This illustration of a Ukranian woman confronting a Russian soldier swathed in sunflowers is one of Ivanka Galadza’s creations for Project Sunflower that raises funds for Ukraine.

The humanitarian art of war

By 
  • March 11, 2022

Ivanka Galadza is not the sort of person who ever expected to go to war, nor would any of her Ottawa neighbours pick the slight young woman out as a warrior. But with a pen and a sheet of paper, Galadza can concentrate the strength she inherited from priests and poets who resisted the Soviet empire.

Galadza has teamed up with American charity campaigner Mary Micevych Jerome to launch Project Sunflower, raising money for a variety of Ukrainian humanitarian organizations on the ground there. The sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower, but also a symbol of Ukraine’s hope in the face of adversity. When Russia ignited a war in the Eastern Donetsk region and shot down a Malaysian passenger jet in 2014, the jet fell into a sunflower field. The image of tragedy surrounded by sunny flowers resonated with Ukrainians.

Project Sunflower is fuelled by Galadza’s folk art-inspired drawings of the war, which the young artist is watching on TV.

T-Shirts and tote bags with Galadza’s images on them raised about $5,000 the first four days the website was up. Prints of Galadza’s drawings of a Ukrainian woman stopping a Russian soldier armed with nothing but sunflower seeds, and of a tractor pulling an abandoned Russian tank out of a muddy field, have added to that total.

Even more money is being raised directly for the charities listed on the site. The pair have urged people to book Airb&b rooms in Ukraine, then leave a message with the owners telling them they can’t make it, but the owners should feel free to keep the money and put someone else up in the room.

At the core of the project is a proud declaration that Ukrainian culture has endured and will persist. As buildings collapse and families flee under the barrage of bombing and shelling, Ukrainians will lean on their history, culture and faith to stand up for who they are, Galadza said.

“Ukrainian folk art and song, and films as well, have been such a source of strength and resilience for the Ukrainian people,” she told The Catholic Register.

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