Sonechko, Yak Ty? (Sunshine, How Are You?)

  • Dates
    2021 - Ongoing
  • Author
  • Locations Ukraine, Poland, Crimea, England

This photography project is a research on an identity of a contemporary woman grown in the post-Soviet environment. By using archives and recreating memories, I try to collect the pieces of my current self together.

I have always cherished memories of a happy childhood. I came into this world just five years after the Soviet Union's collapse, in the eastern part of Ukraine. I have often been reminded of my good fortune not to have experienced that tough life under the Soviet rule. Yet, as my late twenties beckon, I found myself wrestling with a profound sense of disorientation and inner uncertainty about who I truly am. It's as if my sense of self is as elusive as that of a Soviet citizen. This inner turbulence has prompted me to start rediscovering myself by revisiting and reevaluating the memories of my upbringing through the lens of adulthood.

My childhood was marked by moments of pure joy, like savoring my mother's homemade sour cherry varenyky or the thrill of climbing trees. Yet, it was also shaped by the unyielding discipline of the Soviet era, a force that has left an indelible mark on the person I've grown into. The predominant influence during my formative years was a community steeped in Soviet values, including my family, educators, neighbours, and even the local shopkeepers and the president.  Regrettably, I currently find myself separated from my family due to the ongoing war caused by Russia's aggression against Ukraine, rendering my return home impossible for now.


To navigate this emotional and existential terrain, I am using the medium of photography as a means to transport myself back to the eastern reaches of Ukraine, back to my past. Through this project, I endeavour to disassemble and reconstruct the fragments of my childhood memories, each image a piece of the puzzle in reassembling my own identity. 

This project is an exploration of the identity of a contemporary woman born into the post-Soviet era - an introspective journey that not only serves as a reflection of my personal quest for self-discovery but also as a portrayal of an entire generation that came of age in the post-Soviet milieu.

© Varvara Uhlik - New Years at home, memory of me in a dress that my mom made.
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New Years at home, memory of me in a dress that my mom made.

© Varvara Uhlik - Image from the Sonechko, Yak Ty? (Sunshine, How Are You?) photography project
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(Post)Soviet New Years Table. New Years is considered the most joyful time in a year. Promising a so-called "new year, new happiness", during Soviet rule New Years celebration was given as a substitution for Christmas holiday.

© Varvara Uhlik - A Room In Poland, Where My Mom and Aunt Were Refuging Since The Russian Full Scale Invasion.
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A Room In Poland, Where My Mom and Aunt Were Refuging Since The Russian Full Scale Invasion.

© Varvara Uhlik - Devouring. When we would eat my mom's massive sour cherry varenyky, the juice would go all the way down to your elbows.
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Devouring. When we would eat my mom's massive sour cherry varenyky, the juice would go all the way down to your elbows.

© Varvara Uhlik - A particular recollection of memory from childhood.
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A particular recollection of memory from childhood.

© Varvara Uhlik - Sour Cherry Varenyky
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Sour Cherry Varenyky

© Varvara Uhlik - Image from the Sonechko, Yak Ty? (Sunshine, How Are You?) photography project
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Visiting Aunt in Crimea. Every summer since I was born, we used to visit my aunt in Partenit, Crimea - until Russia occupied it in 2014. I have never been there since.

© Varvara Uhlik - Caviar is a must at every New Years table.
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Caviar is a must at every New Years table.

© Varvara Uhlik - Image from the Sonechko, Yak Ty? (Sunshine, How Are You?) photography project
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First of September. It's the day school starts in Ukraine. School girls wear white flower bows on their heads made by their moms.

© Varvara Uhlik - Carpet Beating Yard. A meeting point for neighbours to beat out their carpets.
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Carpet Beating Yard. A meeting point for neighbours to beat out their carpets.

© Varvara Uhlik - My First Time in Crimea
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My First Time in Crimea

© Varvara Uhlik - Soviet Playground
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Soviet Playground

© Varvara Uhlik - Winter, it can be severe.
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Winter, it can be severe.

© Varvara Uhlik - Partenit, Crimea is my second home that shaped me.
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Partenit, Crimea is my second home that shaped me.

© Varvara Uhlik - Sour Cherry Varenyky, Mom's Way. My dad's happiest memory recollection of his mom is also her sour cherry varenyky.
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Sour Cherry Varenyky, Mom's Way. My dad's happiest memory recollection of his mom is also her sour cherry varenyky.