(Prints size 88x104 cm)
         The story brought to your attention is the war diary of Mikhail Ray.  This is a series of digital photo collages created by the author from the materials of his own photo archive during the nine months he spent in Kherson, under Russian Army occupation. The artworks were consistently published on his social media, accompanied by text, describing the events and actors of the drama which will soon unfold before your eyes.
    Long before the war, the author of this diary decided that he no longer wanted to live the way he had lived before. He wanted to be a happy and totally realized human being. He had quit the well paid job and career he had been building for over 20 years, sold his downtown apartment, and intended to live a spiritual life, creating art that would awaken people. He wanted to be a real person, a good husband and a famous artist, not always understanding what that really meant. For example, that being famous under certain circumstances is extremely dangerous and demands responsibility, that spirituality does not lead to a monastery or meditation cave, but right into the war zone. That real life begins when you step past the fence you have been hiding behind to face your fears and painful experiences. On February 24, 2022, life began to ask him questions: to challenge him with situations, demanding difficult decisions. The fact that you are reading these lines now means that he managed to answer most of them correctly. So can you.
    Your journey through the pages of the diary will not be easy. In the short time you are going to spend here, you will see and feel all nine months of Kherson’s occupation, but the main character of the story is not Mikhail Ray. It’s You. The front line will not lie somewhere in Ukraine, but inside each viewer. You have the opportunity to see what is hidden behind the screen of your own TV and to answer honestly the questions put to the author. The most important is: are you really ready to be happy?
     At the most difficult point of your journey, the words from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke will help you:
 "Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final"
On February 24, I woke up in my native Kherson a little earlier than usual. I was anxious, as I had been two days ago when I went with my wife to Zalizny Port (marine resort village) to take a walk on the coast of the Black Sea. For the past six months, I had often had dreams of tanks on the streets of the city. When information about a possible Russian attack began to seep into the news agenda, I started discussing it with my wife. We have agreed that no matter how circumstances develop, we will not run away. This is our home and we will protect it. When I heard the rumble of a jet engine and a distant explosion, subconsciously I already understood what was happening. In a while, my mother called me, something she would not usually do so early. When I looked at my phone, I already knew what she was going to tell me, but I was still scared. She informed me about a full-scale Russian invasion, she’d heard it on TV. I told my wife what was happening, but for a long time she could not take it on board. After a few hours, we calmed down and began to act. First of all, we made a list of everything we needed for two weeks (I didn't think it could last any longer). Our next step was to call our relatives and ask them to make similar lists. We spent the day driving between the shops and malls which in a couple of days would be empty, destroyed, and looted, manoeuvring between people with suitcases and cars leaving the city.
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