Refugees in Senlis, Lucy and Halyna, Ukrainian painters, regain a taste for life despite everything
Three months ago, Halyna and Lucy arrived in France after fleeing Ukraine. At the end of a week-long journey on foot, by train, after crossing half of Europe, they landed at Violette Amiaud’s in Senlis. Three months later, past the shock of the bombings of kyiv experienced from underground shelters, they taste again an almost normal life. “I feel better”, confides Lucy, in tempted English with a Ukrainian accent. “After the shock, the noise, we were struck by the calm here, it’s a very beautiful place, very quiet”, Halyna confides, under the approving eye of her friend. “Of course, morale is changing, resumes the first, a 26-year-old brunette there are ups and downs.
“At first we only painted about the war. It was sad, very sad, I don’t want to show them.”
Lucy, Ukrainian painter who took refuge in Senlis
Painters, the young women spend the day in a small studio that their host has made available to them. In these few square meters: two easels, paint palettes, sketchbooks, canvases placed on the floor. Lucy: “It’s very important for me to do what I know how to do. I have already painted a lot. Some paintings have already gone to exhibitions, especially in Switzerland for a charity operation.. But his very first works in France are still in Senlis, placed against a wall, face turned upside down. “I don’t want to see them, they were impressions of what I saw and heard. At first we only painted about the war. It was sad, very sad, I don’t want to show them”.
Before painting again, Lucy waited a short week. “For five days, I couldn’t. Even draw sketches. My head was in the news, in the war, only”. Physically present in Senlis, but the head in Ukraine. For Halyna, this period lasted much longer: “I waited, I think, a month before resuming the brushes, it was a very difficult month, with the events in Boutcha only 30 minutes from kyiv by car. We have a lot of friends there”. At the beginning of April, the images of “massacre” civilians from Boutcha traveled around the world. “But it’s important to have returned to painting, she continues. VSIt’s a comfort zone, it feels good”.
Little or no respite
With the withdrawal of the Russians from kyiv, the two artists found a little “a little” (in French) of relief. Only a little bit, because in Ukraine the war never stops, it moves: “Today they are for example in Odessanotes Lucy, a city that is very familiar to me, as well as to Halyna because we have many friends there”. No matter where Russian troops move “we know people under threat”they say.
While the conflict is bogged down, the outcome does not seem to be emerging yet, the young women do not yet know what they will do when the war ends. “It’s a very difficult question,” they elude. One thing is suree: “It’s complicated to be an artist in an occupied country”emphasizes Lucy, implying that only a victory for her country could bring her back to her land. “It’s impossible to say today how it will end”abounds Halyna. “If we want a rebirth of our country, we know that it will go through many more crises”believes Lucy.
Return to Ukraine this summer
If the situation allows them, however, they want to return home for a few days this summer. “To see our loved ones, we miss them”, they slip, a hint of sadness in their voices. In the meantime, they continue to integrate into life in France. Cultural in particular, by participating in events, exhibitions in Senlis for example. And by taking French lessons two hours a week with a retired teacher, Maryse, a woman who has ties to Ukraine. “It’s a very beautiful language, we like to learn, but a difficult language, we had already learned a little at school, but the basics: ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you very much’. We understand better than we speak, they develop. But it is important above all because here people speak little English”. It is therefore in French that they can, as since their arrival in France “say thank you” to their hosts in Senlis, Violette and her husband Jean-Pierre. “We owe them a lot”
To keep up with Lucy and Halyna’s work, follow them on Instagram : Lucy.evans.artist and Halyna