleksandr Semenchenko: "All this time, these Zooms have been the only thing that saved me from going crazy. It was as necessary as a gulp of fresh air. Thank you very much. Hugs!”

The author of the Chronicles, Inna Mykutska, said that our support and attention to her life gave her new strength, and her work acquired a new meaning. This helped her survive the occupation. The artists, creative community, and art activists of Kherson who exited from the occupation and stay in Ukraine.  

The artists, creative community, and art activists of Kherson who exited from the occupation for other countries (mainly the EU, such as the UK, Lithuania, Poland, Estonia, and Germany). For these groups, it was important to have the opportunity to contribute to the liberation of Kherson and to support cultural resistance. Now, all the participants comment that it was a very important experience for them and thank for the opportunity to join.  

Kherson community – any gestures of support and opportunities to remain part of Ukrainian society were important for people under occupation. The author of the Chronicles developed a circle of like-minded people who knew that she wrote the Chronicles and supported her in this, even collected information for her diary.

Ukrainian people (all of them) – all who support the Ukrainian Kherson.

Sustainability, Scaling up, Continuity

Saving the experience of life under the occupation and about war crimes of russia in Kherson (moral coercionon of the population and educators, abduction of pro-Ukrainian activists, looting, etc.) will have a long-term effect. This experience, although negative and traumatic, must be preserved and disseminated to strengthen the Ukrainian South. The whole country supported Kherson and rejoiced for its liberation.This victory was important not only for the Kherson people but it was also crucial for the course of the war. We saw and felt this support when the liberation of Kherson was celebrated by the whole country. However, it is equally important to record these events, both documentary and artistic. That is why the Project created a highly accessible cultural product, which is a mix of traditions and innovations. It will serve as a “box of memories.” They are difficult memories to recall but they are full of optimism and strength, which led to the phenomenon of the Ukrainian resistance of Kherson. It will definitely be included in the history textbooks, not only in Ukraine but also in the rest of the world. Now, when the entire territory of the country and its population suffer from the aggression of the aggressor state, you should not expect an immediate impact. People and the government face the issue of survival but also of the mobilization of all resources for the sake of victory. Therefore, it is important to record the experience of occupation today, so that later it is not forgotten and not erased. We need to keep that experience of survival and comprehended past so that it strengthens our future.


The Chronicles of the occupation are completed but the chronicles of the war are not. Kherson is Ukraine! Without electricity supply, without water supply or communications, but it is Ukraine!!! We are free!!! In our city and in our country! You do not have to hide your phone, I can wear the embroidered shirt that I was making for the celebration of the liberation. We took out our flags and can safely walk with them around the city. Thank you to our combatants who did their best to make this day come. There's still a lot of work to be done. And Sirko went to the left bank in his sleep. He said it was time to go to the sea. There's still a lot of work to be done. I believe the wise elder. I have faith and I wait to see the free Ukraine.  

The project "Kherson: Chronicles of Cultural Resistance" is implemented by the NGO Center for Cultural Development "Totem" through financial support from ZMIN, under the grant call 2022.

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Kherson: Chronicles of Cultural Resistance

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