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Artemiy Bondarenko



How did you experience war in 2014? What do you remember from that? How old were you? How did 2014-2015 go for you?
Please tell this story in detail.

The year 2014 turned my life into some kind of shōnen anime with continuous trials, a bunch of various locations, story arcs, characters and a growth of the main protagonist. I ended up in Kyiv unexpectedly, that is: I got into a car, got to the station, arrived in a completely different world, simply wearing what I had on. I don't know what the moving would have been like if my father, journalist Vyacheslav Bondarenko, had not been captured by separatists while performing his assignment — reporting on the progress of the presidential elections in the Luhansk region. He was tortured there. He came back purple with bruises, broken ribs and a retrograde amnesia.

If before my world had been tiny, now it has become really damn global. The summer of 2014 was the longest I've ever had, mostly because of not knowing what at all the future holds. In the first month, we lived in three apartments in Kyiv.There were also Lviv, Pustomyty, Morshyn, Verkhovyna... And I’ve been to the first children's camp in my life. In the Chernivtsi region…

June was all about visiting my father in the hospital and some sort of events for/about immigrants. In July there was my life’s first trip to Western Ukraine. August — getting used to a new life in Kyiv.

We had started thinking about school around a week before it started. 4th grade was a nightmare. My wonderful classmates immediately "labeled" me as if I were the worst person on Earth. I was kicked and booted, especially by a boy whose mother was a head teacher (she later became a principal). My class teacher was friends with this lady, so this boy got away with everything, including the situation that will forever be engraved in my head: I am lying on the floor, and he beats me in front of the teacher. What did she do/how did she react? She scolded me (it's good that at least she didn't call my parents because of my "bad behavior", otherwise it would have been even more surreal). In addition, I was afraid to participate in football during phys ed and in other outside games, because if the team I was on started to lose, it was all because of me. Surely I had to be punished for this by getting a beating in the locker room.

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"Where were you these 8 years?".
How has this time passed for you, what changed in your life since the events of 2014?
What has influenced you the most during this time?
Please write in detail.

The following year, I transferred to another school that was closer to our place of residence. I finished it, although I moved with my family to a different apartment in 2016. Has the general attitude changed in this educational institution? At first it didn't change at all, and then, I myself don't know how, I became an important part of the team, although I still had the feeling that I was "the new guy" until the 10th grade. Active bullying took place in 2015-2016. Again, beatings in the locker room and devaluing me as a human being. Only this time I was considered bad by the teachers as well, particularly my class teacher. She was, in fact, this final boss-mastermind, who would set other teachers against me (because they are such good friends with each other) and drive the wedge between students in the classroom and with parallel grades. In 2017-2018, they stopped beating me because I fought back, but I still was "that odd guy from Donetsk."Quarantine, the war and the years 2019-2022 in general united my class. I stood up for myself, the class teacher praised me and said that other teachers also consider me a good student and all that. Distance education was good for me: nothing distracts you from classes, there is a comfort zone and a lot of time. The eleventh grade was definitely very strange for me. The parallel grades were combined, so I was pretty much in a new circle. There, I got immediately accepted by my new classmates, and the new class teacher was proud of me. I remember her saying that the teachers were praising me and that they used to say before that I was rowdy or something. To this I replied that I had been bullied for several years in a row and that it was not why I was considered bad. After this conversation, she began to perceive me even more positively.I understand that from my story I can appear to be some kind of martyr or my school - a castle of tyranny, but no, it is not so. Many of my close friends and acquaintances are from there, and although I don't talk to them much now, I appreciate the time I spent with them. Some of my classmates have said that their school life would be much more sad without me. Probably because of this positive attitude at the end of my studies at school, I cannot let go of the 5th-6th grades, returning to that time in my memories. I know people change, but it's just strange that my personality traits and behavior turned people away at first, and then they started to like the same characteristics.Oh well, “not by school alone”.During this time, I have been to various festivals — Atlas Weekend, Koktebel Jazz Festival, Kraina Mriy, visited Poland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, been to summer camps, where a lot of people accepted me as I am. Starred in the short film “KYIV STORY” by Mykhailo Masloboishchykov, for which I received a best male role award at the "Open Night" festival in 2019. Wrote "Manifesto of a very high school student" when I was in the ninth grade. I didn't like what was happening in my school, that's why I wrote this text. I won't say that it spread out so much, but those people who read it were grateful to me for my position and thoughts.The summer of 2019-2021 was for me a new discovery of the Luhansk region (its unoccupied territories, of course). The central events were the "TerraFox" festivals in Severodonetsk. Initially, these trips had the purpose of helping the organizers of these events. But then these journeys turned into research of my small homeland in a new way: junkyards, exhibitions, performances of local musicians, second-hand shops with a lot of things from Britain, including collectible figurines and other nerdy things. And also, many kilometers of hiking. The amazing views. Urban planning is generally very alike, but some local things, such as signs, mosaics, small stores and large malls, markets with a lot of fruit and grandmothers — everything has its own diversity. In general, I like industrial facilities as an aesthetic, but when I saw the tericons, gas extraction towers, cooling towers in person, they stunned me even more. Every time, looking at them, I imagined Sonic the Hedgehog from the game of the same name running on them and destroying robots, saving animals. I love the steppe. Although there are a lot of plantations and cultivated fields everywhere, those areas of wild land give me the feeling that the Earth is some kind of endless road, and not an ellipse.During such a trip in 2019, I finally saw my grandparents, and the following year both of my grandfathers died... I am very glad that at least I saw them then. These people had such an impact on my early childhood and the formation of me as a person that having a moment with them after so many years apart is a very precious memory of mine.I am very grateful to "Gareleya" for giving me the opportunity to show myself as an artist. Thanks to this project, my works were in several exhibitions, in the zine, and now I write about myself in this magazine.In Kyiv, I mostly walk the streets and parks, getting inspired by locations for my creative work. I take a lot of photos, but not just to capture the moment, leaving it in a pile of various forgotten photos, but to preserve my life through small details. In addition, a bunch of photos can also become references for drawings. In general, my artwork is about small details and the mundane — whether it's the heads of dogs or strange people saying silly things. I don't know who I would be if it weren't for the events of 2014, but despite all the negativity in my life that continues even until now, I gained a lot of experience and grew as an organism, a person and an artist. I am grateful to all the people who helped and are helping me on this journey, because even though I am an independent person, without the  support I simply would break down.

