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There and Back Again - Kyiv and My Art Project

By David Elley

I am writing this while pulling out of Kyiv on the train here at lunchtime on Sunday, 4th February 2024. Heading ‘home’ to Lviv. It is one day before I was planning to do so, but I have had every success I wanted to achieve and, in some cases, even more successful than I had hoped.

I am drained from the last three nights of writing, and cataloging and curating children’s art. That took a lot out of me emotionally, so today’s slow day back to Lviv and a simpler article suits me. I did most of my writing in a German-style pub, just down from the Teatral’na Station. I sat in the same spot, drank Hofbrau Dunkel at the same pace as my writing and convinced Nastia, who looked after me three nights running, that I was some kind of journalist - LMAO, as my daughter might say. As she was looking after me so well, I decided to show her the cataloguing work I was doing with some of the children’s art I have already received. I was verifying all the notes I had on each piece, about 30 in all. She definitely understood the self-portrait from the 17-year-old girl and why the girl faces away and towards a rising sun when I explained it. Anyway, I promised to return next Thursday evening.

Despite Nastia refusing to serve me unless I spoke Ukrainian, I didn’t have any meaningful interactions with other Kyiv dwellers, except perhaps the lady at Babyn Yar, and the barman at an underground pub during an alert. It made for a quiet trip, and my determination to learn more Ukrainian. I must exclude the teachers I met in north-east Kyiv at an underground shelter, the people from two foundations supporting the local schools, and of course the lovely people at Мурашки Volunteer Kitchen (‘murashky’ or ‘ants’ as in ‘tireless’), where I stopped by twice to work on food for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. One of the times, after the buses let me down, I did a 2km stomp in horizontal sleet and freezing rain.

I have mentioned children’s art a few times now. This is my special project while I'm in Ukraine. I am trying to collect artwork from Ukrainian children affected by the war. In Kyiv, I was seeking at least one school to participate in the project, and thanks to meeting the people from the two Kyiv foundations, I now have at least four schools working on this project next week! In every way, it exceeds my expectations. I will be back for next Friday to meet the kids and to collect their work.

Then the hard part of the job starts- getting the art out of Ukraine, collecting additional artwork from the AFUCA association school in Nice, France, and then finding the right place(s) to show and auction the art. The goal is to increase awareness of Ukrainian children’s experiences and to raise more funds to support Ukraine.

Call to Action: Can you or anyone in your network, put me in touch with any possible partners, in Europe or North America, who would want to show some very heartfelt and precious Ukrainian children's art? Contact me through the Herald, or direct to Please, we need to get these stories and art pieces out into the world! No child should have to endure what these children have experienced, and it would be empowering for them to showcase their artwork in an international art show.

I estimate that I am now expecting 200 pieces, from four locations, each with their own unique story to share. From the kids evacuated to France, to those in Lviv being looked after by a generous church community, and also from children who have been traumatized and are either in a Lviv orphanage or hospital. Additionally, we will showcase art from schools in Kyiv, who have not been able to meet, unless it has been in a shelter. Keep in mind, many of these children have parents who are serving in the UAF, too.

I could not have been this successful without one person, who I count as my very good friend. This friend has helped me into the AFUCA association school in Nice, connected me to the artist doing art therapy in Lviv, and also now the big breakthrough in Kyiv. To respect their privacy, I do not intend to say more. She knows how grateful I am to her support from the inception of this endeavor.

Sunday morning in Kyiv was mild and quiet, so I walked down to Maidan, because I realized I did not have a picture in daylight of the memorial of flags. I noticed a young man in army green, walking slowly around the grassy area. He was holding two flags tightly, deciding where to leave them. I suspect his choice depended upon how he would be able to find them again. I thought of my two sons, close to his age, and my friend's son, the same age as my youngest. The young soldier planted his two flags, one for each of his lost friends, and slowly walked back to the subway entrance, passing me and the two other people nearby without a glance towards any of us.



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