Letters from Ukraine: 5/6/22 – Interior

While busy preparing for a show at Irpin's House of Art, and with Hellen Rose preparing a performance work, George Gittoes shares reflections and excerpts from his diary on the cultural dimensions of the conflict in Ukraine.

An eighteen-year-old with a gun in Texas was the tipping point that drew attention away from Ukraine.

This war has slipped from the front of the news and the networks have cut back their presence, bringing many of their crews back home. For a period the only people we saw in the Maidan, besides Ukrainian soldiers, were news presenters doing “to camera” pieces using backgrounds of tank traps and sandbags. It is rare to see anyone with a camera there now – that stopped when the locals came with phones to do selfies in front of the spring tulips blooming. 

When we leave, we will have stayed the maximum time allowed on our visas. There had never been anyone to tell us to come home other than ourselves, and there have been many mornings when we have thought “It is time to leave,” but we have stuck it out and there is a great sense of completion arising in these last weeks. Hellen will have fully realised the performance piece she has been piecing together over the whole time we have been here, and I have my large VICTORY painting well underway.


We have been here long enough to appreciate the freedom to develop culture that the Ukrainian people are fighting for. This is the most sophisticated and evolved place I have been in. Being here we have realised what the Russian people could be. This war should also be about freeing the Russian people from the culturally destructive dictatorship of Putin and his thugs which is holding back Russian society from realising its potential and putting it behind Ukraine. Putin is truly evil, not only because of this war, but what he is doing to damage the souls and freedoms of the Russian people.

Originally there was not a lot of difference between Ukrainians and Russians, but in the years since Independence the difference has widened making the two societies vastly different. That is what Ukrainians will die for: the right to be different and go their own free way to a more and more evolved culture.

I am a grandfather and look forward to seeing my grandkids when I return. Like all grandparents I worry about their future.

Tanks and kids . . . One with flag around him, others climbing over them like playground structures.

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