The Eye and the Sun

Yevgenia Belorusets. The Eye and the Sun, 2014

Photograph, a hand-made table-cloth, mortar shell

Courtesy of the artist

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Exhibited during the Festival Komentatorki / Women Commentators in Warsaw

To a small town in eastern Ukraine named Debaltsevo I came, some days after the battle for it had begun. During the daytime there was virtually no one on the streets, just occasional townsfolk hurrying home, to be closer to their cellars – their only salvation during bombardments which lasted several hours. 

For a week there had been neither water nor electricity in the town; the last shop had closed and moved out on the day I arrived. That day, the bombardment had been due to begin at 5 pm.

It was only 3 pm. I was examining the hole made by a mortar shell. Doesn’t it remind you of the sun, as a child might have drawn it? Or of a closed eye. Vera stood next to me. And she was laughing, although at times she was absolutely petrified. 

Vera said: We’re in hiding. We spend our nights in the cellars. We jump at sudden noises. If someone opens a bottle of champagne, we get ready to run. 

Look at this crater! Maybe we’re fooling ourselves, there’s actually nothing to be scared of? 

This crater could just be someone’s new children’s project.

Somebody wants to use the entire might of modern machinery to etch numerous suns into our asphalt. And we just can’t see it, we’re blind to it, and not even grateful! 

Vera burst into laughter. 

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Debaltsevo, a town of 20,000, of whom only 5,000 have today remained behind. Even after a ceasefire signed on September 5th, 2014, bombardments have persisted every day. The town centre is already partly destroyed, as are several factories and the railway line. During attacks, which would routinely start at 5 or 7 pm and would last till morning, inhabitants would hide in the cellars, although these shelters were not adapted for warfare, temporary shelters, and often turned out to be unsafe. 

Before you is displayed a mortar shell from Debaltsevo. The Russian word “mina” (mortar shell) apparently comes from the French or Celtic “mine” – a mine, tunnel or underground passage. 

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