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Ukrainians come together for peace on anniversary of war

In a tribute to Ukraine, refugee Inna Komlieva sang folklore and cultural songs about her home country at the Artists for Peace exhibition in the Fine Arts Gallery. Photos by Gabriella Peralta.

At the Fine Arts Gallery this week, Inna Komlieva sang meaningful Ukrainian songs about being proud of her home country.

It was a touching tribute to Ukraine as the war-torn country today marks a year since Russia invaded.

Surrounded by art, she sang and stirred emotion in those watching on.

As she sang, she thought of her old job as a wedding singer and music teacher in Ukraine.

She would have sung these lyrics in happy moments of people’s lives.

She sings now to keep the memory of her home alive, after fleeing war last year.

The gallery saw Ukrainians and Gibraltarians gather to share food and auction art in the name of peace on Wednesday evening.

This second Artists for Peace exhibition closes today and all proceeds will be donated to the Free People’s Dream charity.

Inna was joined by her niece, Vitalina Usatiuk, who too fled war and the pair now live in Malaga.

When they first arrived in Spain, they thought it would be a short stay and the war would end soon.

Both are getting used to their new lives and try to live as normal a life as they can despite the news from home.

Gibraltarian Darren Victor and his wife Nataly, fled Ukraine a year ago, together with their two children Sky and Erik.

Seeing Gibraltar helping Ukraine through this exhibition was a powerful moment for the family.

"It's emotional that we see that people actually care and they want to help Ukraine," Mr Victor said.

"Especially now that Ukraine is in the most need."

"Just seeing people coming and trying to help is just very touching."

With the anniversary of the war, Mr Victor said his family had tough feelings when looking back.

"What we went through, what we lost, what we gained, it's a mixture of feelings," he said.

Mrs Victor added it was difficult to watch and read the news, to talk to family in Ukraine and know what they are going through.

To mark the war, she submitted a painting to the auction of a seascape that was painted the day before war broke.

“This is my last painting that I did and the next day we woke up with sirens,” Mrs Victor said.

Mrs Victor left the painting in her home in Ukraine when she fled war days after.

“My brother managed to save some of our things from home,” she said.

“I told him to save some of my art, my watercolours, my pastels and my paintings.”

“While he managed to get them from our house, he managed to send part of it here [to Gibraltar]."

Her friend collected the painting from her brother bringing the art to Poland.

It was then posted from Poland and took two months to arrive in Gibraltar.

"It's really part of the history, part of what happened a year ago," she said.

"This painting is symbolic as it survived."


Gibraltar Cultural Services CEO Seamus Byrne opened the event, describing how an artist commissioned to paint a mural in Ragged Staff sabotaged his work in the name of peace.

This moment inspired Gail Francis-Tiron who, alongside John-Paul Bautista, organised the first Artists for Peace exhibition almost a year ago.

"Here we are again today, a year later, raising funds for such a worthy cause," Mr Byrne said.

Ms Francis-Tiron added that it is unfortunate that, a year later, this exhibition has had to be held again.

Joseph Alecio from the Fine Arts Association said that there was likely nothing more humbling happening in Gibraltar right now than raising funds for people living in war.

"Let's not forget we are here to give and when we give, we always measure what we give," he said.

"But when we receive, we are just grateful."

Ukrainian refugee Anastasiia Horban thanked the Fine Arts Association for choosing to donate the funds for her friend’s charity.

Ms Horban called all those attending heroes for supporting Ukraine.

"I know now in this world there are people who are giving for peace and the hope in my heart, in all Ukrainians, will not go as long as there are people like you," she said.

Final closed bids can be cast today at the Fine Arts Gallery in Casemates.

See stories from Ukraine:

A Gibraltarian describes a year of war on the doorstep
After months in Gibraltar, Julia returns to Ukraine with hopes for peace
A year after Russia invades Ukraine, the phone still rings in Gibraltar
A year on, grief in Gibraltar for loved ones in Ukraine

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