We are writing about the brutal and slanderous accusations in today's "Nuova Venezia" newspaper in an article by Carlo Mion, and concerning the statement released by the Voina art group regarding the events that took place in front of the "Ex Ospizio" occupied house in Santa Marta.
Since we occupied the premises of the former Ospizio delle Terese on 4 November last, many people have had the opportunity to live in a city like Venice. We chose to occupy it with the idea that living together does not mean only sharing a space which is free from the blackmail of rent, but above all being able to create the most rewarding of human relations, based on solidarity.
Many other people have instead found hospitality, for longer or shorter periods, while respecting the inhabitants of the house, the neighborhood and the activities - both political and otherwise - within them.
This was also the case of Voina, who arrived in Santa Marta a few months ago looking for temporary accommodation for a few days, which then became months. During this period the incompatibility between their way of living and that of the occupants - a relationship of trust, respect and sharing among those who choose to live together being essential for us - became clear. Aware of the difficulty of their condition, however, various alternatives were proposed to Voina to resolve their situation: from legal help to building a common path together, from alternative housing to contacts with people related to the artistic milieu to which they belong. Proposals which the Russian artists have always rejected.
Given the impossibility of living together and with our proposals being unsatisfactory to them, more than a month ago Voina was asked to find other accommodation. At this point Voina reacted by definitively breaking off any kind of dialogue and began a long series of provocations - even to the extent of brandishing bladed weapons - against the occupiers and calling in their own supporters, whose presence in the house was imposed on us.
Given their wanted status and the presence of children, we still still continued to seek to avoid physical confrontation, even with the exasperation of having to share the house with armed men, and continued to propose solutions that would provide for dialogue between the parties including other, immediately available, housing arrangements.
During the row on Sunday afternoon, which took place outside the house while the children were resting inside in the company of another Russian girl sympathizer of theirs, the now final demand for them to leave the house the hospice was made. Oleg, however, wielded an axe at anyone who sought to talk to him and, backed by his friends and despite repeated calls for calm, headed towards the squat. Once there Oleg began to take the axe to the front door, threatening death to those who were inside the house and injuring two people outside. Only then did we manage to disarm him, at which point the Russian suffered a head injury.
Soon afterwards, alarmed by the ruckus and by the neighbours, the police arrived at the scene and began to note the identities of some of those present (Oleg, his friends and three occupants of the house). They then forced their way into the hospice, picking up the two children and the other Voina sympathizer who had remained inside (following the orders of Koza, who repeatedly ordered her not to leave the house, despite repeated calls to her to do so before the arrival of police, as they had no papers).
Meanwhile outside, Oleg indicated to the police the names of other residents of the neighbourhood, pointing out alleged drug dealing and handed over to the police video and audio material concerning the activities, political or otherwise, carried out in the house and collected during the months of their stay there.
We would like to clarify to those who are clearly in bad faith, that no injury was inflicted on Koza, nor of course the children, contrary to what is stated in the newspapers and in the group's statement. The group, indeed, left the house quietly helped by the occupants to put away their things.
It seems superfluous to say, but maybe it is not, that we tried in every way to avoid the intervention of the police, and even when the police and carabinieri did arrive, tried despite everything to protect Oleg and his family and friends by inviting them to leave as quickly as possible.
If we did not feel such deep sorrow for what happened, the instrumental allegations of our kidnapping the children, of ten people beating up one and handing him over to the police wouldbe laughable. That is light years away from the way we operate, the way we are, and no-one who knows us can doubt that.
In this regard, we wish to thank all those, from the people of the neighbourhood to our friends who immediately rushed to show us solidarity and help repair the damage.
Although we do not particularly love writing press statements or flaunting to the four winds the activities we carry on in our daily lives, we feel obliged to speak out before this whole story takes on to an even greater degree the characteristics of a "media trap".
Everything else is just talk and infamy. Will take it as such, without allowing ourselves to be influenced in our actions and in our projects.
The occupants of the Ex Ospizio di Santa Maria
The occupants of the former and the Hospice of Santa Marta