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'I didn’t want to make a war posters exhibit’: Ukrainian student organizes art show at Dartmouth

An illustrated poster taped to a window shows a caricature of Putin riding a horse. Text reads "If it was Putin's War"
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
One of the posters currently on exhibit at Dartmouth College by Anna Sarvira to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine. Text continues on the other side that reads, "it would end up fast."

The posters hanging in the Dartmouth library show children studying in a bomb shelter, scientists in white coats digging up a mass grave and military troops with rainbow patches on their camouflage uniforms. Some commemorate the dead, like an illustration of a young mathematician named Yulia Zdanovska who died in a fire from a Russian missile last March.

"I used to know this person," Veronika Yadukha told me at the exhibit opening. "She was a teacher and she was an activist and she was very young, she was only 21 years old."

"It’s incredible how personal this war is," she added.

Two illustrated posters side by side. The left shows a woman's face hovering above a burning apartment building. Small missiles rain from the sky. On the right, a red sketch of children studying in a bomb shelter.
Oksana Drachkovska, Anna Ivanenko
Dartmouth library
An illustration by Oksana Drachkovska commemorates a young mathematician who was killed after a missile hit her home. The poster by Anna Ivanenko shows children studying in a bomb shelter.

Yadukha is one of the curators of the show. She's a translator and curator from Kyiv, studying comparative literature at Dartmouth for the year.

She and her young son moved here this summer. They’re living with an American family in Norwich. The rest of her family and friends are still in Ukraine.

More from Vermont Public: Ukrainian refugees bring music to the Northeast Kingdom

“I felt a kind of a responsibility to use my language, my professional skills somehow and to communicate with people here," Yadukha said.

That's how she ended up putting together the exhibit, along with a faculty member from Ukraine, Hanna Leliv and Dartmouth librarian Jill Baron.

“I didn’t want to make a war posters exhibit,” Yadukha told a crowd that crammed into the library hallway for the opening last week. “Actually, none of us would like to work with such a topic. We would love that topic never to exist at all. But today, it is especially important to find ways to talk about it.”

A woman stands in front of a microphone reading notes in front of a crows of people.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
Veronika Yadukha is one of the curators of the show and a graduate student at Dartmouth. She and her young son are living with an American family in Norwich for the year.
A hallway with about  dozen people talking and looking at art hung up on brick walls and pillars.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
Dozens of students, faculty and community members crammed into the library hallway for the show's opening last week.

Since the early days of the war, Yadukha has been following the work of Ukrainian illustrators on Facebook and Instagram.She said the images are like another source of news.

The posters in the exhibit read like a chronology of events of cities occupied and liberated. They also show bigger political ideas, like the war as a battle of David vs. Goliath, and a white dove carrying an anti-tank missile, instead of an olive branch.

Some illustrations are hung up on windows, covered in clear tape in the shape of a cross. It’s copying something a lot of Ukrainians did at the beginning of the war.

“There is nothing religious about this, it's very functional,” said Yuliya Komska, a cultural historian at Dartmouth.

She was reading comments prepared by Leliv, explaining the crossed tape.

"If you tape your windows like that, the glass will not shatter and break into thousands of shards in case a missile hits close to your home.”

A poster hangs on a brick wall next to a doorway. It reads "Our fire is Stronger than your bombs." It shows black block figures looking up at a red missle.
Lexi Krupp
Vermont Public
The show will be on display at the Dartmouth library through the end of March.

Lexi Krupp is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and regions.


Updated: March 8, 2023 at 11:54 AM EST
The story was updated to add the names of two other exhibit curators, Hanna Leliv and Jill Baron.
Lexi covers science and health stories for Vermont Public.
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