Publishing Consultant And PublisHer Board Member Emma House Interviews Bookwomen Around The World.
Lidia Lykhach graduated from Kyiv National University (Shevchenko) with a major in journalism. After working as a correspondent for Ukrainian newspapers, she founded both a periodical dealing with the cultural history of Ukraine and a publishing house, both known as RODOVID. In 2003, she founded the RODOVID art gallery, in Kyiv. She has previously been an advisor to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Ukraine.
After journalism, what inspired you to move into publishing?
I enjoyed journalism and especially my specialism: arts and cultural journalism. My work in the cultural section led me to write about extremely interesting topics such as music, arts education, museum collections, ethnographic or archeological research, and more. With the format of a newspaper, there seemed to always be a lack of space to hold the material we were wanting to share. Naturally, the desire for a larger format grew. As early as 1990, as soon as the communist ban on print, private TV, and publishing houses fell, I immediately founded the magazine RODOVID – Notes on the History of Ukrainian Culture. Before that only the Communist Party or the local Komsomol union could be the founders of publications; there was no private business, only underground.
What does the publishing house specialize in and where does the name Rodovid come from?
The closest translation into English for the word ‘rodovid’ is perhaps family tree or ancestry. We look at the family tree through the lens of culture and arts. We wanted our regional publication to focus on the entire millennial artistic heritage known in Ukraine.
I am very proud of those 10 years of the magazine, which brought together young historians, researchers of art, theatre, folklore, archives, archaeologists, ethnomusicologists, and more. It was a big deal for everyone, because for the first time they had the opportunity to publish their research, creating personal, professional narratives. They had a platform to share their work with the world. But after a few years, journal articles, too, became too small a format for what we wanted to share. Almost every study required a monographic format. This was because for so long under Soviet rule Ukrainian heritage had been repressed and for decades nothing had been allowed to be published unless it followed the Soviet ideology. We needed the monograph format to make space for Ukrainian heritage, culture, arts, and individuals to finally be heard.
We began to publish native art, iconography, textiles, and anthropological studies that displayed the structural change in traditional culture because of Soviet rule. We prepared monographs of artists and notable artistic themes in Ukrainian art. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant a restoration of Ukrainian statehood and created momentous changes in all spheres of life, ranging from the personal to political to artistic, including the sphere of publishing.
Tell us about publishing in Ukraine, and where does your publishing house fit in?
With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, new publishing houses immediately began to be established. People had been waiting for a long time to express themselves through print, and with the establishment of Ukraine’s independence they were able to flourish.
Among the private publishers in Ukraine, RODOVID is one of the oldest and, to a specific circle of researchers, the most visible. For many years we have been consistent with writing the new history of Ukrainian art, dating from ancient times to present day. We look for innovation in our projects and future paths, regarding tradition and the past.
What projects are you most proud of in your career?
Probably a series of publications on Ukrainian Modernism. We printed several important publications that represent this rich, impactful, and vibrant period of Ukrainian art (1910s-1930s.) This includes a study by Vita Susak called Ukrainian Artists in Paris. 1900-1939 (2010), Jean-Claude Markade’s MALEVICH (2013), Kazimir Malevich. Kyiv Period 1927-1930 (2017), Mudrak, Rudenko, Staging the Ukrainian Avant-Garde of the 1910s and 1920s (in collaboration with the Ukrainian Museum in New York, 2015), modernist design in NARBUT (2020-2021), Georgy Kovalenko’s Alexandra Exter (2021), a limited series of Ukrainian modernism (Alexander Bohomazov, Vasyl Yermilov, Anatol Petrytsky). Also, exhibitions I participated in of Kharkiv modernism and the staging of Ukrainian theatrical avant-garde in New York, in which I also participated.
What challenges have you faced in your career in publishing?
RODOVID’s biggest challenge is financial. It takes approximately one and a half to ten years to prepare a book and it costs a lot of money. Due to the weak economy and low financial capacity of buyers, selling our type of books can be difficult.
What is the environment like for women in publishing in Ukraine, especially female leaders?
I am proud that a lot of the cultural leaders I know in Ukraine are women, and similarly a lot of the Ukrainian publishers are women. I think Ukrainian women take initiative and risk, they are intuitive, strong, and creative and this leads to our ability to be leaders.
You are running three different businesses and you are an author. How do you manage to balance them?
For me they are all connected. They don’t feel like separate businesses, but one line of work that moves as a cohesive whole. Each one fulfils something different in the context of RODOVID’s overall vision in sharing Ukrainian art.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, there are many projects and books awaiting completion. In a long-term sense, my dream is to create a new kind of space that encompasses both publications and a gallery of work from my private collections. I want it to be a gallery that doesn’t only hold artwork or an office that doesn’t only publish, but a creative building housing publications, galleries, events, and offices that people are able to visit. A place where process is not stripped, but the process is unveiled and merged with product. I would love to create a new space through the RODOVID Gallery.