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

“My grandparents live in fear and darkness. No matter how badly they want to leave, they will never be able to because this is their home, their homeland, their Ukraine.

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

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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 awaited her homeland.

The three-and-a-half-minute film was screened at a Masters Art Exhibition by students from the Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts (CSVPA), and can still be seen via the Instagram account of Alina (alinakingson).

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

“We went to visit my grandparents in their village,” she recalls of her return trip. “As an additional project, I started making a video of my grandfather and his pigeons. He has been breeding pigeons for over 63 years, starting with just three pigeons. He now has 55. He loves everything home – their marks, their sounds, their flight.

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

At the beginning of March, the village of Alina’s grandparents was under Russian control.

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Grandparents of Cambridge art student Alina Radzhput (56118907)

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

“As scary as it may sound, my grandfather continues to launch his pigeons into the sky every day, finding that bit of peace and freedom when they leave, and that bit of comfort and reassurance when they return.”

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

“I went to visit them a few weeks ago. It was good to see they were safe and sound, but my mother desperately misses her home in Kharkiv,” said Alina, 22.

“There are no words to describe what 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 bred by her grandfather – Skycutter.

And she sees new meaning in the midst of war.

“Refugees can fly away from home and travel great distances but, like pigeons, they will always come back,” she says.

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


Kayleen C. Rice