During anguished times, the smallest gestures can help. That was not what Josh Berger of the Portland Stamp Company was thinking when he started talking with Kyiv/Kherson, Ukraine-based illustrator Nina Dzyvulkska many months ago about collaborating on a set of artist series perforated stamps. But when the unprovoked Russian invasion began he pivoted, “she started making images in response,” he tells me. “We worked with her to make a stamp sheet with those [images]. All proceeds benefit Voices of Children, a Ukrainian foundation helping children affected by war.”
Although threats from Russian president Vladimir Putin have grown more bellicose over the past few months, his deadly onslaught still shocked many people of the world—what kind of madman would be crazy enough to act so criminally in full view?
Making art and design at this early stage of the conflagration is not going to slow the ravages of war, and as brave as Ukrainians are, not even the thousands of home-brewed Molotov cocktails will forever forestall Russian military might. However, art is not inconsequential. It is an effective way of expressing solidarity, raising morale, and easing, to some extent, the paralytic helplessness that many artists, designers and others feel in the face of deadly tanks, missiles and artillery.
Berger spoke with Dzyvulkska, who is currently “on the outskirts of a small town with my family. The first days, everyone hid in the basements, as there were battles. Everyone prayed. Now we hear explosions from the neighboring city at night. People all unite and try to help in every way they can, to keep in touch with each other. We can’t go anywhere because it’s not safe, so we wait and hope. Everything that happens is very scary and difficult to accept, [but] there are so many kind people around.”
Through the dense smoke of war, Dzyvulkska reports she is glad that “I have the opportunity to draw. I have hope that in this way, I can do something small that can help my country.”
“I drew a lot of hearts in my illustrations because I really want to support all the people who are having a hard time right now,” she added. “And I feel the support of so many people. When there is a war near the house and hostilities are going on, the soul really needs love.”