Paintings of Ukrainian children who escaped the war are on display

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The centerpiece of the project was inspired by a bombed-out classroom. It is surrounded by recent paintings and drawings made by children aged 3 to 18

SARASOTA, Florida — Year art exhibition featuring works by Ukrainian children opened in a Sarasota gallery. The art reflects the expressions, interpretations and thought processes of children from the ongoing war launched against Ukraine by its larger neighbor Russia.

“This is the latest work in the collection. It comes from a school in Poland where about 77 Ukrainian refugees live,” said Wojtek Sawa, artist and creator of the installation.

Sawa, of Polish origin, worked with domestic and foreign partners to set up the exhibition. The centerpiece of the project was inspired by a bombed-out classroom. It is surrounded by recent paintings and drawings made by children aged 3 to 18. It includes refugee children in shelters in Poland or living with host families as well as in the less affected western region of the country.

“They [children] come from all over the country and from different walks of life,” Sawa said. “Some of them come from towns that were very heavily destroyed, like Bucha and areas near Mariupol.”

The children’s artwork is a commentary on the war as many of them lived through and witnessed the aftermath of the bombings and watched their soldiers, many of whom were family members, continue to push back the invaders. They also saw bloody scenes such as dead bodies along the road as they fled their homes to safety.

“It’s therapy for them, it’s therapy for families, it’s therapy for us. They create beautiful works of art and in doing so, they encapsulate their feelings or emotions, their thoughts, it’s an outlet for them,” Sawa said.

Sawa said he could relate to what the children were going through and feeling. When he was 11, he said his family had fled political persecution in Poland due to the communist government.

He then returned to the country briefly in his late twenties, but was again expelled.

“I was told I had 24 hours to leave and then I was literally moved and in a similar way to how these people are moved,” he said. “I lost my future wife at the time, my best friend, my job, everything was just boom, it was gone. It’s that feeling of being uprooted by the winds of history that is so powerful. that someone you know has nothing to say and I think that’s a common feeling.”

The exhibit runs May 3-21 at Chasen Gallery II inside the Westfield Siesta Key Mall at 3501 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Visitors are also encouraged to leave a note with comments or messages of encouragement for any of the young artists whose work speaks to them. The note, which is on colored paper, would then be displayed on the gallery walls and become part of the exhibit. People who donate more than $35 can get a print of the artwork of their choice. The money would also be given to the children.

The exhibit is in partnership with UA Kids, a Kyiv-based organization that has been uploading and displaying Ukrainian children’s art online since the start of the war. The Sarasota County Arts and Culture Alliance also helped set up the exhibit.

The exhibition would also hold ‘An Evening of Ukrainian Music’ on Tuesday, May 17, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the gallery. The event would feature singers Natalya Bratash, Nadia Sawa, Bandura virtuoso Ivan Schmilo and the Sarasota Middle School – Joyful Voices Select Ensemble.

Click on here for more information on the exhibition.

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