The exhibition Traces of War aims to represent the emotions and stories of Ukrainian youth and how they got through, and are still getting through, the war.
The exhibition consists of paintings, text messages, photographs, and diary pages made by the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy students, their relatives, friends, and acquaintances.
The exhibition shows a period from the first month of the war until today. It is part of Unissued Diplomas, a large-scale international project organized by Ukrainian students in cooperation with the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union (SUSK).
The 'Traces of War' exhibition presents stories which happened to us during the rocket shelling. It shares poems written in the shelter under the candlelight. It shows drawings painted during the air raid sirens. It evokes emotions through the messages received from loved ones. It shares experiences you won't see anywhere else.Yana Prostak
"Windows speak a lot!" I was speaking in words encapsulating pink sunsets and vanilla with chamomile tea. Well, I was speaking this way for a long time, now it's buzzing, sobbing and shaking... I remembered, of course, the happiness and passion I once encountered in my thoughts, but now it has turned gray and suffocating in tears. No, it's not just by my tears, I know I'm not alone! Hearing through the window are the sobs of other brave brothers, and sometimes tears drip down the windows. My window is special - it saw the Maidan and saved people from death, those ukrainians who would have died for freedom. It made openings, howling and beckoning to the right people to come in. And now it continues... It rejoices at the smiles of volunteers. But I left the window three days ago, for the birth of a healthy Ukrainian descendant who will build a better nation. Sorry, window, for the loneliness, just wait for the children's laughter!Anonymous, 18, Kryvyi Rih.
What is war?
1) War is when you wake up to your mother crying into the phone. Doesn't it sound trite? Then you get a text from a team leader. In a few minutes you realize that she is from Kharkiv. You cry into her voice mail and tell her that you won't be able to take calls today. And she responds by saying that no one will, because everyone has it.
I am still scared to listen to that voicemail.
2) War is when your dad calls you right after your mom and teaches you how to breathe. Again. Because you have not been able to take a full breath for half an hour.
3) War is when you don't wake up from the explosions. You slept so deadly after graduating that even if a rocket hit the house, you wouldn't wake up. That made your mom nervous, trying to call you. Since five in the morning. And now you're yelling at her when she does not answer for a minute.
4) War is when you run to the store. You're looking for sneakers. It's cold, but you don't give a fuck, because you don't know when you'll have to run away.
5) War is the last pack of pads in the store. I've been having my period for a week now, sorry, because of fucking nerves, A fucking weel=k. At the same time, war means going to the toilet on schedule. You can't turn on the light whenever you want, moreover, you can't go out of the shelter to the ground floor.
6) War is burnt wiring in a bomb shelter.
7) War is a machine gun pointed at you and shots in the back. It is a paratroopers landing near you and you suddenly jump to your feet, not understanding where the hell to run.
8) War is being afraid of the pluses in the chat room. Every plus sign = explosion.
9) War is being afraid to take a taxi across the avenue, because you know that the avenue has become a cemetery of tanks. And you are not sure if you are ready to see it.
10) War means that on the third day you no longer believe that the morning is quiet. You have to listen to every breath of wind, to every car that passes by.
11) War is not knowing where you should be. You always want to go home, but you don't know where 'home' is.
12) War is when any army apartment is ultimately your home.
13) War is a temperature of 28 after two nights in a shelter. It is bruises on my right side. It is chafed feet from the sneakers you haven't taken off for two years.
14) War means looking for condoms. For tourniquets. Because in pharmacies, the only 'effective' medicines for wounds are sedatives.
15) War is reading your best friend's poetry during explosions.
16) War is when you are afraid of the wind. And lighting. Not to mention thunder.
17) War is a small flashlight on the floor.
18) War is two cats fighting in a carrier for a place closer to the battery.
Though all Ukrainians face the same atrocious russian invasion, every Ukrainian has a unique and emotional story related to it. It is a trace of war, just like the scar on the skin, which you cannot always see, but never forget how you got it.Yana Prostak
Yana Protsak is an exchange student from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy who curated the exhibition Traces of War at Hart House in 2023.
Yana arrived at UofT in January. Despite the widespread discussion, she and her friends discussed how the Russian-Ukrainian war students and young people seemed to be underrepresented. Together they began working on the exhibitions Unissued Diplomas and Traces of War.
Through these exhibitions, Yana hopes to convey the impact that war has had on their lives and communities and offer a glimpse into how Ukrainian youth are working to process and heal from the trauma of conflict. Traces of War is a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary art, Ukrainian culture, or the experiences of young people living through war.
The project was organized by the University of Toronto exchange students from the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.