Art during war — a voice from Ukraine
On the morning of February 24th, Kate woke up to the sound of explosions and air-raid sirens. She nudged her boyfriend to wake up and start packing: “The war had started”. It felt like she had never been more afraid of anything in her life.
May 18, 2022 - Anastasia Starchenko - Stories and ideas
The Russian war has uprooted another spring for millions of Ukrainians and everyone who found a second home somewhere in Ukraine — just like before, in 2014. For many, the two months since February 24th have turned into an endless day, with countless calls, texts, pain and anxiety. These two months have also revealed Ukraine’s unity and strength, which reappeared out of a much missed mundane life without war.
As Ukrainians at home and abroad have rallied around the struggle for freedom and identity, everyone appears to be doing whatever they are best at — other than fighting for physical survival. While some take up arms to defend their land, pull civilians out of damaged buildings and treat the wounded, others save lives by providing hot meals, unloading supply vehicles, stirring up online attention, and even playing piano in a house destroyed by Russian shelling. Ukrainian illustrators, meanwhile, express the shattering ache of war through art.
For Kate Logvynenko, a Kyiv-based illustrator and coffee enthusiast, illustration has turned into a therapeutic way of processing reality and telling the world about everything that can hardly be put into words. Kate’s last pre-war piece was about her and her partner’s common future — a dream apartment, some nice little things. “We’ve almost had it all. It was my happiest work.”
If before the war Kate worked on illustration, coffee and creating content for a local café, now it is only illustration. “I decided to stay in Kyiv without a second thought, perhaps even before the war started,” she admits. “I just knew that if something happens, I won’t go.” Eventually, it turned out that a minor relocation was necessary. On the very first day of the conflict, Kate and her boyfriend moved from a small apartment in an old building in downtown Kyiv to her mum’s place on the left bank of the river. This felt like a safer option. They also wanted to be together. Shortly after, Kate’s mum and sister evacuated abroad. Kate contemplated moving back home to the city centre, but the logistics and two cats made it rather difficult.
Her transition to the themes of war, tears and identity proved to be much easier than anticipated. “The past year has shaped me a lot as an illustrator,” she shares. “It took me a long time to find my style, and the creating process was tough.” It was during the first days of the war that she worked out what she needed to do. It was the pain of war that unlocked her creative potential, a signature technique. From then on, she began sketching day and night.
The torment of war
Her best and most powerful creations were born out of moments of grief and loss. Everything that hurt the most instantly turned into an illustration. “For my stories, I choose the themes that resonate the most — the theme of one’s place and purpose at a time of great transition, the theme of choice,” Kate tells. “I mostly draw characters and self-portraits that reflect my own feelings, work with colour and minimal shape. I turn to events that are the hardest to talk about.”
“The series of works The Frontline was born as I thought about the place each of us holds in this war. Thanks to our efforts, the frontline extends far beyond its immediate borders. From the heroism of army soldiers, selflessness of healthcare workers, to the passionate dedication of volunteers and fearless parents. From those who help the most vulnerable to those who keep doing honest work, sustaining the economy and donating — all of it makes the difference.”
“Your Sensitive Content is Our Reality appeared out of my reflections on the murders in Bucha.” In early April, hundreds of bodies of civilians — many with their hands tied behind their backs — were found in liberated Bucha, the neighbouring towns of Hostomel and Irpin, and smaller villages around Kyiv. “It felt as if I screamed at the top of my lungs at anyone who tried to turn a blind eye to the problem and think it will disappear. Like soap bubbles, bombs eventually explode but they hit with deadly force. I am against fatigue and disregard, whatever it is about. It’s my social position.”
At the time of writing, Russia attacked the central Shevchenko district of Kyiv, not far from Kate’s home on the right bank. Two loud explosions were heard on the evening of April 28th and one of the missiles struck the lower floors of a residential building.
When Ukraine wins the war, Kate will continue doing what she has been working on — talking about the things that matter, verbally and visually, and helping those who have lost their homes. She will also keep working with coffee — she loves coffee — and will not leave Kyiv for a very long time. There are many things to do there. “My biggest dream is to have enough physical and mental resources to help others. To live in a strong and free Ukraine, for which we ourselves will need to be stronger. When everything ends, I will make my childhood dream come true and get a weapon permit. And I will paint. Large canvases. That is it.”
Anastasia Starchenko is a contributing editor with New Eastern Europe and an MA graduate of European Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Europe in Natolin. She is a content writer, freelance translator and contributor with a focus on socio-political and cultural developments in Eastern Europe.
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