Children’s art exhibit draws parallels between WWII and war in Ukraine

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Warsaw (AFP) – A new exhibition of children’s art from post-war Poland and present-day Ukraine shows that armed conflict is always the same for the world’s smallest citizens, no matter where and when.

“The way children perceive war, what they feel, what they convey through their drawings… is quite similar,” curator Dorota Sadowska told AFP.

“What you see is suffering, plain and simple.”

The open-air exhibition of several hundred drawings – shown throughout Poland and elsewhere, including New York – is a joint effort between Poland and Ukraine.

Colored and drawn with markers, pencils or even digital tools, the works of Ukrainian children experiencing the invasion of their homeland by Russia come from the collection of the portal “Mom, I see the war”.

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The site has collected thousands of drawings, to be turned into a permanent digital photo collage for an NFT auction. Proceeds will be used to help war-affected children.

The Polish lot of the exhibition, largely in pencil on paper now browned by time, presents drawings made in 1946 for a national competition.

They have since been kept in the Central Archives of the Modern Archives in Warsaw.

Sadowska said the goal was for “the world to watch children and listen to what children say and feel.”

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“Perhaps then he will see that in times of war every child is a victim. And inspire adults to think about what can be done to change that.”

The drawings show tanks, corpses, planes on fire, buildings with gaping holes, armed troops, torture, tears.

‘To raise awareness’

The subject matter is difficult to reconcile with the aesthetics of childish art, Sadowska said.

“A small child can draw the sun, flowers, a smiling child, his family. Or clouds, trees, kittens, puppies, not the gallows or corpses,” she told AFP .

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“Because the world of children and the world of war are two separate worlds.”

The work of 14-year-old Valeria from the Hlevakha settlement near Kyiv is particularly shocking.

It shows a vibrant field of sunflowers – a national emblem of Ukraine – in bright yellow and green, and amidst a jumble of corpses, scarlet blood pouring from heads, arms and torsos.

Pushing a stroller, Marina, 34, stops to take a look, saying she does it “with tears in my eyes, because I’m from Ukraine”.

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“I think it’s a good idea. To raise awareness again,” the mother of two from the port city of Kherson told AFP.

Wanda Sieminska, a retiree from Warsaw who visits the exhibit, noted that the two sets of drawings are fundamentally similar despite the differences in time, location, and tools used.

“The subject is the same: the tragedy of children in wartime,” the 85-year-old told AFP.

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