For a group of Ukrainian women, painting is a form of therapy to help them cope with loss

by Madison Thomas
art therapy

In a bright art studio in Kyiv, a group of Ukrainian women find solace and healing through the therapeutic power of painting. Iryna Farion meticulously adds the final strokes to an oil painting, using deep shades of blue and brown to create a predominantly dark color palette. Her artwork portrays two trees entwined by their roots, as if in a loving embrace, while a radiant yellow sun shines against a moody blue backdrop.

Farion sees a reflection of herself and her late husband, who tragically lost his life in the war. The trees symbolize their souls, hearts, and bodies intertwined in eternal unity. Alongside other women who have also lost their partners on the battlefield, Farion discovers consolation and support in the act of painting.

These women are part of an art therapy project called “Alive: True Stories of Love.” Its purpose is twofold: to honor the memory of those who have fallen and to help the women cope with the profound pain of their loss.

Farion’s husband, Oleksandr Alimov, had bravely joined the army after working as an IT specialist. Before departing for the war, he expressed his unwavering commitment to a free country. The couple had spent a decade together, and Farion continues to wear her wedding ring while keeping her husband’s ring close to her heart on a chain.

Accompanied by her friend Olesia Skalska, who also lost her husband in the conflict, Farion visits the art studio. They first connected at a cemetery, a place where Ukrainian widows often find solace and form bonds amidst shared grief.

Skalska’s husband, Roman Skalskyi, had selflessly volunteered to join the military despite lacking prior combat experience. Skalska supports his decision, understanding the importance of defending their country and family. Although they were supposed to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, Skalska now finds solace in painting, the only space where she can be reunited with her late husband.

As Skalska describes her artwork, depicting a man carrying a girl across a harvested field of wheat, her voice occasionally falters with tears. She acknowledges that behind her seemingly ordinary exterior, a deep emotional struggle ensues, making it impossible to escape the pain.

The art project was initiated by Olena Sokalska, a widow who understands the emotional journey of loss. In June, around 40 widows were participating in the project, aptly named “Alive” to rekindle a sense of vitality within these grieving women. Painting provides them with a dedicated time for self-expression and respite from their overwhelming grief. Local artists volunteer their time to guide them through the process.

The project’s Facebook community has grown to over 1,000 participants, representing the tragic magnitude of loss experienced by many. Sokalska acknowledges that these women find themselves in a void, a deep black hole, where few truly understand the profound emotions of a widow who has lost her husband.

Oksana Kordina, who was married to Andrii Volkov for almost a decade, remains emotionally shattered since the war began. Volkov, defending the capital, tragically lost his life nine days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Seeking a way to cope with her pain, Kordina, who does not consider herself a creative person, turned to painting.

She finds solace in revisiting a lake near Kyiv, a place her late husband cherished. Though she had forgotten the way for a while, she now regularly visits the lake. Her painting portrays the serene scene—a lake surrounded by lush green trees, bathed in the gentle light of dawn. In the corner, a ginger cat, solitary and contemplative, symbolizes her own introspective journey amidst nature.

Walking to the lake, Kordina dreams, feeling the presence of her late husband beside her, just like the cat in her painting.

Note: The rewritten text aims to retain the core information and sentiments expressed in the original text while presenting it in a more descriptive and polished manner.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about art therapy

What is the “Alive: True Stories of Love” art therapy project?

The “Alive: True Stories of Love” art therapy project is a program aimed at helping Ukrainian women who have lost their partners in the war. Through painting, the project seeks to provide these women with a creative outlet to express their grief and honor the memory of their loved ones while finding solace and healing in the process.

How does the art therapy project help the women cope with their loss?

The art therapy project provides a supportive environment for the women to engage in painting alongside others who have experienced similar loss. By channeling their emotions into art, these women find a space for self-expression, allowing them to process their grief, and providing a sense of healing and companionship through shared experiences.

Who initiated the “Alive: True Stories of Love” art therapy project?

The art therapy project was initiated by Olena Sokalska, a widow herself who understands the emotional journey of loss. Inspired by her own experience, she launched this project to provide a platform for Ukrainian widows to find healing and support through artistic expression.

How do the women benefit from participating in the art therapy project?

Participating in the art therapy project offers several benefits for the women. It allows them to express their emotions and memories creatively, providing a cathartic outlet for their grief. Additionally, the project fosters a sense of community among the women, enabling them to connect with others who have undergone similar experiences, ultimately promoting healing, understanding, and companionship.

Is the art therapy project accessible to all Ukrainian widows?

Yes, the art therapy project is open and free for all Ukrainian widows who have lost their partners in the war. The project aims to reach as many women as possible and provide them with a supportive and healing environment, regardless of their background or artistic abilities.

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PaintsNCanvas July 15, 2023 - 12:25 am

i love how the art therapy project brings these women together and gives them a space to share their grief. it’s so important to have support and understanding when you’re going through something like this. kudos to the project organizers!

InkSplasher July 15, 2023 - 4:28 am

the art therapy project sounds like a lifeline for these women who are navigating the overwhelming pain of losing their partners. it’s amazing how something as simple as painting can provide solace and create a sense of community.

CreativeSoul July 15, 2023 - 6:04 pm

the artwork described in the text sounds so beautiful and full of emotions. i can imagine the trees symbolizing the couples and the cat representing the widow’s introspective journey. art has a way of speaking to our souls.

SympathyHeart July 15, 2023 - 6:15 pm

it breaks my heart to hear about the loss these women have suffered. but it’s inspiring to see them finding strength and healing through painting. art can be a powerful tool for self-expression and catharsis.

ArtLover123 July 15, 2023 - 8:00 pm

wow this is such an amazing project! it’s so nice to see these women finding healing and comfort through painting. art is truly powerful and can help us express emotions we can’t put into words.


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