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Preserving History Amidst Silence: The Story of After Silence

*This post is adapted from Anna Yatsenko's speech at our annual event "The Power of Conversation" 

The Project "After Silence" by ENGin Student Anna Yatsenko

In a world often dominated by the narratives of leaders and figures in the limelight, there lies a treasure trove of untold stories, whispered in the corners of ordinary lives. These stories, though seemingly small, carry within them the weight of history, the echoes of past tragedies and triumphs. It is these stories that ENGin student Anna Yatsenko, alongside her team at After Silence project, seeks to unveil and preserve.

Founded in 2021, After Silence emerged from the depths of personal exploration and historical curiosity. Anna Yatsenko, a native of the Chernihiv region in Ukraine, found herself drawn to the labyrinthine corridors of the security service archives, where the secrets of her family's past lay buried. It was here, amidst the dusty shelves and yellowed documents, that she stumbled upon the haunting tale of her grandfather, Ivan Yatsenko, whose life was abruptly silenced by the tumultuous currents of history in 1948.

For Anna, this discovery was not just a personal revelation; it was a stark reminder of the fragility of memory and the urgency of preservation. The subsequent destruction of the Chernihiv archive by Russian shelling in 2022 only served to underscore this reality, leaving behind a gaping void in the tapestry of Ukrainian history.

Determined to salvage what remained and to honor the voices lost to oblivion, Anna and her team embarked on a mission to document the narratives of ordinary people who had lived through the tumult of the 20th century. From World War II to the Soviet era, their interviews spanned the breadth of human experience, capturing the stories of survivors and witnesses, of resilience and remembrance.

But After Silence's mission extends beyond mere documentation; it is a quest for understanding, for reconciliation, and for justice. Through painstaking archival work and intimate interviews, they piece together the fragments of a fractured past, weaving together a mosaic of memories that transcends borders and generations.

One such project, "While Staying in Germany," sheds light on the plight of Ukrainian forced laborers during World War II. Through a meticulous curation of photographs and personal accounts, After Silence seeks to humanize the forgotten faces of history, to restore dignity to those relegated to the margins of memory.

The story of Hana, a young Ukrainian woman conscripted into labor in Nazi Germany, epitomizes the resilience and tragedy that define this chapter of history. Separated from her husband, subjected to the indignities of war and displacement, Hana's life becomes a testament to the enduring scars of conflict. Yet, through After Silence's efforts, her story finds a voice, her image preserved for future generations to bear witness.

In bringing these stories to light, After Silence not only honors the past but also shapes the future. By engaging with local communities, museums, and educational institutions, they foster a culture of remembrance and dialogue, challenging entrenched narratives and fostering empathy across generations.

As the echoes of history reverberate through the corridors of time, After Silence stands as a beacon of hope amidst the shadows of silence. For Anna Yatsenko and her team, the work is far from over. With each interview, each exhibition, they inch closer to their vision of a world where every voice is heard, every story remembered.

In a world plagued by amnesia, After Silence offers a resounding affirmation of the power of remembrance, the resilience of the human spirit, and the enduring legacy of those who came before us. Through their tireless efforts, they remind us that even in the darkest of times, there is light to be found in the stories we share.


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