NEVER GIVE UP. Olesya Dzhurayeva, 2022

Just imagine: you’re living your peaceful life in the centre of Europe in 21st century. The world just got over COVID-19 pandemic and is getting back to life after all the quarantines and restrictions. You return to usual rhythm of exhibitions, travel to the seaside, your children are back to school after a year of online-education. You plan your future, think of your work and family, new original art ideas appear. Life goes on.
One morning, on February 24th, 2022, you wake up some sound you’ve never heard before. Your husband says a word you hardly can believe at that moment: “WAR”. You’re feeling confused and numb. Why this is happening? What are we supposed to do and where to go? You don’t have any answers and you will not. You only have anger mixed with despair. The country is covering with thick veil of horror.
That’s the reality we found ourselves in and we had to act somehow. After the night spent in Kyiv our family moved to the small house in village in the central part of Ukraine. On our way we saw military equipment, but we didn’t know who that belonged to. Aircrafts rumbled in the sky.
First weeks we had to deal with everyday life problems: we had to repair central heating system, plumbing and other stuff. No one lived in this old house for a long time and the war forced 11 people to settle there. This household routine during daytime somehow distracted us from the horrible reality. However, we heard distant explosions and sounds of aircrafts at night. We could not understand how far from us those explosions were, and furthemore, we had no idea whether it was our Army or russian.
At the beginning we had high hope for a rapid victory, but after couple weeks it became obvious that this war is going to last for a long time. I was depressed, reality seemed black and grey. Days were monotonous: wake up, cook for family, eat, find groceries, read news. There were no plans for future, no opportunities, no ideas. Only anger and despair remained. I felt like I couldn’t change anything.
I used to spend a lot of time alone in my workshop, so I found it hard for me to stay together with lot of people, even the closest ones. One day I took a bag of hazelnuts and went outsideto crack them. Not wanting to damage the surface of the table with the hammer, I put a wooden board on top of it. My father-in-law helped me to make a small hole in it so I put a nut there and hit it. I was meditating like this for four hours, and then looked at that board and realized: this is gonna be my “Window of Hope”, my first work after full-scale invasion of russians to Ukraine and my first woodcut ever. In such situations – there is notning to lose in creative sense.
Now I had to decide what ink to use for printing “Window of Hope”. I tried to find oil paint at the shops nearby, but none of them had it.
Then I looked around and saw first rays of spring sun were touching the soil and locals working in fields and gardens.The soil was plowed, black and greasy. And I thought “Why wouldn’t I try to print with that?”. I diluted soil with water, then I applied that mix on a wooden board with the brush, placed a paper on top of and pressed with just regular spoon. The result exceeded my expectations! Ukrainian chernozem(Ukrainian black soil) and printmaking process helped me to expressed all my feelings at that moment.
“Window of Hope” became my pure emotion, without any ideas or thoughts. Every print was unique. And this woodcut filled me from the inside: I will work, I will live, I will fight! Now I had a goal.
Art is the thing that saved me in evacuation. During two months spent at the countryside I’ve created 5 woodcuts related to the things happened that time. Probably, it’s difficult for the people from other countries to understand what kind of fear and pain Ukrainians went through at their own land. But art helps to explain it without translation.
My works were technically difficult, sofisticated and delicate, because I used to work in diligent linocut technique. It was unexpected for me that during the war I found a way to express myselfwith simple, maybe even primitive art language. I think that such overwhelming disaster like war gives you impulsivness, quick and sharp reaction back. Simple things filled with deep and real senses let us explain our complicated fellings and tragedies.
By the end of April, when russian army leaved Kyiv region, we came back home. My Kyiv looked empty and deserted, but some things remained the same: streets were blooming and turning green, real spring was beginning. We were lucky enough and our house and workshop survived. So in my studio I finished a cycle of works of my war experiences with work “Spring in the middle of the war”.
The city is coming back to life step by step and we’re already used to live with air raid sirens and help our militaries. We understand that we won’t have another life, so we have to do what we love and value most. Finally, I came back to my studio, returned to linocut and my usual tools. Before the full-scale russian invasion I started one project, but I could not finish it. Now I can see this project with new sense, so now I continue to work on it.
Early, in 2020, I had a post on Facebook with words: “Never give up”. That time it was a battle with technique and my abilities. But now this phrase has absolutely New meaning. All the Ukrainians are hurt in their hearts thinking about horrific battles at the East and South of our country, russian missiles are striking our cities in the rear of Ukraine killing dozens of civilians at one moment. We can see it with our eyes how the abyss between Ukraine and russia is growing. This deep is filled with suffering, tears, losses and deaths of people. All of us strongly believe that russian vandals and barbarians will go away and our Warriors of Light will win. Just because we are at Our Own Land and we’ll never give up!
I am thankful to everyone who’s supporting Ukraine and me these difficult times.
Glory to Ukraine and Our Heroes!

Olesya Dzhurayeva
Kyiv, 26.07.2022