Graphic Emergency: how Polish artists support Ukraine
Over 2,1 million refugees who have fled Ukraine after Russia’s inhumane invasion have found a safe shelter in Poland. To bring solace to the people in need, Polish citizens are trying to do everything they can. Beside providing material help they are opening their own homes, assisting with legal and medical services, offering rides to different places, looking after children and seniors. Wherever the flag of Poland flies in the cities, a Ukrainian one flutters alongside. The slogans on street billboards call: „МИ З ВAМИ!”. In this spirit of solidarity, Polish artists also express their support for Ukraine. Oftentimes a picture is able to tell more than a thousand words.
One of many artistic initiatives is the Graphic Emergency (Polish: Pogotowie Graficzne), established in 2016. It is a platform that gathers posters created by Polish artists, illustrators and graphic designers. Their works can be shared online, hanged in the neighborhood or printed and used during peace rallies or demonstrations. All the images tackle political and social issues. These days the Graphic Emergency is expressing solidarity with Ukrainians, who have been brutally attacked by the Russian aggressor. I talked with a Hania Kmieć, Adela Madej and Dominik Przerwa who shared their illustraions and personal thoughts.
„The poster entitled «Love», which I created, was my way of coping with intense emotions that I was overwhelmed by. The preliminary draft for this illustration was made long before the war, in different circumstances and with another meaning. However it highlighted what I and many other people felt at that time. It depicts a person seen from above dressed in colors of Ukrainian flag. The character’s body is shaped like a huge heart. Dramatic events in Ukraine are close to my heart since I have friends both from Ukraine and Russia. I had to handle my inner emotions so I decided to make an illustration because the process of drawing has a therapeutic effect on me. My artwork «Love» is now used by various charities and fundraising projects which makes me so happy. It proves that it is not just some ordinary picture but a real form of support.”
„The poster «Stand With Ukraine» differs significantly from what I usually create. I was looking for a different form of expression, trying to avoid my comic esthetics. The war in Ukraine (besides obvious opposition to aggression) made me reflect on shared roots of Poles and Ukrainians. I think that many of my compatriots have understood how close we are to each other – geographically and culturally. That is why so many Polish people have immediately responed to the tragedy and offered help. That is important in the context of contemporary aspirations of Polish people – to not only look at the Western models but also cultivate our Slavic roots. This is why I have decided to use the motive of wycinanki (Витина́нки) – a Slavic form of papercutting, present both in Polish and Ukraininan folk art. My illustration is a contemporary take on traditional wycinanka – with an interwoven bomb and symbols of peace. Flowers, which traditionally are an ornament, are the symbols of the new beginning and of the land that will revive when peace reigns once again.”
„There is an old Polish proverb that says hope is the mother of fools. But I believe hope is the mother of those who are patient, wise, determined, brimming with faith and love. It is stronger than tanks and bombs. Hope dies last. And by looking at Ukraine right now and the commitment and bravery of its people, I truly believe that Ukraine will last forever. It will prevail! SLAVA UKRAINI!”
TEXT: Wojciech Delikta