On 24 February 2022, in the town of Kostyantynivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk oblast, Anastasiia woke up at 4am to the sound of explosions. Not in her town, but about 30km away. When the first explosion hit she did not understand what was going on, but once the second explosion hit she rushed to her parents’ room and told them that the war had started.
Originally conceived as a protest, Samantha Smith’s Group has evolved into a herculean effort run by a tight-knit, principled and dedicated group of individuals committed to making a very genuine difference to Ukrainians whose lives have been turned upside down by Russia’s invasion of their country.
However, although the teachers come from all over the world, from Canada to New Zealand, from the UK to Costa Rica, as well as Ukraine and Belarus, the majority of volunteers teaching English to Ukrainians in Samantha Smith’s Group are actually from Russia.
Speaking in a pre-recorded speech that was originally scheduled for the evening before, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday morning (21 September) a partial mobilisation of 300,000 reservists to boost his faltering invasion of Ukraine. Far from being a demonstration of strength, however, his announcement exposes how weak a position Russia currently finds itself in, and on a number of levels too, writes commonspace.eu Deputy Editor Patrick Norén. The Russian President finds himself hamstrung across three fronts: his narrative of "everything is going according to plan" is imploding; the risks of doing nothing or declaring a full mobilisation have resulted in an unsatisfactory fudge that does not address the root cause of the problem; and Russia's far-right, furious at the disastrous invasion of Ukraine, is baying for blood.
July 2022 saw the 19th edition of what has become a staple event in the Georgian cultural calendar. Founded in 2003 by artists Tamar Melikishvili and Giorgi Baramidze, musicians Zaza Korinteli and Niaz Diasamidze, sculptor Nika Anjaparidze, and photographer Maria Lanevski, the Art-Gene music and crafts festival has played a huge role in reviving Georgia’s now thriving traditional cultural scene since its dog days of the early 2000s. Looking forward to Art-Gene’s 20th anniversary next year, commonspace.eu’s Deputy Editor Patrick Norén spoke to Tamar Melikishvili about Art-Gene’s origins, ethos, community, and future. Melikshvili told commonspace.eu that ‘if a country keeps and loves its own culture, it will become very open and interested in the culture of other countries. The world is nice because we are so different, but we also make one big picture, like a painter. When I am working on the canvas, all of these different moods and colours become one symphony, and that is what makes the picture interesting.’