Flowers Against Rockets

In the courtyard of photographer Zhenya Laptij's house, a Russian shell hit, destroying her dream of a garden with lilies. However, Zhenya still planted flowers, but now on the grounds of a European gallery. Through her project "There are 250 thousand white lilies in my garden, only they don't exist," she tells the story of losing her home and the hope that life will ultimately triumph over rockets.
Evgenia Laptij

Ukrainian photographer. Born in Kharkiv. Studied at the Kharkiv Academy of Design and Arts. Has participated in group and solo exhibitions in Germany, Italy, Portugal, Ukraine, and elsewhere.

— When I was living under occupation in a village in Kharkiv region, there was a time when we were heavily shelled and our entire courtyard was in ruins. But I never actually saw the shells myself because I was in shock, and I immediately went to talk to my relatives about leaving.

I conceived this project right after I emerged from the occupation. It seemed like I had lost my home forever. The idea of a utopian nonexistent garden came to me as an analogy to the loss of the biblical Eden. Later, the village was liberated, but when I returned there, I saw the indescribable horror. That’s why I wanted to somehow show people in Europe what it means to lose a home.

I took the photograph in my own garden in December 2022 when I came back home. There were five craters from shells left in our courtyard. And on one of those spots, lilies were growing.

Currently, I am temporarily living in Austria, where there is strong support for the artistic community. I visualized the project and submitted it to the office of an organization. After some time, I received a response that the kunstGarten gallery in Graz wants to realize this project. They have their own garden, so we planted lilies there.

The rocket for the installation was made on-site using metal, reconstructing it from my photographs. Initially, I wanted to bring a shell from Ukraine, but the Austrian Ministry of Culture did not permit it. Since the project is long-term, I hope that over time, rust will completely “eat away” the rocket, and only the lilies will remain—they will grow there for many years.

Initially, I wanted to bring a shell from Ukraine, but the Austrian Ministry of Culture did not permit it.

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