For over three decades, the Black Rock Desert in Nevada has transformed into a surreal landscape for Burning Man, a mind-bending event that draws 70,000 participants from around the world. Freedom of expression reigns supreme, with spectacular installations and tickets that sell out in mere minutes. In 2019, the Ukrainian camp, Kurenivka, made its debut at Burning Man. At its heart was the Maidan, complete with a dance floor, lounge area, and Nastoyanka bar. Parties and performances were the order of the day, as revelers immersed themselves in the unique Burning Man experience.
"The idea of Burning Man and reality are two big differences," says Vlad Fisun, a first-time attendee and DJ at Kurenivka Camp. He describes the event as a radical ritual, in which participants can engage however they choose. The ephemeral city that arises for a week and a half is the third-largest in Nevada, rivaling Las Vegas and Reno. With its trailers, tents, thermodomes, installations, sound systems, and bars, the city is a hive of activity before vanishing without a trace, leaving the desert pristine once more.
Kurenivka Camp's inspirational leader, Yaroslav Korets, conceived the idea in 2016. After returning to Ukraine and sharing his vision, friends and acquaintances rallied around him, offering support and assistance. Eventually, the camp became a reality, with many proactive individuals involved in its creation and implementation. As Korets explains, Kurenivka Camp introduced Burning Man to a piece of Ukrainian culture through pre-planned activities centered around the theme "Radical Ritual." Four Ukrainian rituals were showcased, including creating sacred dolls and amulets, crafting a Christmas amulet of straw, cooking and drinking Ukrainian potions, and burning a ceramic sculpture.
The ceramic sculpture burning, conducted in the epicenter of Burning Man near the Man statue, was particularly spectacular. The most intimate rituals involved creating moth puppets and spiders, while the most popular were the Ukrainian tinctures made from rosehip, fagus, horseradish, ginger, and lemon. Americans found the horseradish tincture particularly fascinating, often exclaiming, "Horseradish and vodka? It's freaking genius! Amazing!"
For Vlad Fisun, Burning Man is a multidimensional journey of self-discovery that can take time to understand. The most challenging question friends ask afterward is, "What is Burning Man?" Fisun admits he's still contemplating the answer.
Kurenivka Camp left a lasting impression on Burning Man attendees. Yaroslav Korets recalls that when Americans visited the camp, asking when the bar would open, and when neighbors who had participated in Burning Man 14 times declared their love for Kurenivka, it became clear that they had made their mark as "crazy and funny Ukrainians with the strongest spirits in the whole world!"