850 people. This is the number of people that made the dream of Valeriy Yermakov come true. Valeriy is 79 years old sculptor from the Village of Panasivka, and he has been creating sculptures and art images inspired by Greek mythology for years. That is why we came up with an idea to arrange a trip to Greece for Valeriy.
This is a story about each and every one of us; it’s about our parents that could only learn about the surrounding world through books and movies. This is a story about an incredible collaboration of people making the dream of a complete stranger come true.
Reverse chronology of events.
In order to read the story from the beginning scroll the page down.
The journey of Valeriy Yermakov and Ukraïner to Greece plotted on the map.
Valeriy ran up the flag of Greece next to the flag of Ukraine and next to a board that says “Panasivka”.
Valeriy Yermakov returned to Panasivka and invited his fellow villagers to his house to tell them about the trip to Greece.
Valeriy Yermakov visited the office of Ukraïner and met the team.
Live stream of the meeting with Valeriy Yermakov and the Ukraïner team. First comments after returning from Greece.
Flight from Greece to Ukraine; temperature drop from 20°C to 2°C.
Right before the flight Valeriy Yermakov and the Ukraïner team visited the National Archeological Museum in Athens. Valeriy was astonished, none of the previously seen museums have impressed him as much as this one. He estimated that he’d need a whole day to properly take a look at everything.
Today Valeriy Yermakov and the Ukraïner team started their trip from Corinth, they got to Salamis Island on a ferry. Valeriy is thrilled by ferry transportation – this is the first time that he has been on such a trip, just like many other things that happened in Greece. Later that day they had a meeting with Ukrainians and Greeks in Athens; those people wanted to know more about the Ukraïner project and the journey of the sculptor from Panasivka. Valeriy received a bunch of presents, a lot of wishes and attention.
The first thing Valeriy Yermakov did in Sparta was visit the Archaeological Museum; after that he took a walk to the downtown and headed to Epidaurus to see one of the biggest still-standing amphitheaters of ancient Greece (or the ancient Greeks).
Next on the list was the Corinth Canal which connects the Ionian and the Aegean Seas. Valeriy couldn’t stop wondering at how it was possible to dig a cutting through the solid rock.
Valeriy studied the ancient city of Olympia. After meeting the mayors of Olympia and Zacharo, he travelled to the south west part of Greece to the City of Methoni and visited a fortress that has the same name as the city.
That night Valeriy learnt about toll roads; it happened on the highway to Sparta.
Valeriy Yermakov visited the Archeological Museum of Olympia.
Patras is the first city on the Peloponnese peninsula that Valeriy and Ukraïner team visited. They were welcomed by the head of transportation, Patr Andreas Manolopoulos and the head of Greek Organization of Ukraine Supporters, Michalis Rodopoulos. Mr. Rodopolous has visited Mariupol, villages of Yalta and Urzuf in Ukraine, and when the war in the East of Ukraine started he was taking children from Greek families of Pryazovya region out to Patras.
In the next couple of days Valeriy Yermakov is having official meetings with the mayors of Olympia and Zacharo. The sculptor from Panasivka is absolutely amazed by such meetings and the variety of adventures that happened to him for the first time in his life and within a very short period of time.
Valeriy saw the ancient city of Delphi, visited a local archeological museum and then set off on a journey to the Peloponnese peninsula.
Before leaving Athens, Valeriy met a Greek artist of American origin, Sandra Fourlis.Instead of a highway the Ukraïner team took a picturesque route through mountains and made frequent stops on their way. Valeriy was trying to take pictures of the mountains so that one could see the snow caps – he wanted to show those to people in Panasivka.
When reading the myths of Ancient Greece I imagined that the whole country is hilly and somewhere there is one big Mount Olympus, but it turned out that the mountains here are pretty high and some of them are even covered in snow.
Valeriy Yermakov does not know what a bank card is and how it works, he just starts to comprehend how communication technologies have changed over the past 20 years.
Today the sculptor has visited the Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. For the first time he learnt about different forms of art, experienced augmented reality and saw audio visual works.
Yesterday when walking by a music shop in Athens, Valeriy saw CDs.
Is that how they listen to the music nowadays? On cassettes, right? I know, I know, I saw it on the TV. There are disks, cassettes. Movies are on cassettes too. What can I say, here is the future.
Valeriy says that Athens is one big dining facility.
— Do people even work here or do they only eat?
Here in Athens, however, the Ukraïner team and Valeriy are fed by Ukrainians.
A month before the trip the Ukraïner team received a letter from Oksana. She is from Lviv and immigrated with her parents when she was 11 years old. Oksana’s husband is from a dynasty that used to cook for the royal family. So the team had a chance to taste dishes in their family cafe called To Paradosiako.
