“This is my home,” affirms Ukraine-born DJ Yana Ponura who returned to Kyiv earlier this month to perform at the comeback Strichka Festival, the event’s first showcase in four years. Ponura fled from her beloved hometown after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Closer, the ribbon factory-turned-nightclub hosting the annual festival was where she met her now-husband and lifelong friends, and is where her journey began as a musician. “For me, Strichka was a moment filled with excitement,” she explains. “I’m proud that everyone found the strength to make this festival happen.”
Despite Ponura’s elated return, there were moments when reality set in. Her husband, also a resident of Closer, was unable to make it to Strichka this time. “I played his music and imagined he was with me,” she says. “I dedicated this set to him and all the residents of Сloser who didn’t get the opportunity to be together at Strichka.”
Over the years, Strichka and its home of Closer have tackled COVID regulations, cost of living difficulties, and attacks from far-right parties, and now face the ongoing threat of war, but despite everything thrown at the once annual event, Strichka made its long-awaited return from May 18 – 19 to celebrate life in the face of adversity.
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First started in 2014 after local artist Nastia celebrated her birthday party at the venue alongside an already existing day party, Strichka transformed into a small festival with a comprehensive line-up of DJs and electronic artists from near and far. This year, for the first time since 2019, Strichka returned with a stacked bill: Alex Savage, human margareeta, Bambu, zolaa., and Borys were amongst the Ukrainian artists taking back to the stage, while international exports including Germany’s John Dimas and USA’s Afriqua made day-long journeys to reach the Ukrainian capital.
Calling it a “celebration of life”, the team behind Closer saw this year’s successful Strichka shape into something new. Although it ran akin to previous events, this year’s festival went ahead during the daytime to keep in check with current curfew laws set in place while Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues. “For us, the return of Strichka symbolises the resurgence of a vital part of our lives that we bid farewell to at the outset of the war,” they explain.
“We recognised the longing of people who, despite the ongoing war, volunteering efforts, surrounding fears, and stressful living conditions, desired to come together, experience love, discover new music, and express themselves,” they say. “This sentiment resonates perfectly with the essence of Strichka Festival, which has always been a celebration of life in its various dimensions: spring, hope, love, and music. It serves as a reminder to the world that despite the war, our musical culture remains vibrant and resilient. It continues to evolve and flourish through the creativity of artists, with new talents emerging to fill the void left by those who departed.”
Inside Strichka, the atmosphere was electric. Busy from its earliest hours, the festival welcomed ravers of all ages and commonalities, eager to “let loose” and return to normality on the dancefloor. “I enjoyed those calmer hours in the morning,” says ISH, who performed at this year’s event. “People were having fun, but in the evening on both days, they had to stop because of the curfew at 10:30PM. It was weird going from a full-on party to everyone leaving at the same time – the streets were full of people waiting for taxis,” he explains.
Check out all the best photos from Strichka Festival’s return.
Check out more photos from Tim Urbezlyudnyi here
Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter
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Written by: Tim Hopkins