‘This queue is a pleasure to watch,’ said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as he made his way through the crowds at the International Arsenal Book Festival in Kyiv in May last year. Some 50,000 people visited the fair, 150 publishing houses displayed their works and hundreds of events were held under the vaulted ceiling of a huge Tsarist-era arms factory that is now one of Ukraine’s leading museums.
The festival is part of a cultural explosion in Ukraine which embraces cinema, theatre, literature and publishing, documentary making, contemporary arts and fashion.
It is this vibrancy in Ukraine’s cultural scene that prompted Vladislav Davidzon, a New-Yorker of mixed Jewish-Russian parentage, to come to Ukraine and set up its first cultural journal, The Odessa Review. ‘I’m really attracted to the cosmopolitan aspect of contemporary Ukrainian culture where everyone is bilingual and everyone is starting to learn English,’ he says.