We were invited to another cafe by Ms. Lesia from Bukovyna. She has been living in Athens since the 90s and a couple of years ago she opened a place called Cafe bar 67. Even though it was pretty strange for Valeriy to see Ukrainian borshch in a Greek place, he ordered pumpkin soup. Ms. Lesia told us how her Greek friends liked borshch.
— I cooked borshch for Greeks once and they asked me ‘Will you cook it tomorrow too?’ So I kept cooking it over and over again.
Later on, in a cafe on a touristic street two waiters came up to the team: one of them was from Lviv and another one from Donetsk.
At the end of the day Valeriy met Yuliia from Kyiv who works in a tourist and event agency. She introduced the artist from Panasivka to a local sculptor and painter that showed his workshop to Valeriy. At parting Yuliia treated us with a box of Greek sweets and some hot tea from a thermos.
“My goodness, we are so lucky! How do they find us?” says Mr. Valeriy and falls asleep, probably thinking about what he just said.
Valeriy is already in Greece. The flight from Kyiv to Athens is three times shorter than Valeriy’s trip from Panasivka to Kyiv.
Valeriy departs to Greece in a few minutes.
It is his first trip abroad.
At the Boryspil Airport he meets customs officers and border guards and shakes their hands.
Valeriy Yermakov and his iconic checkered bag are almost in Athens.
Take a look at how it all started: Poltavshchyna. Without Models · Ukraїner
Every Monday the door of the National Art Museum is closed. Nonetheless, almost everywhere in Ukraine where Valeriy’s story has been followed the door gets opened.
The excursion in the museum is conducted by an art historian Olha Balashova.
Tomorrow morning Valeriy Yermakov departs to Greece. Subscribe to his account so that you can follow the journey of the sculptor from Panasivka.
Walking around Kyiv. The first place to see is Maydan. On the exit from the subway Valeriy asks immediately:
— Is this the place where everything happened?
— What do you mean?
— People, barricades, shootings…
Tears rolled down his cheeks, he took out a handkerchief and turned away from us.
Valeriy was peacefully telling us about his wife whom he lived with for 30 years before she died 5 years ago, about his son who went to Russia to earn money in 90s and never came back, he told us all about his ups and downs, but he could not keep his tears back when he got to Maydan. He looked through all the photos under the stele and walked through the whole alley on Instytutska Street.
The color of the nation. Our new story started since that moment. There is no way back.
Valeriy is in Kyiv for the first time in 49 years.
He cannot fall asleep without a TV on. He has learned how the Internet works. Valeriy has listened to lots of bands and concluded that nobody can reach Nina Matviyenko’s level (Nina Matviyenko is a Ukrainian singer and People’s Artist of Ukraine – t/n).
Bread is delivered to Panasivka twice a week. This is the very day. Valeriy is on his way to get some bread, the truck is about to arrive.
— Valerka, what kind of sea is there in Greece,— his neighbor asks as she is standing in the freezing cold waiting on the bread truck.
— The Mediterranean Sea. There is also the Aegean Sea, it’s named after King Aegeus that drowned in it, but it still belongs to the group of Mediterranean seas.
Uneasy silence fell upon the neighbors. The topic had to be changed quickly since nobody was able to keep up a conversation about the seas or Greek kings.
Valeriy got his international passport.
Now he also has his Facebook account. Subscribe to follow his story: Valeriy Yermakov.
Specifically for Valeriy the Poltava Art Museum was opened on a day off. The head of the museum personally welcomed Valeriy. On the photo Valeriy is talking to Alla Tymoshenko (deputy chief of the department of scientific interaction and exhibition works, member of the National Artists Union of Ukraine – editor).
— You guys are a powerful institution! Every door is open for you! — Valeriy keeps repeating.
— No, Mr. Valeriy, every door is open for you, not for us.
— I am nobody. Just a man from the wilderness. Why would they do it for me?
At the entrance to the museum security guard snapped at Valeriy, “It’s closed, don’t you see?”. He made a mistake, he could not imagine that some guy with a rural looking checkered bag could be that very person for whom the museum could be open on a day off.
Valeriy got an ID card and most likely became the only lucky owner of a plastic passport in Panasivka. After that he applied for the international passport again.
— Will you print me some of my photos with you so that I could show them in the village? I tell them about you but they don’t believe me!
Today was the first time that Valeriy tried a burger. There was one dramatic situation though. Valeriy forgot his identification number at home and got too worried about it. However, when applying for a passport in Sumy his identification number was added to the database and they were able to retrieve it. Valeriy left the Migration Service office without the old passport but with a verification letter that his new passport was on the way.
