Address of Ukrainian Burners to the global Burning Man community

Address of Ukrainian Burners to the global Burning Man community

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Greetings from Ukrainian Burners!

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Ukrainians, for the first time, accepted the rules of the “empty room,” with great joy and enthusiasm. We decided to bring to it what is dear to us and to share what we love the most with all of you, beautiful strangers. Our first themed camp, Kurenivka, was dedicated to Ukraine: we have shared what no one but Ukrainians can share with you.

Of course, this is a two-way street! We returned home, loaded to capacity with new impressions and acquaintances, ideas, and inspiration! Ukrainian burners soaked up the culture and ethos of Burning Man like a sponge. Our priority was the development of regional initiatives and implementing the "10 principles" in Ukrainian realities. We are grateful to everyone we met in the dust. We are thankful to each one of you. But today we have to talk about unpleasant things. 

Despite the Russian occupation of Crimea, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions partly, and almost eight years of trench warfare on our territory, even though many of us were deprived of our homes by Russia, we have always been warm towards Russian burners. We understand that many of you have perceived our communities as long-communicating vessels because, against all odds, that was legit until February 24, 2022.

On February 24, 2022, we woke up to the creepy sounds of air raid sirens. Russians came to our house and brought us war, a war that scattered our community around the globe. Some of us, dressed in uniform to radically self-express ourselves as Ukraine’s defenders, are risking our lives while children and wives live with kind but unfamiliar people in foreign countries as refugees. Someone volunteers around the clock, helping the weaker or supplying the Army with the necessary equipment. Some have found themselves in occupation and cannot flee for a safe place. Someone found their home blown up or looted by invaders and cannot believe this is happening. We are not lying when we say that this day was the worst of their lives for many Ukrainian Burners since the vast majority refused to believe that a full-scale war of Russia against Ukraine was possible.

Our destinies are pretty different, and we do not know when we will be able to come back to our ordinary ways of life. Nevertheless, our community now is a monolithic rock; together, we are a single island. 

Like you guys, we hate dividing people into "us" and "them". Sad, but the room is not empty anymore. And we would like you to pay attention to this.

Imagine the experience we went through when on the second day of the war, at the same time, the whole world watched the footage of the bombing of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Mariupol in horror, our Russian colleagues staged a regional event, “Kholodok” (the Chill). It was cruel, evil, and just contrary to humanity. Like any subtle betrayal, it hurts a lot.

But it turned out that even this was not the end. From the official communication channels of Burning Man, we learn that what is happening in our homeland is a conflict. Moreover, the Russians are equated with the victims of this conflict. The Burning Man then denies our community the right to post to the leading Facebook group. Finally, after two weeks of the war, Burning Man published a list of grants, and Russian artists are on it.

In Russia, the Burners community is part of an enlightened minority, hardly influenced by their state propaganda and no doubt capable of analyzing the information flows. They understand well what is happening. After all, they are Burners, which means sharing the fully opposite values of everything that the Kremlin has been guided by all these years. These are our shared values, right?. Therefore, their attitude and actions are nothing but a rude awakening in this situation. 

Friends, believe us: today, we have plenty of reasons to swoon, but our good beacon, our global BM community we are so proud to consider ourselves a part of, would exceed our worst expectations if we just expected something like this. 

Yes, at the moment of realizing all this, we were extremely frustrated. Many community members were inclined to evaluate this approach as aiding terrorism because if you do not condemn something, you tolerate it. Now we are calm and measured, and we urge you to reflect and conclude that such things are unacceptable in a community guided by at least some principles. 

We believe that any communication in which Ukrainians and Russians are listed in one topic as equally affected is extremely dangerous hypocrisy. The next step in this logic will necessarily be to equate those equally affected with those equally guilty of what is happening. We know you are not one of those who think that a rape victim is partially guilty simply because the skirt was too short. Alas, we did not have the opportunity to “just say no.” 

We are sure that any communications designed to divide Putin and the people of Russia, removing responsibility for what is happening from the traditionally silent majority of Russians, is a crime against the future. “Anyone can make decisions that lead, or not, to a genocide” (c) Jonathan Littell. 

We believe that the responsibility for our broken destinies, for the deaths of our loved ones, for the fact that we are crushed by tanks and cluster bombs, deprived of roofs over our heads, lies with all Russians.

We insist that helping the Russians to appropriate our trouble is vile since solidarization with their criminal omission is perverse complicity in a radically heinous crime, all the more so based on a shared love for creativity and art. 

Given all of the above, Ukrainian burners are asking for the following:

1. What is happening to us now is neither a conflict not a situation. The Russian Ministry of Defense calls its actions on our territory a special military operation. This sounds very much like the tradition of modern Russia, where the economy does not collapse but shows negative growth, and citizens are released from employment. Please do not be like them. We kindly ask you not to use hypocrite understatements when it comes literally to war in the center of Europe. There is a word for it: war. 

2. We greatly appreciate your support and welcome every voice breaking the silence of ignorance. But we are distraught to be exposed to communication acts where the Ukrainians are put on a par with the Russians as if we had a common enemy or disease we suffer from, together and equally. This is not true. Their militaries are raping Ukrainian women and girls right now, so if you are in the mood to play Dostoevsky and discover the inexplicable Russian soul, then we just do not envy you. We are not in the mood. If you want to show your support, please support Ukraine solely or kindly refrain. We will get through it.

3. We believe it is fair to ask you to deny Russian artists' grants and cross them off the 2022 grants list. It is not about branding any Russian art as propaganda, not at all. If people are so learnedly helpless they even don’t believe in the ability to influence their authorities and refuse to consider authorities' actions the result of their inertia, then what kind of radical self-reliance is this? Art is out of politics? We have had enough of these arguments. It is time for Russian artists to do some homework and brush their teeth before flying into space. 

Finally, we will give a short quote from one of the brightest American minds, Howard Zinn: “I want young people to understand that ours is a beautiful country, but it has been taken over by men who have no respect for human rights or constitutional liberties”. 

However, we are eternally grateful to Burners Without Borders for the help they provide to the Ukrainian people and Steven Raspa for continuous communication with us. We call on all Burners to join or start the initiatives to help Ukrainians because Burning Man is not only about Playa, and the room is not empty.

We hope for your understanding and are always here for any of your questions, so please do not hesitate to ask. God knows when we will be at Playa next and when we will be able to hug and look at each other again. We also don't know if all of us will make it to the Playa again in the future. But we hope so!

See you in the dust! 

Glory to Ukraine!

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