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Thoughts on Culture during the War: Diana Popova
Thoughts on Culture during the War: Diana Popova
People. Leadership and management. Culture
Many are now thinking about what distinguishes us from the Russians. Diana Popova, the former director of the Kyiv City State Administration’s Department of Culture and a participant of the Presidents’ MBA kmbs program (PMBA-23 group), is convinced that one of the answers is the level of culture. We talked to her about how culture develops in wartime.

Spiritual Condensate

It all starts with culture. Culture is the basis. Education, for example, is a projection of culture.

What is culture? It’s the entire vital activity of a human being that goes beyond physiology. That is everything we surround ourselves with. Right now the rational part tells us that everything is bad. However, faith, hope and love for what surrounds us, bring out the best in us. I think that’s how everyone feels now: something is holding us up.

Culture answers the question, For the sake of what? People are now creating culture in their consciousness, and later it will manifest itself in reality. I like this definition: culture is a spiritual condensate. One is capable of showing everything that one has accumulated in oneself.

Russian culture might be great, but the question is, what do Russians take from it? Do not let your soul be lazy comes from Russian literature! But they don’t even touch it.


Now we are in an acute phase of realizing the difference between Russians and Ukrainians. For some it is very painful, for example, for the elderly. And there are also those whom we perceived totally wrong: for example, some thought that the inhabitants of the south of Ukraine will accept the Russians, but it turned out not to be true. It turned out that Russian is not needed there.

Ukraine is still very versatile and complex. And it will become even more difficult further on. Each region will have its own injuries, and residents of other regions are unlikely to be able to understand the injuries of, say, Mariupol. So, we need to work intellectually to realize all this, and then start “stitching.”

And we need to act carefully, and not quickly, so as not to mess up. For example, some people are already saying that the monument to Bulgakov should be demolished because the Russians call him a representative of their culture. But he was from Kyiv! The demolition of the monument to Bulgakov is a return to Bolshevism.

I believe that the less the state interferes with culture, the better. The state should regulate, but the degree of this regulation should depend on the maturity of the society. If we are already “mature,” then we need a greater degree of freedom.


Because of this war, we have grown up. And this process was so poignant and traumatic that I would not advise anyone to grow up like that


Growing up

Because of this war, we have grown up. And this process was so poignant and traumatic that I would not advise anyone to grow up like that.

However, now we are presented with a great opportunity. After all, something new, very powerful, must emerge from what is happening. We are now in a whirlpool of boiling broth. And it didn’t start today, it started earlier. And now we are all on the edge. We need to buckle up not to be blown away. And, if possible, we should create. If I had an artistic flair, I would for sure be writing right now.

Everyone will have his or her catharsis, it will hurt, and no one will escape it. And then there will be something new, a heyday. This was the case after the Maidan, and now it will be even deeper, as the war has sunk into every heart. Everyone has gone through his or her pain and will be cleansed.

We no longer look back. Everything that existed earlier died, leaving behind the experience. And we still need to bury it symbolically. The same is true for Russia: until they “bury” their past somewhere on Red Square, nothing will change.


I am now helping with the evacuation, especially of the elderly. For me, it started with a rather personal story: I had to evacuate my mother-in-law and my friend’s mother (my own parents refused to leave), so I was looking for ways. And those who also had elderly parents here, turned to me for help (for example, to bring food or medicine).

Later, an evacuation option was found in cooperation with the Albanian Embassy. This country does not provide financial support to refugees but accommodates people for free. We have already sent three buses full of evacuees there.


I think that we are now fighting for the right to call ourselves Ukrainians on our land and make our decisions about our future. We are fighting for the right to live while remaining ourselves. For several centuries, the question of land has been raised in Ukrainian literature. And it turned out that this is right because the land helps.

As Ukrainians, we like to be proud of ourselves. And now this is a positive trait because we need to talk about ourselves. Earlier, the world knew us quite stereotypically and traditionally (embroidered clothes, etc.), but we have many powerful contemporaries, modern art, etc. We need to talk about them, and it’s up to us how we do it, and how we present ourselves.

I have a very high level of optimism now, I believe that we will be able to reach the level where we have not been before but for which we have always strived. I believe in our people and I am sure that we will roll up our sleeves and do everything!

And I really want us, having survived the war, to know exactly what to fear and what not to fear. And I also wish we no longer negotiate with our conscience out of fear.

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