How Warsaw’s Museum of Fashionable Artwork Reworked Itself to Support Ukrainian Refugees
WARSAW — The once-austere first flooring of the top workplace of the Museum of Fashionable Artwork in Warsaw has been, for weeks, a hive of exercise. On someday, standing at two fold-out tables lined up edge to edge, half a dozen volunteers create an meeting line for sandwiches, making as many as 1,500 a day, that are then shipped to shelters for Ukrainian refugees within the Polish capital. A couple of ft away, behind the metallic webbing of famed Polish artist Monika Sosnowska’s set up “Grating” (2009), displaced kids play with toys and draw sunflowers, a nationwide image of Ukraine.
On one other day, slightly later within the week, the youngsters’s toys and sandwich station are gone. Of their place is a crowd of households lined as much as have their photographs taken and to obtain assist with filling out paperwork mandatory for official Polish IDs that can give them entry to healthcare and different authorities providers. Sosnowska’s set up is by now adorned with those self same kids’s drawings, and there are additionally new locations to take a seat — mild foam blocks made to seem like stone, created by Greek artist and architect Andreas Angelidakis as a part of his ongoing collection of installations, Demos.
As Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine continues into its second month, and Poland faces the brunt of the worst refugee disaster Europe has seen for the reason that Second World Conflict, the museum has snapped into motion, creating an “establishment inside an establishment” within the phrases of Chief Curator Sebastian Cichocki, to assist a few of greater than two million Ukrainian refugees who’ve fled to Poland.
Cichocki informed Hyperallergic that the museum’s response has advanced for the reason that first days of the conflict in late February, from a haphazard drive to collect medicines and put together meals they’ve begun to construct one thing that they plan to ascertain on a extra long-term foundation, and have already hosted Ukrainian poetry readings, stress aid workshops, Ukrainian-language lessons for volunteers, and have a extra organized assortment of medical provides which are repeatedly despatched to Ukraine.
“We wished to remodel our actions into one thing extra scheduled and ready,” Cichocki mentioned, including that they hope to remodel the primary flooring of the workplace right into a “neighborhood middle” — considerably unsurprisingly, they name it “The Sunflower.”
The efforts of the museum are removed from a Polish-only affair, with Ukrainian residents of Poland and refugees each participating. One of many key figures in getting the Sunflower off the bottom is Taras Gembik, a Ukraine-born artist and activist dwelling in Warsaw.
For Gembik, volunteering within the aid effort is little greater than doing his responsibility, simply as his household is at house. His mother and father are nonetheless in Ukraine, in a small city within the province of Volyn, close to the border with Belarus.
“The air raid sirens continually scream,” he informed Hyperallergic. “Everybody’s uninterested in working into basements. Everybody’s simply offended now. The concern is over. They’re able to face the invaders with their naked arms.”
His 50-year-old father, he mentioned, has joined an area territorial protection unit. His 64-year-old mom, knowledgeable violinist, now spends her time making Molotov cocktails.
“I feel the finger workout routines one has to do to stay a nimble violinist have develop into helpful for stuffing a bottle with styrofoam,” Gembik mentioned, referring to one of many key steps within the making of the do-it-yourself incendiary machine.
Greater than only a place the place refugees can obtain assist, the museum’s workplace has additionally develop into a spot for victims of Putin’s conflict to rediscover their company.
“It’s far more comfy right here than in Kyiv,” 17-year-old, first-year college scholar Olya Balyk, who fled Ukraine after the primary week of preventing, informed Hyperallergic. “Right here no less than you’re feeling you’re doing one thing. You’re serving to one way or the other.”
Although, like a lot of her compatriots, Balyk hopes that she is not going to should volunteer on the Sunflower for lengthy. “For some motive, I imagine that my college will stay standing. Even when one after the other, universities all through the nation get hit once more, and once more, and a few have already been destroyed,” she mentioned.
Because the Museum for Fashionable Artwork in Warsaw is beginning to settle into a brand new rhythm, they’re planning additional cooperation with artists, writers, and activists in Ukraine itself — in addition to the broader area. Provisionally titled “Sunflower Energy” the museum is engaged on making a journal of what Cichocki phrases “counter-propaganda.” The journal is not going to solely be a way to ship funds to besieged Ukrainians however may even purpose to be a corrective to among the reductive narratives in regards to the battle.
“We really feel this urgency to create a language to speak about issues,” Cichocki mentioned. “We’re completely disillusioned with the Western left, the extent of ‘West-splaining.’”
This report was written by Peter Liakhov with photographs by Tamuna Chkareuli.