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Banksy’s warm bath mural warms Ukrainians’ hearts

Passing by a ruined apartment block, something that has become a staple landmark in many Ukrainian cities, residents of the bombed-out Ukrainian village of Horenka, northwest of Kyiv, had their hearts warmed by Banksy’s mural showing a man taking a warm bath – a sight to behold as the first winter frost bites.

“For me, it means washing off all the dirt. The dirt of the Russian Federation…,” 43-year-old Tetiana Reznychenko told Reuters as snow fell around her. “And this drawing makes me feel as if I have cleansed myself of the dirt that descended on us.”

Once an apartment block teeming with life and human stories, today a carcass of concrete and rebars. And yet, the mural, indeed showing a man scrubbing his back in a bathtub, does bring back a semblance of normality. Located on the ground floor of the building reduced to rubble by a Russian attack in March, when the village found itself on the front line where Russia’s assault on the capital was halted. The mural is clearly visible to passers-by.

Brought to life by the team of the mysterious artist Banksy, the mural is one of seven pictorial messages he has left so far in Ukraine to enkindle hope in the hearts of its civilians and courageous defenders.

Ms Reznychenko confessed she had given Banksy’s team a mug of instant coffee in her apartment, as it was cold when the artist descended on Horenka to paint the mural. What for the people snugly nestled in their fully electrified and heated apartments of the Bug river, on which the Polish- (and thus EU) Ukrainian border runs, may seem a customary show of hospitality, in the realities of a war-torn country that Ukraine is, grows to a proportion of great generosity.

Equipped only with a wood stove, Ms Reznychenko’s apartment has no electricity, heating or running water. Regardless of these dire conditions and the winter creeping in, she decided to treat the artists to coffee.

“Winter has begun, and we don’t know what will happen next,” she said. “Firemen brought us non-drinking water … but it will freeze unless we move it inside.”

But regardless of the ordeal, she and her neighbours remain stalwart.

“Ukrainians adapt to everything. No light? No problem. There are candles, there are alternative sources of electricity, there are power banks,” said neighbour Olena Kulynovich.

Demonstrating acts of consideration and care, the Horenka dwellers, powered up by Banksy’s art, are ready to take on whatever may come.

“When the neighbours have electricity, we go to them, charge the phones and the power banks. No water? That’s ok. Even if the government doesn’t help, we managed to organise the delivery of water,” Ms Kulynovich said.

As a result of Russian missile attacks on Wednesday, more than 10 million Ukrainians are currently without electricity, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Most of them are in Vinnytsia, Odesa, Sumy regions and Kyiv, he said.

The governor of the Kyiv region said on Thursday that at least 78 percent of customers are affected by power outages in one way or another. Last week, as many as 350,000 households in Kyiv alone were without electricity, roughly half of the city, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

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