#Ukraine: War and peace through the eyes of Donbas children

| February 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

pobeditel-13-16-letOn February 17 the exhibition ‘War and peace through the eyes of Donbas children’ was shown in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, a showcase of drawings made by children of the war-torn region of Donbas in Eastern Ukraine and of pictures of the region. The exhibit already was shown throughout Ukraine and was shown in Brussels for a day.

The exhibit symbol is the phoenix, a symbol of rebirth. Rebirth is the hope for the Donbas region, to be reborn from its own ashes after this war. The showcase arrived in Brussels after being shown throughout Ukraine. There, the support was always strong. There was a compact opening arms policy in Ukraine. In the exhibit, they showed message from young people all over Ukraine. The general opinion was a message of hope to Donbas, a message of unity for all Ukraine. Whether or not this represents the average view of Ukrainian people is not for us to say, but surely it makes a strong message of unity of Ukraine.

At the opening of the exhibition, there was both the organizers and the winner of the contest, 14-year-old Sofiya Sbytneva. Her drawing depicted a crying child with the Ukrainian flag in her eyes and Ukraine in her heart. Behind the child, an Ukrainian landscape before and after the war. The young Sofiya told us how she used her own experience as source material for her remarkable drawing.

pobeditel-13-16-let.-Sbitneva-sofiya-14-let-Slavyansk-680x465The before and after dichotomy was a reoccurring theme in many drawings. From a time full of colour and peace, to a gloom present of war and destruction where grey dominates the landscape. This sharp contrast shows how much the children of Eastern Ukraine saw the war as a shock and a change in their lifestyle. With around 1,700,000 misplaced persons, 250,000 of those are children. The war in the Donbas has became the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Balkan Wars.

pobeditel-13-16-let-Sergeev-Maksim-16-let-Snezhnoe-680x479One of the pictures shows a World War II monument just outside of Donetsk. The monument has now been completely destroyed. Only four years ago during the 2012 European Championship, England played football at the Donbass Arena. Now, it has been heavily bombed and lays in ruins. These are just some of the buildings that are in ruins or completely destroyed.

Naturally, the war has a strong impact on children. They are well aware of the situation, and its implications. The major impact is on their behaviour: “They are more stressed, they play quieter games” Elena Petryayeva, head of the initiative and former member of the Ukrainian Ministry of Health told us.

Observing the various drawings, is significant how much the children realize the broader geopolitics of the conflict. One drawing depicted Ukraine as a chessboard, two tanks as pawns moved by the higher powers. It is indeed a powerful depiction, and what is more impressive is that it was done by a ten year old girl.

20160216_192558Equally more striking is the number of drawings with bright colours, doves and other symbols of peace. They are simply asking to stop the war or bring back peace. Many of those drawings not only called for peace in Ukraine but for the world. Remarkably, these children of war-torn Ukraine are pleading for the whole world to be in peace.

After the diplomacy of politics came the diplomacy of children” said Petryayeva. Indeed the message of Donbas children is to keep believing in peace and in a positive resolution of war. It is not about politics but about people and children.


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Category: A Frontpage, Belgium, Brussels, EU, Ukraine

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