war in Ukraine through the eyes of children – DW – 09/22/2022

February 24, 2022 Russia attacked Ukraine. War cripples people and their lives, forcing them to leave their homes, be separated from their loved ones and experience the loss of loved ones. Mental pain is superimposed on physical suffering. It is difficult for people of all generations to cope with it. How they experience what is happening children in Ukraine? How do they see war And what are their hopes for the future?

One possible answer to this question is a child’s drawing. Selection of works Ukrainian children and adolescents aged four to eighteen entered the exhibition of the People’s University of Aachen (Volkshochschule Aachen). Folk universities, which are found in almost every city in Germany, are institutions that offer various courses in the field of advanced training, language courses, including German courses for foreigners, as well as other general educational events, lectures, discussions and film screenings. Aachen People’s University is visited by about 800 people a day. Listeners and everyone can watch the exhibition of Ukrainian children for free until January 31, 2023.

Drawing as a way of psychological relief

The display in Aachen featured only a selection of children’s work from a collection of 300 drawings collected by German-based software developer Gregory Kanovey. He represents the German-Ukrainian Society “Blue and Yellow Cross” (Blau-Gelbes Kreuz), as well as the Society of Ukrainians in Aachen.

Girl's face: one eye reflects the horrors of war.  and in the other - a peaceful life.
Photo: Grigory Kanovey

Grigory Kanovey is from Ukraine, from the city of Shostka, Sumy region. It was there that he collected his first collection of drawings. With an appeal to children to draw what they think and feel, Canoway first addressed immediately after the start of the war – in March 2022. In the first four days alone, he received 80 drawings by e-mail. In April, the initiator of the project collected drawings of children from the city of Dnipro in the same way.

“Then (in March – Ed.) we thought about how to psychologically relieve children, we wanted to organize psychotherapy for them. But it was difficult, – says Grigory Kanovey. – And we decided to invite them to “throw” everything they feel on paper. I said, “Send the drawings to me.” And then I decided to show people in Germany how children see what is happening and how they feel what is going on in their heads.”

From despair to hope

The first drawings sent by the children show how shocked they were by what was happening. “After all, the first days of the war were a shock for everyone, including me,” says the initiator of the project. “I was completely sick, but I’m an adult. What can we say about what the children felt? We organized this project.”

Ukrainian cat fights Russian rats
Photo: Grigory Kanovey

When the Ukrainian army won some victories on the battlefield, the understanding came to the children that they were being protected, and Ukrainian soldiers began to appear in the drawings. Then followed the work, showing that there is hope, recalls Canoway. Some of the drawings show children saying goodbye to their fathers and waving goodbye from the windows of trains bound for Europe. Some works are extremely emotional, others are more restrained.

Gregory Kanovey knows one of the authors personally, because he knows his parents. This is a girl Lisa from the city of Shostka, she is 14 years old. She is now in Ukraine. “Her mother is doing an important and honorable job helping the country,” says Canoway. Lisa’s drawing shows a girl with a Ukrainian flag on a bicycle. In front of her on the horizon are clouds of smoke and tanks with a terrifying letter Z. “Help us! I want to live!” Lisa wrote in English and German.

A girl rides a bicycle along the road.  In front of her are Russian tanks and puffs of smoke.
Photo: Grigory Kanovey

Some of the children from the city of Dnipro who provided their drawings for the project can be seen in the video posted on YouTube. “Our life was divided into “before” and “after,” the girl says in it. “We are grateful to all the hospitable countries that have given us asylum,” the young man adds. Children talk in English about how they were accepted in many places : in Poland, Austria, Great Britain, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, Turkey… But they all want to return to peaceful Ukraine.

About the war in Ukraine – the language of children’s drawings

What is the aim of the exhibition in Aachen? What reaction do the organizers expect from visitors? “My goal is to arouse sympathy and sympathy,” explains Grigory Kanovey. According to him, donations to the Blue-Yellow Cross Society are also welcome, which go to various projects for Ukraine.

“It is human nature to get used to. A person is not able to be in a state of anxiety for months on end, although people in Ukraine it is this state that is being experienced, – says the director of the Volksuniversität Aachen, Beate Blüggel, at the opening of the exhibition. – Therefore, I consider it important to remind about it once again. We hold many events in the field of political education. These drawings are another, also very important look at what is happening.”

Two hands protect wheat germ from bombs
Photo: Grigory Kanovey

“We have a lot in Aachen refugees from Ukraine. It is important that with the help of these drawings it becomes clear what exactly they experienced, so that it causes understanding, patience, trust in these people, says Ye-One Rhie, Bundestag deputy from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). ), who took part in the organization of the exhibition. – I think it is very important that we understand thanks to these drawings that war in general, any war means for children. They are forced to see rocket explosions, blood and violence, and one can only ask oneself how they cope with it. I was impressed by how expressive these drawings are.”

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