As I reflect on the one-year anniversary of a war that never should have started, my heart is heavy with grief and sadness for the many thousands of lives lost. The horror and futility of war cannot be overstated, as families are torn apart, communities are destroyed, and futures are shattered.
The memories of the countless lives lost in battle, the wounded soldiers and civilians and the displaced families will forever be etched in our minds. The pain and suffering that these individuals have endured are unfathomable, and our hearts go out to them and their loved ones.
I pray that this war will not reach another anniversary and that the people of Ukraine and Russia can find a way to come together as brothers once again. Their shared histories and cultures are inextricably intertwined, and it is painful to see them divided by hatred, violence and political self-interest.
As I go through my bookshelves and pull out the beautiful books in this post, created by some of my favourite authors and illustrators of Ukrainian descent, along with their artistic counterparts of Russian origin, I am reminded that art and literature have the power to unite rather than divide. Even if the reality of the situation has a long way to catch up, we must hold onto hope that one day, the people of Russia and Ukraine can once again be united in peace.
I offer the below selection to honour the memories of the innocent lives lost in this conflict. Let us work towards a future where war is a thing of the past, and may we never forget the humanity that binds us all together.
Nikolay Gogol (1809–1852), who was born in the Ukrainian town of Sorochintsi, is considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. His father, a descendant of Cossacks, wrote poetry in Ukrainian and Russian and was an amateur playwright who staged productions in his own theatre. Gogol’s deep love for his native Sorochintsi and the Ukrainian countryside, with its traditions, folk stories, ways of life, beliefs, and prejudices of its inhabitants, greatly influenced his inimitable writing style.
Gogol’s creative genius knew no bounds, spanning genres, times, and themes. He wrote the stark realism of his monumental work “Dead Souls,” set in 19th-century Russia, and the folklore intertwined with mysticism in “Evenings on the Farm near Dikanka,” set in the Ukrainian countryside. His short story “The Nose” explores the grotesque and the absurd.
Gogol’s writing is so compelling that it urges readers to return and re-read it. I have done so myself many times at various stages of my life, and each time I discover yet another facet of this writer’s brilliance.
“Christmas Eve”, from “Evenings on a Farm near Dikanika”, written by Nikolay Gogol (illustrated by Anatoly Slepkov)
“The Overcoat” written by Nikolay Gogol (illustrated by Savva Brodsky)
“The Nose” written by Nikolay Gogol (illustrated by Igor Oleynikov)
Natalia Zabila (1903–1985) was a Ukrainian Soviet poet who lived through the Russian Revolution and the rise of Bolshevism and survived World War II and the Stalinist regime. She was the daughter of a poet and the granddaughter of an academic and sculptor. Natalia was exposed to artistic and literary circles from an early age and began writing her own poems.
After graduating from Kharkiv University in 1934, she became a school teacher and a member of “Plug,” a literary circle for Ukrainian peasant writers, as well as a member of the Ukrainian Union of Writers. Fluent in Polish, French, Russian, and other languages, she translated literary masterpieces from these languages into Ukrainian.
Her prolific oeuvre includes collections of poetry for adults, such as “Distant Land” (1927), “Days of Anxiety” (1945), “Poems” (1963), and many others. Equally prolific is her writing for children, including poetry, prose, translations, and adaptations of folk stories and tales.
“About Marinka” written by Natalia Zabila (illustrated by Elizaveta Volyanskaya-Uhanova and Boris Uhanov)
Oleg Lipchenko is a multi-award-winning Ukrainian-born artist, architect, illustrator, and designer who now lives and works in Canada. He is a member of the Ukrainian Union of Artists and has extensive experience in a wide range of techniques and media.
Previously, he was a producer and art director at the independent publisher “Studio Treasure,” which produced the limited edition of Lipchenko’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its sequel, as well as the brilliantly illustrated “The Hunting of the Snark,” highly coveted by collectors of illustrated Carroll.
Oleg has actively sought ways to raise funds to support ordinary Ukrainian people affected by the war. Fueled by his love for his native Ukraine, his unwavering efforts have motivated numerous artists to donate their original artworks to be auctioned. Oleg has set up and run these auctions through his social media accounts, collecting and channelling all auction proceeds to those who need them most.
Oleg himself has donated a number of his exquisite and highly sought-after illustrations and artworks. He has also auctioned copies of the one-of-a-kind masterpiece limited editions of Carroll’s “Alice,” illustrated by him.
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” illustrated by Oleg Lipchenko (written by Lewis Carroll)
“Through the Looking Glass” illustrated by Oleg Lipchenko (written by Lewis Carroll)
“The Hunting of the Snark” illustrated by Oleg Lipchenko (written by Lewis Carroll)
Vladyslav Yerko was born in 1962 in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he grew up and received his education as an artist. He has won numerous awards at prestigious art and book fairs, including being the laureate of the Lesia Ukrayinka Award and the Silver Award at the 3×3 International Illustration Show. He has also received recognition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair illustration competition, and many of his books were included on “The White Ravens” list.
Yerko’s work for “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery was included on the IBBY Honour List in 2018. That same year, he was also the Ukrainian nominee for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award by IBBY, which is sometimes referred to as “the little Nobel prize” for children’s literature.
Check out my review of Vladyslav Yerko’s “The Snow Queen” here.
“The Snow Queen” illustrated by Vladislav Yerko (written by Hans Christian Andersen)
“Child Roland and Other Knight Tales”, British tales, illustrated by Vladyslav Yerko
Galina Zinko is a young Ukrainian artist born in 1986. She graduated from the Kharkiv Academy of Design and Arts. From an early age, Galina was fond of drawing and dreamed of illustrating fairy tales. She has worked on more than 30 classic and modern fairy tales, including “The Nutcracker,” “The Snow Queen,” “Thumbelina,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” and many others. She has also illustrated Lewis Carroll’s classics “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” Nabokov’s “Lolita,” and Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Galina’s award-winning illustrations have garnered widespread acclaim and have been exhibited at major international book fairs, including Bologna, Frankfurt, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.
Check out my review of Galina Zinko’s “The Snow Queen” here.
Fairy tales illustrated by Galina Zinko, left to right: “The Snow Queen”, “Scarlet Flower”, “Red Riding Hood”
Inna Maslyak is a young Ukrainian artist who has recently ventured into writing for children. She studied at the Kharkiv Academy of Design and her books have been published in Ukraine, China, Bulgaria, and the USA. Her illustrations for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” won the Image of the Book Award in Moscow. The illustrations for her latest book, both written and illustrated by Inna during the pandemic, “The Cat and I, and Our Paper Boats” were longlisted in the 2021 World Illustration Awards. In this story, paper boats named Love, Happiness, Hope, Dreams, and Faith embark on a journey to spread happiness and joy to anyone they come across. Isn’t this what we all need?
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” illustrated by Inna Maslyak (written by Lewis Carroll)
“The Cat and I, and Our Paper Boats” written and illustrated by Inna Maslyak