Lviv (Ukraine) (EFE). – The defense against the Russian invasion finds a reflection in Ukrainian street art while the destruction of murals in occupied Mariupol underscores that the occupied part of the country struggles to maintain its cultural and national identity.
The war has irrevocably changed the lives of millions of Ukrainians, who have been deprived of their loved ones, their health, their work or their homes.
Thousands of residents of Mariupol (south), almost completely destroyed during the Russian siege, have found refuge in the western regional capital of Lviv.
“In reality we have nowhere to go back, our homes have been burned or demolished by the Russian authorities. Even so, we long to return to our beautiful city,” says Oksana Myjailyshyn, 20, who runs a center to help displaced persons from Mariupol in Lviv, to EFE.
A long mural spans the narrow street that houses the center. “We want the locals to know more about Mariupol,” explains Oksana, showing the painting.
“This is our theater, where people were sheltering when it was destroyed by a Russian bomb,” he says, pointing to the building destroyed on March 16, 2022 with hundreds of civilians inside.
“You see? There was a sign that said ‘Children’ because we thought it would stop them from attacking him,” she adds.
In addition to the characteristic buildings of Mariupol and the destroyed Azovstal steelworks, the mural also reflects the hopes of its author, Dmytro Vovk, to one day return to his hometown.
The murals destroyed by Russia
The rows of cars that abandoned it in the first weeks of the siege, with white stripes to indicate that they are carrying civilians, are followed by the image of a family in a city at peace.
“We all hope to be able to return. But in any case it will be a different place,” reflects Oksana.
Dmytro created numerous murals in the city on the Azov Sea, which was rapidly developing before the invasion. Many have now disappeared, destroyed in the fighting or demolished on purpose.
One of the works deliberately destroyed is the famous mural by Kiev artist Oleksandr Korban depicting Milana Abdurashitova, a 6-year-old girl who lost her leg in a January 2015 attack that killed 29 people, including her mother.
The Russian authorities removed it in November last year with the justification that it was necessary to “restore the building’s thermal insulation,” according to the mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andriuschenko.
Oksana is sure that this is not a coincidence, and that the Russians want to remove the memories of their actions in Mariupol and traces of the city’s Ukrainian history.
In addition to the mural, the Russian authorities have destroyed a monument to the victims of the “Holodomor”, the 1933 famine that killed millions of Ukrainians, have renamed streets and replaced Ukrainian-language signs with Russian-language ones.
On the contrary, the streets of cities under Ukrainian control continue to be filled with murals by local and foreign artists.
Bansky and Kiev
The famous Banksy is the author of seven works in the kyiv region that reflect the unexpected incursion of war into the peaceful lives of the residents, such as the one showing children using an anti-tank defense obstacle as a seesaw.
On the other hand, the French Christian Guémy, known as C215, has created murals in Lviv, kyiv, Bucha and Hostomel.
One of them is based on a photograph by Andriy Andriyenko for the AP agency and reflects the farewell of the border guard Vitaly to his beloved Albina at the Kramatorsk ten station, when she was preparing to be evacuated in the direction of Poland.
As the Russian invasion continues, the scene captured in the mural continues to be relived over and over again by thousands of Ukrainian families.