Home / Viktoria Borestka, Young Wolves and New Identities in Luxembourg

Viktoria Borestka, Young Wolves and New Identities in Luxembourg

Viktoria Boretska, originally from Ukraine, who moved to Luxembourg twice, the first time 13 years ago and the second time – 7 years ago. Viktoria is a researcher and was part of the team, which prepared the project “Remixing Industrial Pasts in the Digital Age” in the framework of Esch2022 European Culture Capital.

Tetyana Karpenko: Victoria, nice to see you. 

Viktoria Boretska: Nice to see you!

Tetyana Karpenko: Victoria, you moved to Luxembourg two times, first from Ukraine for your studies and then being already a researcher, you decided to move here from Vienna, right? 

Viktoria Boretska: Yeah, that’s true. I’ve committed, there are “multiple offence”

Tetyana Karpenko: I heard often from my guests that Luxembourg is great for families, but that for young people it may be quite boring. What do you think about that? 

Viktoria Boretska: Well, when I come back in history in time, I have to say that actually I have one of the best memories from my student times. So I wouldn’t agree with those who say that Luxembourg is really boring. I think when you are open to it, it can really show you the good parts and the good sides and the interesting ones, and you can always be surprised. That’s what I say.

Another thing is obviously the international community here, I was lucky to be a part of it. In the dorm, when I lived, there was perhaps on my floor alone, there were five different nationalities. And can you imagine, everybody is cooking their own food and sharing their stories and histories, family stories from different countries and different regions. This is so enriching. This is incredible. 

Tetyana Karpenko: You would not agree that Luxembourg is boring? 

Viktoria Boretska: Really not. I mean, it depends who’s talking, I have to say. And actually, when it comes to the idea that it’s boring for students and it’s good for families, one has to rethink that, really, because it seems that it’s changing in the opposite direction. It might be even better for students now and a bit worse for families. Looking at accommodation situation, I mean, let’s say the housing price is the problem for everyone. So I have to say, for young families, it’s really difficult when it comes to buying a home, an apartment or a house and raising children. So when it comes to Social Security and everything that goes with it, of course Luxembourg is really great. So that’s no doubt. But we have to say that housing is a problem and everybody admits that. 

Tetyana Karpenko: But you also moved to Luxembourg for the second time, Vienna, right? 

Viktoria Boretska: I did. 

Tetyana Karpenko: You preferred Luxembourg to Vienna? Why? 

Viktoria Boretska: Well, I have to say I was working in research and still will be. So the conditions for research in Luxembourg are amazing. They are unbeatable, even when we compare to, let’s say, the older universities, of course, they have their reputation. So Luxembourg is very innovative and is gaining its reputation through that. That’s no doubt. But the older universities have already, they established things, but despite that, the conditions for work here. And so this innovative attitude, and I came back to work at C²DH, this is not your casual institute, it’s a very cutting edge research in all fields. And the project itself, the remix project, I was very excited to start. 

Tetyana Karpenko: So you mean the project for Esch 2022, right? 

Viktoria Boretska: Yes. 

Young Wolves in Luxembourg

Tetyana Karpenko: Speaking about the project. You were part of the team which prepared the Remixing Industrial Past Multimedia Exhibition in Belval 2022. And what was most interesting for you as a researcher? 

Viktoria Boretska: Well, it was my first time working in such a big team, and work itself actually became incredibly engaging. So when we had such a large team that had their own topics of research. The variety and just diversity of topics of research actually made this project into a huge puzzle, where different things would be researched, from environment to migration, to industrial pollution, or the role under research, topics like the role of women in the industry, that very little was being talked about. And two, for example, clandestine activities, so cross border smuggling, unusual topics. And I personally was researching the making of the image of the Minett, so the industrial region through photography. So that was very interesting. 

The Minett, named after its red soil rich in iron ore, was once a flagship of Luxembourg's industry and one of the cradles of the European steel industry, now classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. (c) VisitLuxembourg

Tetyana Karpenko: So you were looking at old photographs. Can you explain a bit… 

Viktoria Boretska: Particularly, I was focusing on the time of decline, of industrial decline, and how the workers photography was changing during the time. And it’s a bit of now, a bit of theorizing. So I was exploring how the new identity, so the new identity through decline of industry would be made by the workers themselves, because normally this photographic eye and the vision of Luxembourgish industry was owned by ARBED – by the company. But later on, through decline and the rise of workers photography, the workers presented their own vision of their region and themselves through photography. So it’s really about identity making through photography. 

And I loved it, because also for myself, I discovered very many different things like that the process of identity making is there’s never an endpoint, so it’s always in motion, this is something always in flux, and it connects to a lot of power too. So the process of identity making is connected to the levers of power.

Tetyana Karpenko: How actually identities changed at that time?

 Viktoria Boretska: So let’s say, if I give you some details, I was researching the photo club, so very local things, and it still exists today. As many different photo. So every town of the South had its own photo club. 

Tetyana Karpenko: Not only in the South. 

Viktoria Boretska: Not only South, but we’re talking about the South now, because that was the capital of culture in 2022. And the photo club of Dudelange back then was, let’s say, doing this amateur photography. The workers were going on field trips and making nice photos, right? But during the decline, something happened. And what happened is that the young generation of young wolves, they were called it, came to overthrow the president of the photo club, who was like a very well esteemed industrial. Well, not industrial boss, but one of those well regarded gentlemen and who had standards in photography. The generation of young wolves came to start a new era in photography. So it belongs to everybody. It’s everybody’s self expression. 

Anybody who wants can be engaged and they don’t have to participate in different tournaments or different competitions to look at how proportionate the image is. It’s not really about proportion. It’s about an idea. That’s what the young workers, the young wolves came to represent. And there was this overthrow, let’s say. Well, on a local level, it was a big deal. And one of the things that they did, at the Braderie in 1984 (grand yearly street fair), if I’m not mistaken, they have assembled, let’s say, a tent with white background. Put a chair in front of it and put still analog camera in front of it with an automatic trigger, like a little button, so that people could take photos of themselves. 

This is a very symbolic move, very empowering move, that nobody else owns the image of you but you. So this is the message they wanted to communicate to the people who lived in the area, saying that you don’t have to comply to the industrial bosses, you don’t have to do anything but be yourself and you have the power to see yourself. 

Tetyana Karpenko: That’s a pretty cool thing. But was it a part of your project in terms of looking at which identity then emerged? Basically because it was that identity of workers. Right? And then you say, then it was a decay. So what kind of identities emerged in this process? 

Viktoria Boretska: Yeah. So the thing is that this project, let’s say my sub project about the process of decline is being now kind of continued by one of the PhD students that are still doing their research on that, about this identity. So I propose all of our listeners to follow the work of C²DH to explore this new identity. But this is, as we speak the process of post industrialization. So post industrial age is very complex. 

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