Valeriy got rejected in issuing the international passport. It turned out that his Ukrainian passport was invalid. In 1997 the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine issued him his passport with one stamp missing. Valeriy had no idea that he had lived for 20 years without any valid ID document.
An hour after the post about this problem appeared on Facebook, the State Migration Service of Ukraine got involved in order to solve the problem.
We applied for Valeriy’s international passport in Sumy, which is the closest administrative center to Panasivka. This is his first visit to Sumy and first attempt to get an international passport.
In a cafe we ordered a Greek salad so that we could compare its taste in Sumy and in Athens. Valeriy was laughing when he saw a cup of espresso – he has never seen coffee in a cup as small as that one.
We started fundraising on Facebook to finance Valeriy Yermakov’s trip to Greece and to film a documentary about this trip. Everyone who donates at least 2o hryvnias will be mentioned in the captions. If any travel agency is ready to pay for Valeriy’s trip, the raised money would be spent on paints, plaster, canvases and frames for the artist.
It’s victory! We received 38 thousand hryvnias, 103 US dollars, 200 zlotys, 20 euros and 7 Canadian dollars in three hours. 235 people joined the fundraising. There were money transfers of 5 and 10 hryvnias, the biggest one was 100 US dollars.
Everyone who keeps sending money will also be mentioned in the movie captions. The money left after the trip will be spent on art supplies for Mr. Valeriy.
The Ukraïner team calls Valeriy:
— I have been thinking about you guys the whole year, — he tells us.
We told him that the story about him was released and that grateful readers and viewers decided to organize a trip to Greece for him. Valeriy could not believe what we were saying, he dreamt about this trip his entire life.
We found people that had been to Panasivka recently. They confirmed that Valeriy Yermakov was safe and sound and full of creative ideas.
A story about Valeriy Yermakov was published on Ukraïner website — Without Models.
One of the readers informed us that Valeriy had passed away. She confirmed this information in private messages.
On the advice of the students of Ukrainian Academy of Leadership the Ukraïner team visits a sculptor from Panasivka.
— What is his name, maybe you have his contact information? How do we find him in that village?
— The first house next to the forest. You will immediately recognize his yard, there are a lot of sculptures. There is also a flag of Ukraine on a tall flagpole. Do go there!
Due to those features we were able to single out Valeriy’s house from others. The artist is genuinely happy to welcome guests and feels embarrassed as soon as he sees the video camera.
— You will be shooting me? With a camera? There is nothing to shoot really.
He forgets about the camera very quickly though. He shows us his paintings, sculptures and his workshop, explains how his works appear and quotes Greek myths.
Valeriy got so involved in the conversation that forgot about the bread truck that brings bread to Panasivka once every two weeks. When he saw a drone in the sky he got excited like a little child.
— What a device! Such a thing is flying above Panasivka and all of them who are inside don’t see it!
Valeriy used to attend aerodynamics club. He confessed that he had a dream to hit the skies again. He says that there is no point in even dreaming about a trip to Greece.
You can watch our vlog to find out about the first meeting of the Ukraïner team and the central figure of this story, about the drone above Panasivka and Poltava-style antiquity.
Valeriy Yermakov is a painter and sculptor from the Village of Panasivka, Poltavshchyna, where only 20 houses are left. The man is the youngest in the village, he is only 79 years old. He lives alone, his wife passed away about 3 years ago, and his son left to Russia to earn his living about 20 years ago and never came back.
One can instantly notice Valeriy’s house: he surrounded it with his unusual sculptures. The man is a big fan of works by Mykola Gogol (humorist, dramatist, and novelist of the Ukrainian origin – t/n) and he loves Greek mythology. Valeriy mainly used magazines to educate himself and does not have a degree in arts. He does not sell his sculptures and paintings but gives them to schools and museums as a gift.
People strive for material things, and all I ask for is the ability create things and have enough energy and courage to do it.
After meeting Valeriy we came up with an idea to arrange a trip to Greece for him and to make a movie about it. The Ukraïner team sent an offer to several companies to support this project but none of them showed any interest in the realization of a village sculptor’s dream.
After publishing the story about Valeriy Yermakov one of the readers wrongfully informed us that Valeriy had passed away. When we confirmed that the man was safe and sound, we organized a fundraising on Facebook. Within three hours we received over 40 thousand hryvnias for the trip. Overall, we collected around 100 thousand hryvnias from 850 people from the beginning of the campaign. Thanks to Kiy Avia and Fujifilm Ukraine Pavlo Pashko and Bohdan Lohvynenko from the Ukraïner team were able toanable to go on this trip too in order to film this incredible journey to Greece.
Our first story about Valeriy: Without Models.