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Updated: Mar 24

Lviv, Ukraine, March 13-20, 2024

In contrast to our usual work on our own border with France, we met mostly women and only a handful of men In Lviv in the west of Ukraine. On each occasion we were also met with existential questioning.

This search for meaning was balanced with an openness to discover new ways to survive, and even thrive. We witnessed people seeking solace in culture and the arts, such as through food, music, and the revival of literature.

Illustrators and graphic designers @art_studio_agrafka told us how, in a city further east which has been heavily impacted by the war since the full scale invasion by Russia, printing presses have continued to function, some being carried underground and working at capacity. They showed us their beautiful books and illustrations. They described their own shift from a loss of meaning to a renewed capacity for living and making in the here and now, alongside a general resurgence in the buying and reading of books - they are easy to carry into a shelter. Indeed, wherever we went in Lviv there was a flourishing bookshop.

The materials we carried with us to Ukraine consisted of a selection of postcards - of landscapes, places of travel and world artworks. We introduced them within workshops - in a veterans hall for the All Ukrainian Art Therapy Conference with @firstaidofthesoul and further out into placement in the surrounding streets (see images 2-5); with psychology students at the Catholic University, and with teachers in a tightly packed corridor in a school during an air alert. The images were variously responded to with curiosity, creativity, nostalgia and imagination.

In the train back across the border from west Ukraine to Poland, and on into Warsaw, we shared our compartment with four Ukrainian women of different ages and stages of life, each with their own story, their lives irreversibly changed by the war. Alongside a touching exchange of images on our phones, we heard about separation and losses, fears and possibilities.

Words by Miriam Usiskin & Bobby Lloyd.

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