MEMORIA by Gabriela Bulisova & Mark Isaac

In August 2015, Mark Isaac and I worked in the only penal colony in Ukraine for women ages 14-20, which is located in the southeastern city of Melitopol. The project, titled “Memoria” focused on the important recollections of the women who live in the penal colony. For 13 participating women, we created diptychs that include a portrait of each individual and an image of a place, object, photograph, or article of clothing that is particularly important to their memory. In some cases, the participating women are minors, so their faces cannot be shown. The women were also interviewed about the object they selected, and their explanations are included here as text.

For women who are incarcerated, memories of other times and places are particularly important to their identity. In fact, the interviews reveal that memories need not be solely focused on the past, but can be an inspiration to take action for the future.

Working with the residents of the Melitopol penal colony was one part of a larger “Festival of Memory” that also included volunteer participants from the city of Melitopol, a multicultural city that, prior to the Russian annexation of Crimea, was known as the gateway to the Crimean Peninsula. Both parts of the “Festival of Memory” were funded by Tandem and organized by Yulia Kostereva and Yuriy Kruchak of Open Place in Kiev, Ukraine. They were also carried out with the exceptionally welcoming and kind cooperation of the Melitopol Museum.