According to a common red herring when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding to the arts in favour of the war efforts during World War II, he simply replied, “Then, what are we fighting for?” Similarly, authorities in war-torn Ukraine understand how arts and culture are essential to boost the nation’s morale and pride, according to Regina Shafir-Brodsky, Israel's cultural attaché in Ukraine and the wife of Ambassador Michael Brodsky.
For this reason, cultural life in Ukraine has not stopped for a moment. Shafir-Brodsky emphasizes that even during bombings and through sirens, artists continue to perform in subway stations and public shelters, in Kyiv and the other major cities in Ukraine.
The Israeli Embassy, like other foreign delegations, is embracing the mission too, making an effort to bring Israeli artists and art to Kyiv.
Recently, the Ukrainian monthly magazine Antiquarian devoted an issue to the question of how to preserve works of art in war zones, drawing from Israel’s experience, in cooperation with the Embassy. The materials published in the magazine included interviews with Israeli art curators and representatives of leading Israeli museums.
In addition, in February the Embassy organized an Israeli film festival in one of Kyiv’s main movie theatres, in cooperation with the organization Arthouse, which produced the festival.
The initiative focused on how Ukraine and Israel face similar questions as they experience the tragedy of war. The movies screened included “Portrait of Victory” directed by Avi Nesher, “Paris Boutique” starring Nelly Tagar, "Here We Are" directed by Nir Bergman and “Good Morning Son” directed by Sharon Bar-Ziv.
In addition to serving as Israel's cultural attaché in Ukraine, Shafir-Brodsky is also an artist and an illustrator herself.
A recent exhibition of her artwork celebrated the uniqueness and freshness of Israeli cuisine.
Titled “Tasty Israel,” the exhibition featured 30 of her paintings depicting Israeli food that she had originally created as gifts for friends and colleagues in the diplomatic community.
“I felt that Israeli food is colorful and exciting, and it was always clear to me that first of all we eat with our eyes,” she said. “We can see how food photos on Instagram are a trend across boundaries and cultures.”
“My happiest days are the days when my whole family gathers together around a table full of delicacies,” she added. “Food is much more than just nourishment for the body, when we think about food, we think about love, we connect to our childhood, family, smells, people and memories. This was precisely the feeling that I try to convey."
“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them,” Churchill said beyond any doubt. An idea that both Israel and Ukraine have made their own.