May, 2009. Kseniya Simonova, a woman in her mid-twenties, takes the stage of "Ukraine's Got Talent." She doesn't start singing or dancing or doing stand-up comedy. No, she silently lights a candle. Then, without saying a word, she begins to tell a story, using only her fingertips, sand on a giant lightboard, and background music.
The story she tells is of the Nazi invasion and occupation of the Ukraine during World War II, which resulted in more than a quarter of the Ukrainian population being killed. Before the audience's eyes, she creates idyllic scenes in the sand (for example, a couple holding hands while sitting on a bench under a starry sky), only to morph those scenes into war-ravaged, chaotic landscapes, filled with fleeing civilians, the young turning old, survivors grieving at a monument to an Unknown Soldier.... The final image portrays a mother and child looking out their window, where stands a man, hands pressed against the glass, saying goodbye.
Watching the story unfold, the Ukrainian judges and many members of the audience are brought to tears by Simonova's mesmerizing artistry and her powerful statement about the devastation of war. When her story ends, Simonova blows out the candle....
In June, someone uploaded the clip of Simonova's stunning (and winning) performance to YouTube. It has since been viewed millions of times by people around the world.
This powerful video is around 8 minutes long. Please watch it (either in the viewer below or by clicking here) when you have the time to devote your full attention to its viewing.
Phyllis Cole Dai