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"In the struggle for freedom of speech and independence": UAPP in partnership with IWEK e.V. held media literacy trainings and exhibition

Seminar leader Danylo Poliluyev-Schmidt, photo by Thomas Roese

The Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers together with Danylo Poliluev-Schmidt continue to cover events in Ukraine at the international level.

Danylo held a seminar "Armed Truth - Images of Ukrainian Media" as part of the StudiumPlus program, where the exhibition "Armed Truth - 10 Years of the Revolution of Dignity and Euromaidan in Ukraine" was also presented.

The exhibition includes photographs taken by Ukrainian documentary filmmakers Mstyslav Chernov and Viacheslav Ratynskyi during the Revolution of Dignity and key historical events in Ukraine over the past 10 years.

"Our target audience is non-Ukrainian students who want to learn more about Ukraine," says the course leader. "They are studying the history of Ukraine from a media perspective." Participants also gain practical experience by attending the exhibition and events. They communicate with both foundations and journalists from Ukraine, Poland and Germany, learning how they report on events in the country in what is often a dangerous environment.

Increasing media literacy

"Our seminar explores the people's struggle for press freedom and democracy over the past decades from the perspective of photographers," says the seminar leader. "From the 'Revolution on Granite' in 1990, when students took to the streets for the country's independence from the Soviet Union, to the 'Orange Revolution' after the 2004 presidential election, which was repeated due to suspected fraud, to the 'Revolution of Dignity' that began on November 21, 2013 and lasted 93 days. And finally, the most recent events, the annexation of Crimea and Russia's war in eastern Ukraine. The goal is also to increase students' media literacy. "One of the main topics is fake news. Students learn how to recognize distorted information, partly in the German or British media," says Poliluev-Schmidt.

This is the second time the seminar has been held. In the winter semester of 2022/2023, the participants developed an exhibition of photographs from 1990 to 2022. To do this, they collaborated with the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers (UAPP), an all-Ukrainian association of photographers. Now the students are presenting a new exhibition with 30 images from the Revolution of Dignity. It will be exhibited not only at the University of Potsdam, but also at the Potsdamer Nikolaisaal and in Berlin. Danylo Poliluev-Schmidt brought three photographs to the interview: they show police violence by the Ukrainian special forces Berkut against demonstrators on the Maidan in Kyiv. The photographs were taken by photographers Oleksiy Furman and Vladyslav Muslienko, who will also take part in a panel discussion organized by students at Café Kyiv in February 2024 and will explain how the photos were taken. The third photographer, Max Levin, was killed in the war.

Seminar student Noah McKay, photo by Thomas Roese

Noah McKay is one of the seminar participants. "As an American, it's important for me to learn more about Ukraine and its history," says the student, who has close friends from the country.

"In the U.S., there is no such perspective in the coverage of events, they only talk about battles and current headlines, not the background of the war." In the United States, Noah McKay studied German philology and physics at East Carolina University. In Potsdam, he is currently pursuing a master's program in German philology. A few weeks ago, he took part in an event in Wildau about scientific ties between Ukraine and Germany: "It is important for me to create this cooperation between Germany and Ukraine." With his knowledge from the seminar, he wants to educate other Americans about Ukraine's history in the future.

Defending democracy

"The Revolution of Dignity took place exactly ten years ago now," says Poliluev-Schmidt, who has been living in Germany since 2019 and is studying biochemistry and molecular biology in Potsdam. "It was ignored in Germany and other countries. And when it was reported, at first they talked about either a coup or a radical right-wing uprising." Later, these events were called a revolution. Danylo Poliluyev-Schmidt is originally from Ukraine and also has Polish roots. During the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014, he studied in Lviv.

"When I heard that President Viktor Yanukovych would not sign the association agreement with Ukraine, I felt like someone had stolen my future. I was born in 1996 in an independent Ukraine and grew up with the idea that we would become part of the EU and NATO, like Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia." The student traveled to Kyiv and took to the streets with thousands of people. "When the military police started to use violence against peaceful demonstrators, we realized that this government would only oppress us." Most of the demonstrators were students. "Some days there were incredibly many people on Maidan, even at minus 20 degrees. We stood so tightly that we were not freezing and sang the anthem: 'We will give our body and soul for our freedom'." Many people were injured, and more than 100 people were shot during the demonstration on February 20, 2014. It is still unknown who is responsible for their deaths. "Back then, it was about more than joining the EU - it was a fight for democracy and freedom of speech. These events helped Ukraine to continue the struggle and protect its dignity and democracy, not only on paper," says Danylo Poliluyev-Schmidt.

Photo Thomas Roese

In the summer of 2024, he will hold the seminar again. After that, he plans to complete his studies. To keep the project alive, he already has an idea: he wants to create an association with interesting seminar participants to study the country's media culture.


Danylo Poliluiev-Schmidt is a representative of the NGO IWEK e.V., which is engaged in cultural, political, educational, scientific, and social projects in Germany.


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