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Icons tell a war story

24 February 2023

Mary-Lu Bakker

Exhibits from the project “Icons on Ammunition Boxes” by the Ukrainian artists Sofia Atlantova and Oleksandr Klymenko are on display in St John’s, Notting Hill, in west London, until 28 May. The project began in 2014, when conflict broke out in the east of Ukraine and Crimea. The boxes provide the basis for the iconography, whose proceeds will go towards a new mobile hospital, to be named Apostle Lukas.

The event at St John’s involved a viewing of the icons and a screening of two short films: one on the work of Ms Atlantova and Mr Klymenko, and the other an interview with a young Ukrainian soldier before his death on the front line. The evening also included a Q&A compèred by Canon Charlotte Bannister-Parker, with the co-founder of British Ukrainian Aid, Dr Tetyana Vovnyanko; the Vicar of St John’s, the Revd Dr William Taylor, who also chairs the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association; and Yana Bobrova, who chairs Rotary Club “Kyiv Capital”.

Ms Atlantova commented: “One of the important aspects for me is that this icon, showing a real box of real ammunition, affirms the reality of this war. For many (those who are far from the front line), the war unwittingly turns into a picture in the news. The boxes that came from the war zone are witnesses of real battles, each of them fought. Also, for me personally, writing an icon on the ammo boxes is a kind of act of awareness of what is happening and, at the same time, a reminder to myself that faith, mercy, beauty, and humanity continue to exist despite everything.

“The charity component of the project is a unique opportunity for me to feel useful and help those who need help the most. For me, this project is about hope despite despair, about the victory of life over death.”

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