I would like to describe how the idea of making a book about a nation was born and how children participated in the implementation of this project.
I was born in the USSR, a country that no longer exists – today it is Russia, in the city of Leningrad, which is also was renamed – now it is called St. Petersburg. In my apartment building where I lived with my parents, there were a thousand apartments. In each of them was living about three or even five people.
Several thousand inhabitants in the same building!
Our courtyard, that was more like a square, two kindergartens were built. We all went to the school assigned to our house. We knew each other from childhood: we met in the library on the first floor of our building, played on the same playground and went to the same ice cream cafe. Our apartment building was a city in the city.
Could it be a nation-state?
Almost all the children sought to leave this “city in the city”. For the weekend we tried to go to the center in which where were beautiful houses, museums, large shops. On vacation, we went out to the river, to the field, to the forest or to the sea. We did not have any in our “”sleeping district” with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. Adults worked far from home and, spending two hours going from and to work, returned home very tired. We dreamed of growth and entered the university, we wanted to see the “real world”.
I realized, that if a dozen apartment building of the sleeping district of Leningrad – my childhood city had been united in one country, by size, it would be comparable with Iceland. We would have invented our language, flag, history, we may elect a parliament, written books, founded our own universities, museums, and opened embassies in different countries. Friends from my childhood would become diplomats, deputies, and members of the government, translators or athletes from the Olympic team of our district (nation-state). Probably, we would have to create our own army and police.
What is making people feel as a nation? Common memories, common heroes? Being related by blood?
These are questions that usually answered by adults, but we decided to ask children what do they think about it.
The answers were not only amazingly smart but also very beautifully expressed.
Next year I will be working on post-production and hope to release the book with children’s contributions as well as the text by academics and contemporary artists.