On the endeavours in shared living: Screening Guests from Kharkiv at the Travelling Docudays UA in Kremenchuk and Horishni Plavni

On the endeavours in shared living: Screening Guests from Kharkiv at the Travelling Docudays UA in Kremenchuk and Horishni Plavni

26 December 2023

Every year, the Travelling Docudays UA in Kremenchuk features a film that stands out in frequent screenings. This year, it was Halyna Lavrynets’ Ukrainian film, Guests from Kharkiv. The narrative unfolds the experiences of internally displaced persons and the communities that provide them with refuge.


The film tells the story of Nelia, the owner of the Omelkova Khata museum-estate in the village of Kozubivka, Poltava region. Nelia and her husband Oleksandr help internally displaced people who fled the bombings and shelling in Kharkiv to settle in the village. They forge friendships, and fearing hunger, Nelia offers them a sizable garden with seeds to plant potatoes and vegetables. However, challenges arise when the Kharkiv residents, unaccustomed to rural life, struggle with the physically demanding work of gardening. The neglected crops begin to suffer, prompting a question: Can they overcome differences, save the garden, and maintain their relationships?


A still from Guests from Kharkiv


The discussions in Kremenchuk and Horishni Plavni were special: the director joined one of them online, and the other was attended by the film’s protagonist and her husband. 

One of the first screenings of the film took place on the festival’s opening day, December 4, for the audience of the Docudays UA film club at the NGO Liderka. This non-governmental organization mainly caters to internally displaced persons.


Halyna Lavrinets shared many interesting and occasionally amusing moments that didn’t make it into the film – stories about collaboration, teamwork, and the challenges of cohabitation. Women who relocated from Kharkiv after the onset of the full-scale invasion shared their own experiences, recounting their efforts in the garden and adapting to new communities. And, of course, they considered the Kremenchuk community to be the best.


Negotiating the Rules

After another viewing, the audience discussed the film with Oleh Ovcharenko, a dialogue facilitator. Mr. Ovcharenko belongs to a community of facilitators dealing with cases similar to those depicted in the film since 2015. At that time, Ukrainian communities faced the initial influx of internally displaced persons due to the war, leading to conflicts within local communities.

With Oleh’s guidance, the audience explored how to navigate situations of cohabitation with strangers. They explored the importance of discussing mundane matters: how to handle specific situations, avoid passing judgment on individuals with different values, and manage stress. The discussion also touched on recognizing stress and its impact.

Another special screening took place in Horishni Plavni at the Central City Library of the municipal institution Centralized Library System of the Horishni Plavni City Council of Kremenchuk District, Poltava Region, on December 7. The main character Nelia and her husband Oleksandr participated in this open screening, sharing their impressions of the film and the filming process.


Travelling Docudays UA in Kremenchuk. Photo by Maryna Shliakhova


Nelia and Oleksandr shared with us the diversity among the internally displaced individuals: some were not ready to work in the garden, while others actively contributed; some supported their communal life financially or made hundreds of canned goods for the Armed Forces, attended to the library, museum, and poultry, and managed their regular jobs.

The accounts from the screenings vary; the film, on one hand, appears quite simple, yet on the other hand, it resonates with a sense of pain for everyone involved – both the internally displaced individuals and the host communities.

Author: Olena Hlazkova, coordinator of the Travelling Docudays UA in Kremenchuk. 


Main photo: Travelling Docudays UA in Kremenchuk.

The 20th Travelling Docudays UA is supported by the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine, the Embassy of Switzerland in Ukraine, and the US Embassy in Ukraine. Opinions, conclusions, or recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of the governments, charities, or companies of these countries. The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of its authors.

20 Travelling Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival
October — December 2022