More than Art de Vivre: a story of a Ukrainian artist fleeing from war

More than Art de Vivre: a story of a Ukrainian artist fleeing from war

Доброго вечора, мы з України!

My name is Yulia Peker/Mokhovikova. I'm an artist and I work in the fairy neo-expressionism style. And here is my very own surreal story of fleeing from war to Europe with my paintings. 

Before the war, I had just moved to a new art studio, where I was working on orders and at the same time looking for a topic that would hook me as an artist. Everything in my life was peaceful and calm, I did not suffer from anything or worried about anything, I did not have any internal or external conflicts (which are fertile ground for good art), I had nothing to cling to find some kind of pain that would resonate in me. Impossible to imagine right now, but these days I was “complaining” to my spouse that I needed a problem to inspire me. 

Art de Vivre

For me war does not have a second meaning.  There is black and white.  Human’s life is the most important thing in the world and no one has the right to kill. 

I will never forget 24 February 2022, when 5 am in the morning I woke up not by the sound of alarm but by the explosions and vibrations of my house caused by the shellings of Kiev.  That moment my life turned on a dime and will never be the same again.  Now any noise and roar causes fear and confusion.

In the first days of war it was difficult to accept the situation and I wanted to believe that this was a protracted nightmare and soon I would wake up in my warm and cozy bed.  It never happened.

The first month of war I was in Ukraine and I was emotionally distressed to the extent that I could not work anymore.  I was haunted by the feeling of guilt caused by hopelessness, inability to help people, unfairness and the scourges happening.  I could not explain with any words everything that happened and continues to happen with my relatives, friends, neighbors and people of Ukraine.  Every day brings news on new victims and war crimes in Bucha, Kharkiv, Mariupol and other cities and villages of my country. 

I was looking for a way to help myself and my beloved ones and I started acting on my own front. I started communicating with the world via art.  After a long and difficult discussion with my husband, we decided that I have to go to a safe place, where I could have worked, arranged exhibitions and from where I could have helped Ukraine and Ukrainians. 

The largest art markets of Europe are located in London, Berlin and Paris.  But I could not have gone there since I did not know anyone there.  Luckily, a friend of mine suggested that I should stay in his place in Cannes. 

Art de Vivre

I will skip the details of my preparations for the journey, I would just say that in addition to driving through the warring country I had to undergo a lot of formalities to take my 17 paintings with me.  The way to Cannes took me four days.

Another four day I was choosing the room where I can work.  It was a very rapid change of circumstances when I found myself on a chic villa in Cannes just after witnessing the war and people in the bomb shelters.  But there I was able to start painting again, when I did not have to think about survival anymore. 

My work is the most important part of my previous life that is still with me.  I had to flee from my home, be separated with my husband and those I love and witness the scourges of war in my motherland. 

Art de Vivre

But I should say that it is not only unbearable pain and hatred that tear my soul, it is also love that I preserved.  People who you barely know help you, they give you shelter, provide for you, act nobly and become your real friends and protectors.  I cannot stop being proud of the people of Ukraine, my country, each and every Ukrainian.  Their courage, heroity, empathy, sympathy and unity give me faith, love and hope for a brighter future. 

Art de Vivre

I have recovered to the extent possible.  I continue believing, hoping and also working. I have created more than a dozen of paintings, of which more than half is already sold.  The money from my paintings I transfer to the military hospital in Kiev. I will not stop.  My next steps are exhibitions in Milan, Cannes, and Paris. I continue painting and sharing art with the world and with you.  Art is like a soul, the only thing that cannot be taken from us, nor stolen. It will stay forever.  

Art de Vivre

Photo Credits: Yulia Mokhovikova, © Art de Vivre