Like many people around the world, we’re devastated by the brutal invasion of Ukraine. After a history of oppression by Russia and other foreign powers, Ukrainians risk once again losing their independence, hard-won in 1991.
In solidarity with Ukraine, many Europeans reportedly have been taking cold showers, which reduces Russia’s profits from exported natural gas. We wanted to think of some appropriate way that we, as a creative coalition, could show our support for Ukraine.
We went online to learn more about Ukrainian artists, both historical and contemporary. Although Russian propaganda insists that Ukraine is essentially Russian, Ukraine has its own language, as well as a vibrant, distinctive culture that dates back centuries.
These truths are so important that Ukraine made cultural education part of its official defense efforts!
We’re helping to spread the word. Here’s a roundup of writers, painters, and other artists who have enriched humanity’s cultural heritage with work rooted in Ukraine’s language, traditions, and history.
Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), Poet
In the 19th century, Taras Shevchenko’s poetry galvanized Ukrainians with a renewed spirit of national identity, distinct from Russian or Polish influences. Recognizing Shevchenko’s potential, art teachers paid to emancipate him from serfdom during his twenties. Soon after, he published Kobzar, a collection named after wandering minstrels who performed poetry to accompaniment on traditional instruments. The Russian tsars punished Shevchenko for criticizing them and for opposing serfdom, but he continued revising Kobzar throughout his life, which ended just before serfdom was finally abolished. Shevchenko’s poetry can be appreciated by English readers in The Complete Kobzar: The Poetry of Taras Shevchenko.
Maria Prymachenko (1909-1997), Painter
During the 20th century, Maria Prymachenko achieved international fame for fantastical animal paintings, decorated with motifs from pysanky, the art of Ukrainian Easter eggs. Although Prymachenko is considered a “naïve” or untutored artist, one critic detects subtle critique of Stalinism in certain examples of her works, comparing them to Pablo Picasso’s depiction of a bull in the anti-war painting Guernica (1937). Today, Prymachenko remains one of Ukraine’s most beloved artists – so much so that a resident of Ivankiv recently risked his life to save her paintings from a burning museum. International esteem for Prymachenko’s folklore-inspired work has only grown since Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964), Sculptor
In works like Walking Woman (1912), the restless innovator Alexander Archipenko adapted Cubism from painting to sculpture, expanding both the medium and the artistic movement. Near the end of life, Archipenko planned a 60-foot statue of King Solomon, which was cast posthumously as a scale model. After the Kyiv-born artist became a U.S. citizen in 1928, he collaborated with The Ukrainian Institute of America, which says Archipenko “raised awareness of Ukrainian culture to a higher level more than any Ukrainian diplomat could have.”
Dmytro Sukholytykyy-Sobchuk (b. 1983), Film Director
Previously known for short films, Dmytro Sukholytykyy-Sobchuk recently directed Pamfir, a Ukrainian-language feature about a father who makes a terrible sacrifice to protect his son. Subsequent to its world premiere at the Cannes 2022 Directors’ Fortnight, Pamfir won awards for director, screenplay, and lead actor (Oleksandr Yatsentyuk) at the fifth annual Kinokolo, the Ukrainian National Film Critics competition. Astonishingly, the awards ceremony was held in a bunker, attesting to the resilience, determination, and bravery of Ukraine’s cinema community.
Antonio Lukich (b. 1992), Film Director
The Russian invasion interrupted work on Luxembourg, Luxembourg, a Ukrainian- and German-language film directed by Antonio Lukich. After sending his wife and three-year-old to safety in Slovenia, Lukich returned to Kyiv, where he recovered footage and completed the film in time for its summer premiere at Venice’s Biennale. Based on Lukich’s relationship with his father, Luxembourg, Luxembourg follows adult twins traveling to their estranged father’s deathbed. Happily, Lukich has reunited with his family in Sweden, where he is one of four Ukrainian filmmakers still pursuing the craft thanks to the Göteborg Film Fund.
Julia Kochetova (b. 1993), Photographer
As Julia Kochetova remarked, it’s difficult to work as a war correspondent, but it’s excruciating to document the invasion of your own country, which “crushes you from the inside out.” Nevertheless, Kochetova maintains, “My camera always was a friend and therapy.” Her black-and-white series shows the war’s wreckage while honoring the endurance of soldiers and survivors. Meanwhile, her color photo of wilted flowers proves the power of understatement. Kochetova is currently making portraits of compatriots who have stayed and continue to defend Kyiv.
Kalush Orchestra (est. 2019), Folk-Rap Group
Showing solidarity with Ukraine, voters selected Kalush Orchestra as the winner of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest. They are the third competitors to win on behalf of Ukraine, following Ruslana in 2004 and Jamala in 2016. At the May 2022 contest, Kalush Orchestra performed “Stefania,” written in honor of lead singer Oleg Psyuk’s mother. Lyrics include, “You can’t take willpower from me, as I got it from her.” After Ukraine’s musical victory, President Volodymyr Zelensky posted on social media that he hopes to host the next Eurovision in Mariupol, honoring the tradition that the winning country hosts the next competition.
Oksana Lyniv (b. 1978), Orchestral Conductor
Oksana Lyniv has made profound contributions to Ukraine and achieved international stardom, breaking many glass ceilings. In 2016, she founded both the LvivMozArt International Classical Music Festival, which she leads, as well as the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, which remains the country’s only youth orchestra. In 2021, Lyniv became the first woman to conduct a production for the Bayreuth Opera Festival. In 2022, she became the first woman to conduct an Italian opera orchestra, the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Because of her accomplishments, she was named honorary ambassador for the city of Lviv.
That’s our brief look at Ukraine’s unique culture. We hope it serves as a jumping-off point for you to learn more. Please share your discoveries!
We fervently pray for relief for the brave Ukrainian people.
And our wish for everyone: stay safe – and be well! #StandCreative