On 7 December, the art exhibition ‘Childhood Reconstruction’ opened at Station Europe in Brussels. The event was organised by Promote Ukraine, VITAWORLD, and VITAUKR Association and hosted by MEP Pina Picierno, Vice President of the European Parliament. Pina Picierno solemnly opened the exposition by saying that the EU stands with Ukraine, as “Supporting Ukrainian people means resisting violence and atrocities.”
The cross-cutting topic of the exhibition is women and children, as they are the most vulnerable to war. Overall, the art pieces represent the artistic mood influenced by the war: ruined cities, the experiences of staying in the bomb shelters, frustration, and the pain of loss. Natalia Siassina, VITAWORLD President, summarised the theme by saying that all the drawings tell about Russian crimes and Russian genocide against Ukrainians.
From the left to the right: Tetiana Gubina “Target,” Irina Fedorenko SEMIRA “Determinazione”
One of the biggest installations is the painting of Ukrainian refugee children from all over the world. The project “I Paint the Peace” was an initiative of Yuliia Slipych, the director of the local Kherson art school. Although the school staff fled the war, teachers continued to work online. Thus, the Ukrainian refugee children and children who live in Ukraine have their art classes via Zoom. Students paint what they feel or think about Ukraine, allowing people to glimpse into their inner world. Thanks to NGOs that help to collect the drawings and organise exhibitions, the world can see how Ukrainian children dream about peace.
Olena Kuzhym, Advocacy co-lead of Promote Ukraine, was deeply touched by the drawings. She spends much time with teenage volunteers, and some of them find it challenging to adjust to the new country. Olena shared her perception of communicating with young Ukrainians living in Belgium. “The only thing I can tell you about them is that they all want to come back home, to the country they love and belong to, to Ukraine,” she said.
Bruno Neri, the representative of the NGO “Terre des Hommes Italy,” was fascinated by the sense of children`s hope, saying, “This exhibition expresses the will of the children to have a better future. We see a lot of bright colors and birds – symbols of peace. And would like to give them a chance for a better future.”
The paintings by children
Art means a lot for advocacy because it can transmit feelings that are hard to express in words. As Bruno Neri explains, “We can see what children see, their sufferings, the life in the shelters, and mental problems caused by the war, as they lost friendships or even parents.” Olena Yampolska, President of the VITAUKR Association and the exhibition organiser, added that it is a unique opportunity to sit here, in Brussels, and imagine what the artists experience in Ukraine during the war.
The drawings are demonstrative proof of war crimes. But to hold Russians accountable for the atrocities against Ukrainians, there is a need to resort to international law mechanisms. Oleksandra Romantsova, Executive Director of the Kyiv Center for Civil Liberties, stated that children and women are the most vulnerable to war crimes, as they often figure in the cases collected for the war tribunals in the future.
From the left to the right: Ola Rondiak “A Cold Spring,” Olga Adam Series “Women`s Front”
The exhibition is open till 14 December. Some of the paintings will be put up for sale, and part of the collected money will be donated to charity projects. There is no need to worry that without proper knowledge of Ukraine, it may be difficult to read the paintings. Olena Yampolska emphasised, “I can tell you about the skin picture, but the main thing is to feel!”
Text and photos: Mariana Yukhno