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Cambridge art student’s poignant film of Ukrainian grandfather takes on new meaning

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“My grandparents are living in fear and darkness. No matter how much they want to leave, they could never do so because it is their home, their motherland, their Ukraine.”

These words, by Cambridge art student Alina Radzhput, accompany a short film she made about her beloved grandfather and his hobby of raising pigeons.

Cambridge art student Alina Radzhput's grandfather with his pigeons (56118909)
Cambridge art student Alina Radzhput's grandfather with his pigeons (56118909)

Alina, from Kharkiv in Ukraine, made the film when she returned home for Christmas - unaware of what lay in store for her homeland.

The three-and-a-half minute film was shown at an exhibition of MA artwork by students at Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts (CSVPA), and can still be seen via Alina’s Instagram account (alinakingson).

Now, following the Russian invasion, it is full of poignancy and symbolism, capturing themes of love, flight, peace and freedom.

“We went to visit my grandparents in their village,” she recalls of her trip home. “As an extra project, I began to make a video of my grandfather and his pigeons. He’s reared pigeons for more than 63 years, starting with just three birds. He now has 55. He loves everything about them – their markings, their sounds, their flight.”

In the film, her grandfather is seen in his yard talking about his passion for raising pigeons. He knows them all - and they know him.

By the beginning of March, Alina’s grandparents’ village was in Russian control.

Cambridge art student Alina Radzhput's grandparents (56118907)
Cambridge art student Alina Radzhput's grandparents (56118907)

“Life in my grandparents’ village has utterly changed,” she says. Because the internet has been blocked, communication with them is extremely limited.

“As scary as it is, my grandfather keeps launching his pigeons upwards into the sky every day, finding that little bit of peace and freedom as they leave, and that little bit of comfort and reassurance as they return.”

Alina’s parents fled from Kharkiv to seek safety with friends in Sweden in early March.

“I went to visit them a couple of weeks ago. It was good to see that they were safe and well but my mum desperately misses her home in Kharkiv,” said Alina, 22.

“There are no words to describe what has happened to my family and so many others. The word surreal is the best I can do.”

Alina Radzhput's grandfather's pigeons (56118911)
Alina Radzhput's grandfather's pigeons (56118911)

Alina’s film is named after the breed of pigeon her grandfather rears - Skycutter.

And she sees new meaning in amid the war.

“Refugees may fly from their homes and travel huge distances but, like pigeons, they will always come back,” she says.

Watch the film at https://bit.ly/3M8PkL1.

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