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Gardening in a War Zone

“Gardening in a War Zone”
“Sometimes I am trying to get to sleep, and I begin to think about the war, about the explosions, about this possibility that any time my dearest persons can be killed. I say to myself, do not think about that. Think about flowers,” says Alla Olkhovska. Alla is a gardener, an expert in finicky clematis, a photographer, a writer, and a caretaker. She lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine, about 30 kilometers from the eastern border. On the morning the war started, she could hear the explosions and gunfire. Munitions and debris have landed just yards away from her grandmother’s home. Air alerts scream day and night and it’s common to lose electricity and gas. Yet, every day Alla boards a public bus that drops her near her family’s garden, which her great-grandfather planted as a small apple orchard after World War II to help her struggling ancestors survive. There are still a few apple trees left, but now the garden is home to a collection of rare and stunning flowers. And, it remains a means of survival. While the garden is a refuge for Alla, a sanctuary she maintains despite the war, it’s also a critical lifeline for her family. She collects as many seeds as she can from her clematis and other rare flowers. By selling them, Alla cares for her elderly grandmother, her mother-in-law, and her husband, who nearly lost his life to Covid-19 and has not fully regained his health. Even as the harsh winter creeps ever closer, Alla is undeterred. With relentless optimism and a belief in the power of beauty and goodness, Alla fights for the survival of her family one seed at a time.
Director Rob Finch, shares, “I think people need to see there’s still hope in this world and Alla embodies that. She continues to find a way to care for her family through the simple and beautiful act of growing flowers and harvesting the seeds. I know this gives me hope and I believe it will do the same for the audience.”
33 Minutes
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Erin Benzakein


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