February 8, 2023
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA

Meet the People Illustrating the Brutality of War in Ukraine


The paper plane has been launched A few days after Russia invaded Ukraine. An attempt by filmmakers Alex Topler and Dan Shapiro, it began as an attempt to connect artists displaced by the war with colleagues in the design, VFX and production fields of Eastern Europe. The pair, head of the US-based creative company Aggressive, originally wanted to connect Ukrainian artists with friends in Warsaw, Poland, to help them find accommodation and work. “But all of a sudden,” said Topler, “we’re starting to get messages from artists who urgently need to work but can’t leave.”

One of the messages they received was special it came from the illustrator of a children’s book, Irina Panasovska, who lived in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson and did not want to risk being evicted. (He’s been gone ever since.) Topler offered to send money, but he wanted work, not charity. “So I said, ‘OK, I’m going to take 10 pictures from you. It could be anything,’ and that’s how Paper Plain Ukraine was born.”

As part of the relief project, they have launched an Instagram page: @ paperplanes_ua— The work they are looking for will receive commissions from Ukrainian artists. For some artists, the project provides financial support when it is most needed; For others, it’s a way to deal with it. In the end, Topaller and Shapiro want to expand and get more support for the work already done for the paper plane, say, through exhibitions or NFT, but “our immediate goal is to light as many candles as possible in this attack. It’s dark, “said Topler.

WIRED has reached out to a number of artists and painters to ask about their experiences during the war, many of whom have worked with paper planes. Here is what they said, including some of the work they have done since the Russian invasion.

These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Tania Yakunova highlights the atrocities that have taken place across her country.Illustration: Tania Yakunova

Tania Yakunova

Kyiv, Ukraine

Wired: Tell us about making this piece.

Tania Yakunova: In early April, when the suburbs of Kiev were liberated from Russian troops, horrific evidence began to emerge. Killed civilians, buried people, raped women and killed children. Survivors begin to speak. What the Russians did to the civilians in Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin, Borodianka is shocking. Kiev is my city. The Russians were 15 kilometers away from my parents’ house. Many of my friends live in suburban, beautiful, green family places. I was sick and cried all day. The next day I started drawing because it was the only way to get rid of my pain and anger.

What was your inspiration?

My parable is not fiction; It is a composite image of several victims from Bucha: women whose burnt naked bodies were found on the side of the road. The Russians raped and then tried to burn them, a woman who was raped in front of her young son’s eyes and her baby, who was then killed. And many more who have lost their children, their husbands, and their own lives.

Where are you based and / or where do you live and work now?


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