Australian artists launch global art auction to raise money for Ukrainian refugees

Andrei Vigovsky, 45, prepares to take up arms to fight for his country.

The reserve officer has been in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv since the start of the war, hiding every night in an underground metro station.

His sister, Olena Vigovska, who immigrated to Australia 26 years ago, has watched helplessly from a distance as the war unfolded.

“It’s a feeling of, ‘What are you going to do?'” she told 07:30.

“It’s unbelievable. I still pinch myself every morning.”

In the second week of the war, Ms. Vigovska and three other Ukrainian Australian artists began putting together an auction to raise money for refugees in their homeland.

Olena Vigovska’s brother has been in Kharkov since the beginning of the war.ABC news

“We happily jumped on that project,” she said.

“I feel much better now. I can use my skills to raise money and show the world how important and useful art can be in wartime.”

Her painting of three bold sunflowers is one of four artworks to be sold next month, with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity.

Artwork featuring three bold sunflowers.
Olena Vigovska’s piece, Sunshine for Ukraine.Delivered

“It will be a lot of work to rebuild Ukraine,” she said.

“In Kharkiv … the number of apartment buildings that [have been] completely destroyed is 2,000.

“It’s just awful to watch.

Art a reflection of Ukraine’s resilience

The project’s organizer Tetiana Koldunenko told 07:30 that the stress of the war had taken a huge toll on her and her family.

“My Aunt Raisa lived on the fourth floor of her apartment building,” she said.

“She couldn’t go to the shelter because of her knee problem and asthma.

“There was no water, no heating, the windows were broken and it was -12 [degrees Celsius] outside, so she was probably thinking, ‘Shall I freeze to death today or tomorrow?'”

For 12 days, Ms Koldunenko’s 85-year-old aunt, with the help of her local MP, made the arduous journey from Kharkiv to Sydney.

Elderly woman and her daughter are sitting at a dining table with a vase of sunflowers.
Tetiana’s 85-year-old aunt is now in Sydney after escaping from Kharkiv.ABC News: Shaun Kingma

“When I see all these people who want to leave, I really feel like they have to leave… we have to save their lives in any way we can,” Ms Koldunenko said.

She said focusing her energies on creating art for auction gave her new life and some hope for the future.

Artwork of a yellow and blue butterfly.
Tetiana Koldunenko’s piece, Towards the Light.Delivered

Ms Koldunenko said she wanted her painting of two butterflies in the colors of the Ukrainian flag to represent the transformation Ukraine was undergoing.

“The butterfly is a symbol of the caterpillar’s change — you turn into something beautiful,” she said.

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Russian attacks continue in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region

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