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Children’s ‘war drawings’ reveal harrowing similarities between experiences in today’s Ukraine and in WWII Poland

The joint Polish-Ukrainian exhibition entitled ‘Mummy, I don't want there to be a war’, shows drawings by today’s young Ukrainians and their experiences of Russia’s war alongside works by Polish children that were created in 1946.
Mom, i see war – Мамо, я бачу війну

An exhibition of artwork by Polish and Ukrainian children showing the terrifying similarities of today’s war in Ukraine with World War Two goes on display throughout Poland from Tuesday.

The exhibition ‘Mummy, I don’t want there to be a war, a Polish-Ukrainian archive project’ at State Archives institutions across the country, shows drawings made today by young Ukrainians alongside works by Polish children that were created in 1946.

The contemporary drawings by Ukrainian children about the war in their country were collected on the art project website Mom I See War.Mom, i see war – Мамо, я бачу війну

Many of the drawings juxtapose images of Ukraine before Russia’s invasion with those of now.Mom, i see war – Мамо, я бачу війну

The drawings by Polish children were made in an attempt to help children process negative emotions from the war and occupation through art. Over 7,000 of these drawings are now held in the State Archives.  

Meanwhile, the contemporary drawings by Ukrainian children about the war in their country were collected on the art project website Mom I See War.

The drawings by Polish children after WWII were made in an attempt to help children process negative emotions from the war and occupation through art.Mausoleum of Martyrdom of Polish Villages in Michniów

A statement from the State Archives said: “The similarity between historical and contemporary works is striking, and war always looks the same from a child’s perspective.”

Despite being separated by 80 years, both the Polish and the Ukrainian children draw tanks, planes dropping bombs, fires and explosions.

Mom, i see war – Мамо, я бачу війну/ Mausoleum of Martyrdom of Polish Villages in Michniów

A statement from the State Archives said: “The similarity between the historical and contemporary works is striking, and war always looks the same from a child’s perspective.” The first photo is by a 6-year-old Ukrainian girl called  Anna from Kryvyi Rih. The second is by a Polish girl named Anna Krezcko.Mom, i see war – Мамо, я бачу війну/ Mausoleum of Martyrdom of Polish Villages in Michniów

Other drawings show the wounded and the dead, ruined houses and graves. Yet others show the children themselves and their families escaping war and being evacuated.

The drawings are grouped in themes, including fighting, occupation, family, repression, resistance, destruction and the hope of victory.

The drawings from now and then show heartbreaking images of death and destruction.Mom, i see war – Мамо, я бачу війну

“We want to show that war always looks the same in the eyes of a child. Regardless of place and time, it is a great evil, and the child is always a victim in it,” the organisers said.

The motto of the exhibition comes from Janusz Korczak, the Polish Jewish champion of children’s rights who was murdered by the Germans along with the children in his care, who said before his death: “Children are not soldiers, they do not defend their homeland, but they suffer with it.”

The Polish children’s drawings were uncovered after lying forgotten in archives for decades.Mausoleum of Martyrdom of Polish Villages in Michniów

The exhibition’s organisers said: “This maxim by Janusz Korczak, the great educator and friend of children, is the motto of our project, because, like the doctor, we want to emphasise that a child is never a soldier, even if he fights with a gun in his hand, and that he always suffers because he is always a victim of war.”

The project, which brought together more than 10,000 children’s drawings about war, will be on display from 19 July in 16 Polish cities.

Mom, i see war – Мамо, я бачу війну

The exhibition’s organiser’s said: “We want to show that war always looks the same in the eyes of a child. Regardless of place and time, it is a great evil, and the child is always a victim in it.”Mom, i see war – Мамо, я бачу війну

These include: Bielsko-Biała, Częstochowa, Ełk, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Kalisz, Kielce, Koszalin, Malbork, Olsztyn, Płock, Poznań, Przemyśl, Siedlce, Toruń, Warsaw and Zielona Góra.

Later in the month, the exhibition will open also in a further eight cities: Kraków, Leszno, Lublin, Opole, Piotrków Trybunalski, Rzeszów, Szczecin and Tomaszów Mazowiecki.


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