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The campaign “Diaries from the Shelter” showcases Ukrainian children’s artwork created in the Kharkiv metro, which has become a safe haven for many families when war broke out in the country. Today, the original artworks of children can be seen in the Kharkiv metro, and photographs of them have reached Latvia. Created at a difficult time, these drawings are a tribute to Ukraine’s heroes. Kharkiv was the first Ukrainian city to be subjected to Russian military aggression on 24 February 2022. Every day, Russian soldiers continue to destroy civilian objects in the city: residential buildings, schools, kindergartens, hospitals, universities and civilian infrastructure. The metro has become one of the main shelters for the city’s residents from Russian bombs and missiles. Thousands of adults and children have spent several months underground protecting their lives. 

Located in Kharkiv, Aza Nizi Maza, an art studio that offers classes for children and adults, opened its doors in 2012. The name of the studio is a reference to the magic spell ‘Aza-Nizi-Maza’ uttered in Federico Fellini’s film 8½, which helps the protagonist, director Guido Anselmi, to overcome his creative block. At the onset of hostilities, the Aza Nizi Maza studio became a shelter for many Kharkiv residents and their pets, and with the continued shelling by the Russian army, the Kharkiv metro system became a safer space for conducting children’s classes. So the studio moved to a hiding place in the metro where teachers gathered a group of children to help them calm their anxiety through art.

Mykola Kolomiets, the founder of the Aza Nizi Maza studio, worked with children at the symbolically named History Museum metro station, saving them not only from bombs, but also from despair, fear and the unknown. Today, the History Museum metro station has been transformed into a true museum gallery where children have captured the superheroes of our times in their bright and hopeful drawings. The artworks depict soldiers, mothers, nurses, volunteers, rescuers and utility workers. They are a reflection of forty days of daily work and faith that everything will be all right, that the war will be over, loved ones will survive, one’s hometown will be rebuilt, friends will return, birds will sing, the sun will shine in a peaceful sky. 

The campaign was first launched in our neighboring country Lithuania, which we have also adapted in our country, coinciding with the day that marks one year since the start of the war in Ukraine. Žaneta Fomova, head of JCDecaux Lithuania commented on the process of developing this project in Lithuania. “The Ukrainian Irina Gritskaya, curator of art projects, art director Boomerang branding agency, presented us with these drawings and told us the whole story. She said it would be symbolic if the artworks could be seen not only by those hiding underground, but also by those who walk without fear on the streets of their city. Thus this campaign was born — a reminder not to forget the people of Ukraine and their courageous fight for freedom. In addition, this campaign is also feedback for children who have not lost their drive to create and spread the message about the wonderful people of their country to the world. Whatever the difficult conditions under which the creative journeys of these young people began, I hope that the world will hear about them as talented artists in the near future.”

Drawings created by: Khrystyna, 13 | Nika, 14 | Dasha, 11 | Zhora, 9 | Natalya, 8 |Max, 12 |Alisa, 13| Volodya, 12 |Tina, 8 |Misha, 8 |Svitlana, 11 | Artem, 16 | Alexey, 16 | Dasha, 12 | Anna, 13 | Nastya, 10 | Andriy, 10 | Sasha, 10 | Maryna, 6 | Serhiy, 9 | Vlada, 8 | Maksym, 7 | Diana, 10 | Zlata, 6

The campaign “Diaries from the Shelter” on the streets of Lithuania was initiated by the Ukrainian national Irina Gritskaya, the artworks were created by the students of the Kharkiv art school Aza Nizi Maza, and the message is being spread by the outdoor advertising company JCDecaux Latvia.