The Kids and Teens Program. With Eyes Wide Open

The Kids and Teens Program. With Eyes Wide Open

Curator—Olya Rusina

Having been living in the full-scale war for over two years, we have learned well to balance thoughts about the future, despite everything, and the uncertainty about tomorrow. Without the first, it is difficult to stay efficient, active and stubborn in everyday life and struggle; the second, meanwhile, has become an integral part of this daily life, a thought that is constantly present somewhere at the bottom of consciousness.

Now our lives are often a combination of extreme emotions and states, a balance between despair and hope, sadness and gratitude; and, after all, it is these feelings, both positive and negative, that we are now holding on to.

Children and teenagers grow up in this as well. Their first experiences have fallen on two years of the full-scale war, ten years of the war in the East, Russia’s occupation of Crimea and many months of the pandemic. And they will not have any other way of growing up.

We can console ourselves with the thought that the present generation is far from the first to face turbulent, difficult and tragic times. However, we become all the more responsible for our future here and now. Not just for a global one day, but also for a very immediate tomorrow, which depends on the ability to support each other and to find the right words—showing that you understand and, at the same time, do not appropriate someone else’s experience. This is what is needed both in the relations between adults and children and in the relations between children. Because two years of the full-scale war have shown us how heterogeneous a complex war experience can be, how difficult it can be to really listen for another person when you yourself feel difficult.

Thinking about how to talk to children about the war, it is important for us to go deeper and to understand that here there is no and will never be a universally applicable approach. To remember how diverse these conversations can be in each individual case, how carefully it is necessary to work with different experiences and, at the same time, to look for what is common to all of us, that can help in a conversation, and heal, and give a little more confidence in the future. It is important not to forget about the life that takes place in spite of everything: between those memories and knowledge that none of us wanted and none of us chose for Ukrainian children—reading good books, both the serious and funny ones, searching for new subjects and the new language in modern literature are just as important to us; reflections and arguments about the world and us in it—the world that will no longer be such we imagined it until recently—are just as important to us.

That is what we want to focus on at this year’s Book Arsenal. We are constantly balancing on the edge of the war, but it is in our power to give each other a little more support.

We strive to preserve usual book traditions, live communication with writers and everything that can become a good ritual; to learn to be open to the needs of those around, to talk about the inclusiveness of society and the space in which we act; to involve and listen to children and teenagers not as an audience, but as active participants in the conversation. And we hope that it will help us look with eyes wide open at each other and at the whole world—not with fear, but with curiosity and a sense of responsibility. Even in these times in which we happen to live.