Ukraine war: Refugees find solace at a Berlin art collective

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Sofiia Yesakova is hard at work, creating a large-scale drawing that represents the Ukrainian soldiers that have died defending their homeland.

For a long time, art seemed pointless, but moving into a Ukrainian art collective in Berlin has helped.

“For the first two months I couldn’t pick up a pencil or a brush, couldn’t think about anything” she explains.

“Everything seemed useless and meaningless because the war was on.

“People were dying so what could I possibly draw? But when I arrived here, and for the last two weeks in Kyiv, I stopped despairing and I started to draw”.

The art collective, called the Ukrainian Cultural Community, has been set up with the help of German organisations and funding.

Eighteen Ukrainian artists are living here, in a 500-square metre flat that used to be a brothel, right in the centre of the German capital.

“I think this is a very open metropolis. A city where a lot of cultures interact and also where we have a lot of space, space for people to live, space for people to get support and to meet each other” says Sybill Schulz, the founder of the UCC.

Viktoriia Temnova is from Kherson, a city in the south of Ukraine that is occupied by Russian troops.

Back home she was a well-known fashion photographer.

Here in Berlin, she is exhibiting photos from the city from before the war – to show people the real face of her home.

“My city now has another… everything. Like, it is still Ukraine but with no rules. With someone who just wanted to do something violent with your people” she says.

Around 70,000 Ukrainian refugees have made Berlin their home, and each person brings their own story, their own sorrows, and their own hopes.

The artists who ended up in the German capital have brought their own art – and their own way of looking at the world – to the city.