Artists to Russia: ‘Our Fire is Stronger Than Your Bombs’

Streaming HUBMay 4, 2023

GOFFSTOWN, NH (AP) – After Ukrainian artists Zhenya Polosina and Anna Ivanenko watched missiles descend on their country, they both decided to use their creativity against Russia’s invasion. Working from bunkers in Kiev or sometimes without electricity and water, he and other artists began drawing in the early days of the war.

Some of his war posters are now on display in New Hampshire. Ivanenko’s poster titled “Our fire is stronger than your bombs” in the exhibition depicts children studying in a bomb shelter and Ukrainians fleeing the country shortly after the war began. Polosina’s paintings commemorate a female gymnast and a young mathematician who died in the missile. Poke.

“We understood that this is a good pill, a good medicine not to panic, to keep ourselves together. So, we started drawing,” Ivanenko told The Associated Press from the studio in Kiev that Polosina shares with. They are among eight artists who contributed 20 posters to an exhibition at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester on Monday. The posters were previously shown at Dartmouth College and can still be seen as part of a digital exhibit.

Before the war, Polosina was creating illustrations for books and advertising that focused on social topics such as human rights and Ukraine’s largest LGBTQ rights event, KyivPride.

Ivanenko did book and advertising projects. But he quickly turned his attention to the war and shared his pictures via Instagram. They have joined with other Ukrainian artists producing graphic novels, comics and other types of media to spread the news about the war.

The colorful and sometimes shocking posters he has created over the past year have helped drum up support for the war among his fellow Ukrainians, raising money for the war effort as well as giving him something to do. The posters have become part of a growing digital effort to draw attention to the worldwide invasion and its impact on Ukraine.

Polosina said, “One hundred photographs from painters in Ukraine … are helping to raise awareness of what is happening and then have an impact on decision makers.”

Polosina said that the opportunity to show her work in New Hampshire “is very important to us because it is almost a direct dialogue with an audience outside of Ukraine that can see our reflections, that can see our feelings and be more empathetic.” could.”

Some of the posters displayed in New Hampshire have the spirit of classical war propaganda intended to lift spirits and unite residents.

One depicts four men staring at a missile bearing the Russian insignia and the words “Our fire is stronger than your bombs.” Another depicts two men in Kherson holding a Ukrainian flag next to the words of the Ukrainian national anthem, “And we will show the brothers that we belong to the Kazakh nation.” The Russians captured Kherson early in the war and Ukraine recaptured it late last year.

Others document the war’s most dramatic events such as the Mariupol theater assault or the fighting at Bakhmut, which has become the longest-running battle since Russia launched its full-scale offensive more than a year ago. That poster features a soldier, blood on his chest and white bandages on his head, holding a red snake in each hand that represents the Russian army struggling to besiege the city. Another shows masked workers in white hazmat suits digging a mass grave.

Ivanenko reported that whenever she heard about explosions or other collapsed buildings in Ukraine she was “charged with anger” and a “desire to stop the war, to stop the aggression”. Hence his poster is his attempt to help “in a small way”.

Some artists are more like diary entries, documenting the daily struggles they face. One shows children playing with reflective vests, alongside a poster of children and family affected by the war, a reference to the precautions they often take during blackouts.

“We mostly focus on something that is related to our experiences because it feels a little more true to us,” Ivanenko said. “Of course, some of the things we hear in the media are also our experiences. You cannot be indifferent to everything.”

The exhibition was the inspiration for Veronika Yadukha and Hanna Leliev, translators who left Ukraine and arrived in the United States in September. They are both at Dartmouth and felt that a display of war posters from the first year of the war would be a way to address American fatigue around the long-running conflict.

“People get tired of these terrible events and news very quickly. Usually, when we see pictures or videos, our brain blocks out all this stressful information,” Yadukha said. “I realized that these pictures or images work as alternative media… People look at these pictures. There is space between real life and the message. They get the information which is the essential thing.

In Manchester, Yadukha and Leliev spent Monday putting together the posters, which were printed at Dartmouth from digital files provided by artists. About 60 people turned out for the opening, to hear artists speak about poster-making and Ukrainian poetry inspired by the war.

“It’s devastating,” said Mary Fuller, a homemaker and former teacher from Concord who was on hand for the exhibit’s opening. “It’s devastating what these people are doing for money and power. But that’s the world… that’s the reality and the depth of the war. It’s not superficial. You can feel it in these pictures.”


Stepanenko reported from Kyiv.

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