KIEV, UKRAINE (AP) – In a sunlit art studio in Kiev full of easels and canvases, Irina Farion finishes her oil painting in a dark color palette dominated by shades of blue and brown.
The work depicts two intertwined trees, supported by their roots as if embracing each other, and a bright yellow sun against a moody blue background.
“I feel like my husband and I died in the war,” Farion said of the trees. “They are like her two souls, two minds, one body.”
Farion is one of thousands of Ukrainian women who lost their partners in the war Russia started against their homeland about 17 months ago. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died on the battlefields, mostly men who once lived ordinary lives and then gave up everything to fight for their country.
Farion’s husband, Oleksandr Alimov, was shot dead on the front lines in Donetsk in December. Struck by her grief, she says she found some solace in painting her with other women who lost their partners on the battlefield.
They are participating in an art therapy project called “Alive.” True Stories of Love aims to honor the memory of those who have died while helping women cope with the pain of loss.
After working as an IT specialist for a well-known company, Mr. Alimov voluntarily enlisted in the army early in the war. “I don’t want you to live in a country that’s not free,” Farion said her husband told her before she went to war. The couple have been together for ten years.
She still wears her wedding ring, which hangs around her neck on a chain. “I can’t take my ring off yet,” she says. “This feels better to me.”
On a recent day, Farion visited the art studio with her friend Olesya Skarska, whose husband died in January. The two women first met at a cemetery where Ukrainian widows have a common place to seek solace and share their grief to foster friendship.
Skarska’s husband, Roman Skarski, 26, also voluntarily enlisted in the army without any combat experience.
“Of course I supported him because he went to protect me and his entire family,” she says.
The couple had planned to celebrate their first wedding anniversary in June. But instead, Skalska is working on a painting. It’s the only place they can be together again.
“A man is holding a girl across a field of mowed wheat.
When she speaks, her voice changes to sobs at times. “To others, I may look like a normal person. But no one knows what’s going on inside,” she says. “Escape is impossible.”
The art project was launched in January by Olena Sokarska, who lost her husband in a car accident several years ago and says she understands the emotional journey of being a widow.
About 40 widows were participating in the art project when she told an Associated Press reporter in June.
“I named it ‘Alive’ because girls should feel alive because everyone feels alive right now,” she explains. “When I paint, I think only about that, and I think women should have time for themselves.”
Participation in the project is free, and local artists volunteer their time to guide women as they express their grief on canvas.
The project’s Facebook community has over 1,000 participants. “And the community continues to grow,” says Sokarska, pointing to the tragedy of what that means for many.
“They find themselves in a complete void. It’s like a black hole and no one can really understand how a widowed woman feels,” she says.
Oksana Cordina and her husband Andriy Volkov had been married for about ten years when the war began. On the morning of February 24, 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Ms. Volkov packed up her belongings and got dressed. Oksana prepared a first aid kit for him. As Kiev reels from the shock of the invasion, he walks to the military office.
He died defending the capital nine days later.
More than a year later, Cordina says she still hasn’t recovered. “I’m not a creative person, but I realized I needed to try something,” she explains, explaining that she decided to try painting.
“It’s impossible to describe or convey this pain,” she says.
Recently, she rediscovered a lake near Kiev that her husband loved dearly. The couple had been there together before, but she had forgotten her way and had trouble finding her way for a long time. Now she visits there regularly.
Her painting depicts a lake surrounded by green trees, reflecting the soft light of dawn. Painted in the left corner of the canvas, the ginger cat appears solitary and contemplative against a backdrop of nature.
“I walk to the lake and dream just like this cat,” she says. “And I feel like he’s with me.”
Efrem Lukatsky contributed to this story.
Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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https://wgnradio.com/news/international/ap-for-a-group-of-ukrainian-women-painting-is-a-form-of-therapy-to-help-them-cope-with-loss/ For Ukrainian women’s groups, painting is a form of therapy for coping with loss. wagon radio 720