Children’s art show brings trauma of Ukraine war to Paris

© Courtesy of the exhibition "Sous terre et sur terre"

Children in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv created artworks portraying their experience of war while living underground in the city's metro, where residents found refuge from Russian bombs, during three gruelling months last spring. Their striking artworks are now the subject of an exhibition in Paris that runs through November 4. FRANCE 24 spoke to the show’s organisers during their brief stop in the French capital.

Until barely a week ago, Mykola Kolomiets had never travelled outside his native Ukraine. Two days after landing in Paris, the 39-year-old artist from Kharkiv was still struggling to find his bearings, unnerved by the bustle of the French capital and the roar of planes flying overhead.

“At every rumble I feel I need to duck for cover,” he said, speaking through a translator. “But I try to keep this at a distance. I’m here for work.”

Kolomiets is the director of "Aza Nizi Maza", a workshop for artists in Kharkiv. He ventured out of his battle-scarred hometown last week, travelling by bus, train and plane all the way to Paris to showcase the work of children who lived through Russia’s invasion of their homeland.

His exhibition, Sous terre et sur terre ("Underground and overground"), which opened on Tuesday at the town hall of the 11th arrondissement (district) of Paris, bears witness to a unique artistic experience he had last spring in Kharkiv’s metro system, where several hundred families had taken refuge at the height of the Russian onslaught.

Trapped underground

“In just a few days, the metro had become a proper little city.”

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