every little big life, laser print, charcoal and paint on wood pallet, 110 x 97 x 12 cm, 2022.

2019 Brezhnevka, archival photograph nailed to drywall, 40 x 43 x 2 cm (approx.), 2023.

As the Russian invasion endures in Ukraine, I keep recalling memories from my grandparents’ Brezhnevka* in Kyiv – we would spend hours on the balcony looking at every single window, every little big life, sending messages in paper planes hoping they would reach the other side. These apartments hold a vast array of people, heirlooms and lived experiences that embody the complexity of Ukrainian culture. Drawing from a personal photograph (2019 Brezhnevka), I reconstructed the 9-storey Brezhnevka facing my grandparents’ apartment into a fictional pair of 48-storey condominiums using laser print, charcoal and paint on a found wood pallet. The buildings were subsequently burned, torn apart, and stripped away to their core. Construction and destruction became eerily synonymous, reflecting on the potential of cultural erasure in the framework of post-war development. Grief over wartime devastation grows in imagining a future that is well underway in Ukraine, where international power structures aid in the building of a “new city” without integrating local contexts and histories. As global decision-makers, we are prompted to reflect on our engagement with cultural conservation and the values of “home” in our own cities, recognizing the ways in which these systems reverberate across borders.

* Brezhnevkas are 9 to 12 storey concrete-panel apartment buildings that were built in Ukraine in the 1970s-1980s, replacing the former 5-storey Khrushchevkas of the 1950s. They provided low-cost housing for millions after the devastations of World War II and evolved with Socialist Realist ideals throughout the USSR era.