Elena and Marat are narrative practitioners from Moscow, based in Lisbon since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. They interview each other about their position on the war and their fellowship KRAI, and also about Elena’s experience of starting to work as the assistant to Reauthoring Teaching
Something on the Edge
1Lena: What's your position on the war in Ukraine?
Marat: We stand in a rather solid antiwar position. When it all started, we were pretty terrified. It was unbelievable and it is still a disaster and it’s really hard to endure.
2Lena: What are the responses of Russian speaking narrative community to the war?
Marat: In Russia it’s really hard to say something out loud, like openly go on streets or even post something on social media, because otherwise you can get fired or you can get into jail and so on.
So there are some grassroots initiatives, small gatherings. We now represent, actually, our fellowship called KRAI. And some of our friends organized series of meetings about finding a way on “how to speak about peace”. Because one of the first effects of that war was that families and friends were isolated from each other. There were a lot of conflicts in families, in among friends and so on. This initiative was aimed to reunite those people, and to do some something against propaganda, which is severe in Russian mass media.
3Marat: Would you like to name some more initiatives of KRAI relating to the war in Ukraine?
Elena: On the next day after the war started, we (KRAI) met online on Zoom to speak about being against the war, what we can do, what are the effects of this war on us and the lives of people who are connected to us.
And by that point, we already had a psychological help service, which is free for all who is suffering from the effects of the war. We and mostly our students who were taught narrative therapy in KRAI are helping anyone who makes the request.
In order to make a request you can fill the following form: Форма для получения поддержки и помощи (google.com). It’s also available on the main page of our website: КРАЙ (krai.online)
4Marat: Who asks for your help there?
Elena: Usually these are people from Russia. This is one more difficult ethical point: is it possible for people from Russia to help people from Ukraine, even if we are clearly against the war and against Putin? Maybe we still do not have this right to be in position of help to people from Ukraine because of our citizenship. I don’t know.
But we are happy to help anyone who looks for it, especially to people from Ukraine.
5Elena: What is KRAI we are speaking about, and how did it appear?
Marat: KRAI is a team of narrative practitioners. There were seven people that were interested in narrative practice and teaching, and we decided to form a group and create the educational program. It started from this. But then it started to grow. Several people that were students of the first year, they are now doing some laboratories and workshops as well.
We have students from different spheres. From psychology, psychotherapy, social work, charitable foundations. There were philosophers or people working with business organizations. We also had a lot of people from activist community. And actually we wanted to make this program not psychologically centered. And I think narrative practice was designed like, in a way, as anti psychological, anti individualistic approach. So, that’s very important for us and we try to maintain this tradition in narrative practice.
For further interest:
6Marat: What does KRAI mean?
Elena: In English it sounds like “no woman, no cry”, but it’s not that meaning. We were playing with this idea of center and periphery and I was reading Borges and found that he named himself something like… Philosopher of suburbs. Philosopher of margins. And on Russian, it’s a word with “krai”. So that’s when we took this idea, it’s something on the edge or something not in the center. This is KRAI.
7Marat: What are the KRAI's main projects?
Elena: Our main project is a narrative therapy educational program. It lasts from September to June every year for the last four years. And we have some workshops and lectures, which are conducted with invited lectors, and reading groups, where we read some texts. It can be classical texts on narrative therapy, sometimes we do translations together with our students. And it could be some anthropological, philosophical, feminist texts, which are inspiring us. Each member of our team can bring some text every year.
And also we do community work. So our students, they became a community and they work together and they can support together. And sometimes they create their own projects after finishing our program.
We also have some local supervision groups, workshops, some clubs of discussions.
8Elena: Would you like to add anything important about KRAI?
Marat: Yeah. We try to make it political, philosophical and fun.
9Marat: You've recently started to be an assistant at Re-Authoring Teaching. What are you learning about it?
Elena: This is a tricky question as I’m not in position of independent participant of Re-Authoring Teaching projects, but in subjugated position. When the employee is about to describe her employer project it is always the power relationships there, even in the atmosphere of acceptance and friendliness. So, when I want to share my interest and appreciation, which I truly have, I can not separate it from the feeling, that I’m supposed to demonstrate that. So, I will share a bit my impressions with keeping that in mind.
First of all, I’m fascinated by the feeling of community. I’ve been on Narrative Camp only once, but I still have very warm connections with people I’ve met there. And now it’s all continuing in different online formats.
These different formats is another thing. There are monthly Collab salons, online workshops, recorded online courses, community interviews, and more. It’s a big job done here, and it allows to continue learning and stay in touch with colleagues from different parts of the world, with different perspectives.
I want to learn from how Re-Authoring teaching team works with video materials. There is such a rich library of narrative therapy, and lots of online courses are developed on the basement of conducted workshops, so people can have an access to it. I think we should start working on that in Krai, because we have so many unstructured and unseen developments.
10Marat: And what are the other differences with Krai?
Elena: I see some different emphasis in our work, even we are both dealing with narrative approach. With some simplification I would say that Krai more accents political optics in some small, distributed practices, takes inspiration from philosophy and invites the collaborative research among the students, while here I can meet more findings from neurosciences and embodiment, enriching the classical ideas of narrative metaphor and re-authoring, bringing a lot of practical topics and cases, a great possibilities to exchange with diverse practitioners from all over the world.
What I see in common is involvement in political life of our countries. Krai and Re-Authoring Teaching are both react and take the position on what’s going on in the world. I would say Re-Authoring Teaching takes more wide perspective on world events and problems, and does it more often. I think, some regular practices as a newsletter and blog posts we have here could help Krai to be more active, and I would like that.
11Elena: Should we stop? Thank you for the conversation!
Marat: Yeah, thank you!