The Public Archive of Oral History

The Community Self-Help is a member of the Fundacja Dobra Wola project (Krakow, Poland), which together implement the project "Public Archive of Oral History", which includes video recording of dozens of "oral histories" of volunteers, veterans, and IDPs.

After Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, the Community Self-Help NGO began a new stage of recording oral histories of refugees from Mariupol, and volunteers from Lviv, Kyiv, and other cities.

The first stage of recording oral histories was implemented until 2022. Marta Pyvovarenko shares her thoughts on the first stage of the project:

"The heroes of this project are moral authorities, people whose fate is intertwined with the history of the region, who have made and are making their contribution to the development of society.

"Oral historians record their stories with cameras and dictaphones. In particular, more than 40 major interviews have been recorded in the Lviv region. For example, one of our heroines is a woman who witnessed the artificial famine of 1946-1947. Having survived the war, she knows very well what the expropriation of grain meant for them, and how these two events affected entire generations of Ukrainians.

Few people know about these events firsthand. The facts in history textbooks alone are not an exhaustive way to comprehend how this event affected our social life.

For most countries, the war is a list of historical events, and for leaders of states, the war is the number of people who suffered. But these are not human faces. External assessments and aggregate data do not provide an understanding of the process. And war also has a human face.

We also talk to those who have not been heard, including representatives of minorities and marginalized groups. We talk about complex and silenced things. And about those things that were considered unimportant against the background of the dominant discourse.

In Ukrainian history and people's lives, the most striking and long-lasting experiences are traumatic. There are often pauses during the recording.

We record video interviews and audio interviews. Previously, oral histories were recorded only on audio. Video recording is a good tool because by recording the pauses that a person makes, you better understand the meaning of what is not said.

The oral history tool preserves the entire interview, without interference, without speeding up the heroine or hero. Because through a person's emotions and body language, you sometimes understand more about why they paused here than from the words.

For oral history, the ability of a person to tell their story well is important. The value of the oral history of the community is not in the journalistic presentation.

For example, we wrote about Ivan Ivanovych Svarnyk for two days in a row, for five hours each. And after a break, we added two more important parts of his life. Those who want to be oral historians must be very patient and ready to hear the whole life story.

The essence of oral history is to get a story about a life without influencing the hero, revealing him, immersing him in the experience in question."

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