WARSAW: A new exhibition of child art from post-war Poland and present-day Ukraine shows that armed conflict is always the same for the world's smallest citizens — no matter the where and the when.
"How children perceive war, what they feel, what they convey through their drawings... is quite similar," curator Dorota Sadowska told AFP.
"What you see is suffering, plain and simple."
The outdoor exhibition of several hundred drawings — on show across Poland and elsewhere, including New York City — is a joint effort between Poland and Ukraine.
Colourful and drawn with markers, crayons or even digital tools, the artwork by Ukrainian children living through Russia's invasion of their homeland comes from the collection on the "Mom, I See War" portal.
The site has brought together thousands of drawings, to be turned into a permanent digital photo collage for an NFT auction. The proceeds will go to help children affected by the war.
The exhibition's Polish batch, largely in pencil on paper now browned with age, features drawings made in 1946 for a nationwide competition.
They have since been preserved in the Central Archives of Modern Records in Warsaw.
Sadowska said the goal was for "the world to look at children and listen to what children say and feel."
"Maybe then it will see that in times of war, every child is a victim. And make adults mull what can be done to change that."
The drawings show tanks, dead bodies, planes on fire, buildings with gaping holes, armed troops, torture, tears.
The subject matter is hard to square with the aesthetics of child art, Sadowska said.
"A small child may draw the sun, flowers, a smiling kid, their family. Or clouds, trees, kittens, puppies — not the gallows or dead bodies," she told AFP.
"Because the world of children and the world of war are two separate worlds."
Particularly jarring is a work by 14-year-old Valeria from the settlement of Hlevakha near Kyiv.
It shows a vibrant field of sunflowers — a national emblem of Ukraine — in bright yellow and green, and in their midst a jumble of corpses, scarlet blood flowing from heads and arms and torsos.
Pushing a stroller, Marina, 34, stops to take a look, saying she does so "with tears in my eyes, as I'm from Ukraine."
"I think it's a good idea. To raise awareness yet again," the mother-of-two from the port city of Kherson told AFP.
Wanda Sieminska, a Warsaw pensioner taking in the exhibition, noted that the two sets of drawings are fundamentally alike despite differences in time, place and tools used.
"The subject matter is the same: the tragedy of children in wartime," the 85-year-old told AFP.
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