Drawing is My Only Language: Ukrainian Artists Portraying the War

While the war is still raging, there is hardly any time for reflection. But for many artists, creativity became their only way to speak out, even under these gruesome circumstances. Bird in Flight reached out to Ukrainian artists, asking them to show their works about war and tell their stories.

Kinder Album, artist

There will be a painting that shows our victory, for sure.

Drawing is my way to live through this reality together with all my people. It helps me to control my anxiety and panic, keeps me focused and channels my thoughts in a constructive direction. It’s my contribution to our common fight.

As for now, I have illustrated my experience of sitting in a shelter with young kids, elderly people, and pets. I have painted women, who stop armored vehicles with their bare hands, crowds of refugees on railway stations, burning houses — all the things that break our hearts. I’m planning to carry on with this series, and I’m sure that there will be a painting that shows our victory.

Vlada Ralko, artist

Drawing is not a weapon for me, it’s what keeps me alive.

I felt numb in the first week of war. I still have no words, except for a plea to close our sky and help us with weapons’ supplies. The whole world clearly sees what’s happening now. They see it in every detail. How many more murdered kids and mass graves in Mariupol do they need? How many Ukrainian cities have to be ruined for the world to join this unprecedented violence against our country with real actions, not just words?

Drawing is my only language now. This is how I’m saying what I want to say. It’s not my weapon, it’s what keeps me alive.

Anatolii Belov, artist

I have neither time, nor materials to create “works”. All I have is my sketchbook.

These sketches show my immediate reaction to the war. I draw them in my sketchbook, which I carry around and use it to put in my thoughts and to-do lists. I took this sketchbook with me, alongside other first-necessity things, when I fled Kyiv to a safer place. It contains all important addresses and phone numbers, so it’s a big help.

Now I have neither time, nor materials to create “works”. All I have is my sketchbook. One of the drafts is dedicated to Putin and all Russian people. I put an equation mark between them. I think that the war in Ukraine should be blamed not only on Putin, but on all the Russians, who let him rule their country. “It’s not Russia, it’s Putin who did it”. That was Kateryna Dyogot’s, a well-known Russian critic and art manager, comment on the shelling of the Holocaust Memorial Babyn Yar. Such a reaction of detachment and not understanding their own responsibility for the war in Ukraine says a lot. And I made a sketch of this episode, which shows Putin’s head growing bigger and bigger with rage and wickedness.

The second drawing is my curse for a Russian monster-soldier and his whole family. He stormed into a free country that didn’t call for him. My fury is encapsulated in this sketch. I don’t like to be furious, but that’s what I’m feeling right now and I have every right to feel this way.


Danylo Movchan, artist

I can’t say anything. I can only draw one watercolor a day. I have no words.

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