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What was February 24, 2022 for you like?
Did you believe that a full-scale offensive would begin?Where are you now? What do you do?

What do you think about your future now?

When I woke up at 7:00 (to go to school), I saw my father in front of me. It was a happy moment, because I thought he was calling me to go have breakfast... What a shock it was to me that my dad informed me not of an omelet, but the beginning of a full-scale invasion by the katsaps. For a moment I was completely dazed, and then I started to work away, day by day: I helped clean the bomb shelter, mixed the Bandera smoothies, collected garbage in the backyard because it was getting took out, volunteered almost every day at the Silpo supermarket…Did I believe in a full-scale offensive? I don't know... For me, studying was more important, I didn’t care about the russians, because you can’t get offended at shit. The first month of the global war was like a marathon for me: on the first day, me and my family found out about the bomb shelter, got to know my neighbors, and at some point I went into creative escapism and, looking at the endless convoy of transport traveling away from Kyiv, finished drawing my digital works. The next day I was already collecting bottles for "cocktails", and with a bunch of neighbors we were looking for gas, which turned out to be a difficult job. On March 1, my parents and I volunteered at “Silpo”. The experience at the grocery store turned out to be quite colorful for me. Although it was physical work, it became a push for my creativity, because I sketched some of the shopping grandmothers in a notebook.In addition to that, starting from the second week of the war and ending at the end of May, together with my father, I conducted anti-stress training in the format of Facebook broadcasts. Every day at 20:00, with almost no days off. What is it? It is like a set of exercises aimed at relaxation and taking control of thoughts through the body. Besides that, near the end of each release, my father would recommend movies, and I recommended music. It was a sort of podcast, because interaction with the audience and life stories were an important component of the project. We have temporarily frozen these streams because our lives have become busier and we generally grew tired of the process. It was a good experience that helped a lot of viewers, including me.Right now I am actively engaged in working for admission to Ivan Karpovich Karpenko-Kary Kyiv National University of Theater, Cinema and Television. Strange days: One of the weeks I barely slept, but nevertheless, I persevere. Either I get admitted or not, the personal growth is already there.


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