Conflicts & War

Ukrainian artist with Down’s takes refuge in painting

By Carles Grau-Sivera

Malyutyanka, Ukraine, Apr 22 (EFE).- Every time air-raid sirens howl, Valentyn Radchenko, an artist with Down syndrome, suffers a panic attack that gives him insomnia.

When Russian troops arrived at the gates of Kyiv, Valentyn and his family fled to their humble country house in Malyutyanka, a small village southwest of the capital.

“I am very scared. Especially at night. During the night my head is full of pain. But I paint and it makes me feel better,” Valentyn says as he shows Efe his canvases and sketches on cardboard and paper.


The war has become a major theme in the 33-year-old’s art.

“I dream that everyone is injured or dead,” he says, his eyes glued to the sandbags that protect the window of his home’s living room.

According to his mother Halyna, Valentyn does not understand the war.

He is “full of love” and attached to routine, she adds.

Relentless shelling has interrupted his sleep patterns and he finds the sounds of war incredibly distressing.

“The noise of the tanks to the right and the bombs to the left,” he says while gesturing violently with his hands, pointing first to the sky and then to the floor.

“This is why we sleep underground at night,” Valentyn says as he goes down the stairs of the small warehouse where he spends sleepless nights, sitting in a corner, hugging his legs so as not to hear “the noise of the Devil”.


According to Down Syndrome International, there are 2.7 million people registered with disabilities in Ukraine and they face a “disproportionate impact and risk of abandonment, violence, death, and a lack of access to safety, relief, protection, assistance and recovery support.”

According to the NGO, many people with Down syndrome in Ukraine have been forced to stay at home, as is the case with Valentyn, because many shelters in the capital are inaccessible to people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities are defenseless in these situations,” Ivanna Vikhtinska, project manager of Ukraine’s Down Syndrome Organization, tells Efe.

According to the organization, there are some 15,000 people with Down syndrome in Ukraine and every year around 350 babies are born with the disability.

The Kyiv-based NGO has paused its program due to the war, but it continues to provide online assistance to hundreds of families and also provides financial aid for purchasing prescription drugs which have seen a sudden spike in prices and are increasingly scarce in Ukraine.

“People with Down syndrome have another bad example of how ‘normal’ people act: first they face rejection from society for being ‘different’, but now ‘normal’ people kill, destroy and attack. A person with Down syndrome would never start a war,” Vikhtinska says. EFE


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