LPR: The Story Of One Festival

In September, Donetsk will host the second festival “Stars Above Donbass”. While preparing for it, participants of the first festival, science fiction writer Aleksandr Kontorovich and Lugansk writer and dramatist Faina Savenkova, who is taking her first steps in literature, will tell you what they think about the festival, the collection “Live, Donbass”, and what could link the famous writer and the aspiring author to a creative alliance.

There are a lot of different literary congresses and gatherings, and each of them has its own zest. Many of them have been held for quite a long time, and have a wide circle of fans.

Against this background, the festival “Stars Above Donbass” is very young – it is only its first year. But if only two dozen people came to the first festival, then this September there will only be about 90 Russian writers in Donetsk. And they’re not the only ones coming! And these are not ordinary authors of notes in the district newspaper – stars of the first magnitude, whose names are well known to the reader.

In fact, it is one of the most popular literary congresses in the former USSR.
There are no awards and prizes, no honorary titles … and yet, people strive to come here! Unfortunately, the capacity of the host country is simply not enough to accept everyone. But people are coming.

What caused such an explosive growth of participants?

Probably, because personal presence in a front-line city allows at least to support its residents morally. To express one’s gratitude and support, to prove that they are not alone – they are remembered and loved. And they strive to help even in this way – to come and show respect to their readers.

Therefore, we invite everyone – come, we will be glad to see you!

When you are a child, you can be happy and surprised at everything. And also to please and surprise adults. Such is the case with the festival “Stars Above Donbass”: it is only a year old, but it is already attracting attention. Despite its young age, its main achievement, I think, is not even in the number of participants and not in their names, but in what it does. ‘Stars Above Donbass’ is a piece of peace in the midst of war. Peace, so necessary for all of us who know what war is not from movies and books. “Stars…” are smiles that participants share with those who miss them so much. “Stars…” – these are words of support, thanks to which we know that we are not alone in this difficult time. And that is why the festival is so important for Donbass.

A small story in a small collection… An ordinary, in fact, phenomenon, not famous for anything special. But this collection, a small book, stirred up readers and caused a heated discussion on the Internet. It was praised, criticised, and even hated – but no one was able to express truly balanced and objective criticism.

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Outrage and even rage was caused by the fact that the authors of the collection – well-known and established writers – were able to write about what is happening not just true stories, but also offer their own, quite, by the way, real, solutions to the situation.

And some of them didn’t even write about the war at all… But about the daily life of completely ordinary children who just live in a post-war city. They play, they learn… we see people like that everywhere.

What is unusual about the story is that it was written by two completely different authors. A 63-year-old military writer who went through more than one war and an 11-year-old girl from Lugansk. In a strange way, they understood each other – and the result was a very kind story.

There is no war, no anger, no rage. No shells fall, and no shots are fired.
There are just boys and their cats living nearby…

They live, help each other , and learn. From each other.

In addition to bringing together completely different people who gathered with a single goal – to support Donbass, thanks to the festival, the collection “Live, Donbass” eventually appeared. These are small stories about war and peace, about human destinies and souls, about good and evil. Fiction that has more truth than most history books. This is our life – with tears and laughter, with grief and joy mixed in, where everyone chooses what to fight for. And no matter what happens, life goes on, and with it, side by side, there is always hope. This is exactly what our story with Aleksandr Kontorovich is about. And cats, of course. Because where there are cats, there will be peace.

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On August 21st, the collection was presented in Moscow. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to go there, but Aleksandr Kontorovich presented our story. I think such a collection and presentation were very necessary, because many people do not know very well what is happening here and why.

How many of them are already in my memory!

In posh halls and bookstores, in libraries and at exhibitions – it’s not even possible to remember everything.

And in this case, the hall wasn’t big, and not many people were there, but it touched. The fact that the people who came to the presentation did not just want to take a photo with a famous author and get an autographed book – they were not distributed to everyone who came here. The circulation was very small, barely enough to send books to the libraries of Donetsk. And even then not at all of them, unfortunately…

But the people came, there were not enough seats in the hall.

People were interested in the very history of the creation of this collection, the reasons why very famous and busy writers found time to write their stories in this collection without any fees.

Because this way they could express their attitude to what is happening in Novorossiya, and support those who so need a kind and warm word. Those people who met them less than a year ago in frontline Donetsk.

I think that the first festival was a serious step towards a future without war. And now we will be much more confident to step towards this world, feeling the support of caring creative people. I do not know what awaits Donbass and what it will be like, but I believe that we will cope with everything.

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Personally, I would prefer it to be a part of Russia – there will be less jumping [unlike on Maidan – ed] from that side. But most likely it will be Abkhazian and South Ossetian variants.

Aleksandr Kontorovich was born on July 15th 1957, and lives in Moscow. Between 1975-1977 he served in the Soviet Army of the Armed Forces of the USSR. In 1977 he briefly worked as a senior technician in the Problem Laboratory of Avalanches and Mudslides of the Moscow State University. Until 1996, he again entered service, with the rank of Major. Since 1996, he has been developing tools and methods for counter-terrorism; he has received 6 patents for methods and equipment for preventing terrorist attacks. Since 2000, he has been an adviser to one of the structural divisions of the Association of Veterans of the antiterrorism unit “Alfa”. Since 2009, he has been engaged in literary activities.

Faina Savenkova is the youngest member of the LPR Writers’ Union and a member of the International Union of Writers of Russia (junior section). In 2019, her play “Hedgehog of Hope” was shortlisted for the international competition of contemporary Russian drama “Author on stage!”, held by the Guild of Playwrights of Russia, and also received a special jury prize in the all-Russian drama competition for children, teenagers, and youth audience “ASYL”. The works have been published and translated in Russia and Europe.

Faina Savenkova

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