The concept of "displacement", introduced into psychoanalysis by Freud, is a tendency of the human mind to forget traumatic experiences which, however, is not entirely possible to achieve. Displacement tends to return in a changed form such as recurring nightmares and horrors. Therefore, in order to outlive the grief a person has to make a certain effort and its first phase is "processing" which implies acceptance of your memory and recognition of the fact that a certain traumatic event has really taken place. Lately the theory of psychoanalysis has been enriched with a new discovery. As it turns out, the traumas, especially the ones that have not been overcome, can be inherited by your descendants who may start experiencing them as their own. Marianne Hirsch calls this phenomenon post-memory. Many of Leonid Tishkov's works, in which he addresses his family history and his parents' tragic biography, corroborate this idea.
In the early days of the war, in August 1941, the artist's father Alexander Ivanovich Tishkov found himself in the Uman encirclement, where the Sixth, the Twelfth, and the Twenty-sixth armies of the South and the South-West Fronts were surrounded by the Germans. As a prisoner-of-war he spent a long time in the camp at Uman and later was moved to Stalag 326 in the district of Stukenbrock where he was liberated by the American army. In December 1945, he returned to his home in the Urals having spent time in the NKVD camp Borisenko at Frankfurt-on-Oder where he had undergone "filtration". He never talked about his war experiences, probably because he had signed a secrecy paper, or maybe because he had simply "displaced" those events from his memory. His son became obsessed with the task of reconstructing those events through "processing". Leonid Tishkov managed to find in the internet the report of his father's interrogation by the NKVD. The report shed much light on the circumstances of his imprisonment. Leonid also collected scanty but scaring evidence left by the survivors of the Uman encirclement. Finally he came across a German photograph with the following inscription: "Negative No 1.13/22. Uman. Ukraine. Russia. Date: 14 August 1941. 50,000 Russian military have been collected in Uman." Tishkov studied the picture closely trying to find his father among the prisoners, but he failed and printed out an enlarged photograph on paper. His archive also contains a photograph of his father in military uniform made shortly before the war, and a black button from that uniform which he discovered in his mother's lifetime collection of buttons. That button became a fetish for Tishkov and finally he made a bronze monument out of it.
This work is based on real events, on a family history, a history of the war with its losses and traumas. The story says: "On August 19, 1985, Khalil's Uncle, Kettaneh Junior, was kidnapped during the Lebanese civil war. He is still officially reported missing today like 17, 000 other Lebanese.
Having identified himself with his father he saw in his life the fate of millions of similar lives reflecting the fate of his generation. His father's generation had been immortalized in Mikhail Sholokhov's The Fate of Man, one of the best works of war prose. That was how it occurred to Tishkov that the name "Uman" suggests associations with the word "human" and all that is associated with humans and humanity in most European languages.