Arts & Entertainment

Ukrainian artists transform ammunition boxes to save lives

By Marcel Gascon

Bucharest, Oct 22 (EFE).- Since the war began in 2014 in eastern Ukraine, husband and wife creative duo Sonia Atlantova and Oleksandr Klymenko have made hundreds of artworks using pine wood ammunition boxes that the Ukrainian army uses to fend off invading Russian forces.

“On a symbol of death, such as ammunition boxes, we paint icons, which are symbols of life and not only from a symbolic point of view, because the money we get from selling them goes to a mobile hospital that allows our soldiers to recover and live,” Atlantova tells EFE.

The project started in 2014 when her husband came across a mountain of empty ammunition boxes in a military training center near Kyiv, Atlantova recalls at an exhibition opening in Bucharest.

The ammunition box lids are made of several boards which are nailed together.

The wood panels traditional icons are made on are also created in this way to minimize the damage that humidity and temperature variations can cause.

“It’s an amazing coincidence,” Atlantova notes about the detail that prompted her husband to paint icons on the discarded boxes.

The artworks on show at Bucharest’s National Museum of the Romanian Peasant can be purchased online, starting at 1,500 euros.

Funds are donated to various Ukrainian humanitarian projects, such as the financing of the Pirogov hospital, the first mobile unit operated by volunteers.

According to the Polish Institute in Bucharest, which has organized the show, over 60,000 patients have already been treated at that hospital, which provides service in combat zones.

Before donations started pouring in with Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine, Atlantova and Klymenko’s icons covered 97% of the hospital’s running costs.

Every piece of wood used for the icons has a different appearance making them “unique” works of art.

“The oldest box we’ve used was made in 1937 and sat in a warehouse for decades until it was used in the war,” Atlantova says.

Newer boxes are particularly difficult to paint, because the wood in some of them is still damp.

Another distinctive element of some media is the graffiti or inscriptions that soldiers have painted over the years.

To make all these signs visible, Atlantova and Klymenko have left the background on which the religious imagery is depicted unpainted.

For Atlantova, these icons have the ability to bring those who admire or possess them closer to the tragic reality that Ukraine is experiencing these days: “They help make war more real for those who are far from it,” she sums up. EFE


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