Meet the People Illustrating the Brutality of War in Ukraine


Paper planes launched a few days after Russia invaded Ukraine. An effort by filmmakers Alex Topaller and Dan Shapiro began as an attempt to connect war-torn artists with colleagues in the fields of design, visual effects and production in Eastern Europe. The couple, heads of the US creative agency Aggressive, initially sought to connect Ukrainian artists with friends in Warsaw, Poland, to help them find accommodation and work. “But all of a sudden,” says Topaller, “we started getting messages from artists who needed work urgently but couldn’t leave.”

Of all the messages they received, one in particular stood out: it was from a children’s book illustrator named Arina Panasovska, who was in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson and did not want to risk being evacuated. . (He has since left.) Topaller offered to send money, but he wanted a job, not a charity. “So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll give you 10 illustrations; it can be anything, “and so Paper Planes Ukraine was born.”

As part of the relief project, they started an Instagram page – @ paperplanes_ua – with works commissioned by Ukrainian artists looking for work. For some of the artists, the project offers financial help at a time when it is most needed; for others, it’s a way of coping. In short, Topaller and Shapiro would like to expand and find more support for the works that have already been created by Paper Planes, for example, through exhibitions or NFT, but “our immediate goal is to light as many candles as possible. possible in this onslaught of darkness, “says Topaller.

WIRED contacted several artists and illustrators, many of whom have worked with Paper Planes, to ask them about their experiences during the war. This is what they said, along with some of the works they have created since the invasion of Russia.

These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Tania Yakunova captures the atrocities taking place in her nation.Illustration: Tania Yakunova

Tania Yakunova

Kyiv, Ukraine

WIRED: Tell us about the creation of this piece.

Tania Yakunova: In early April, when the suburbs of Kyiv were liberated from Russian troops, horrific evidence began to appear. Murdered civilians, mass graves, raped women and murdered children. Survivors started talking. It was shocking what the Russians did to the civilians in Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin, Borodyanka. Kyiv is my hometown. The Russians were 15 miles from my parents’ house. I have many friends who live in the suburbs, beautiful, green family places. I was sick and cried all day. The next day I started drawing because it was the only way to let go of my pain and anger.

What was your inspiration?

My illustration is not fiction; is a collective image of several Bucha victims: women whose charred naked bodies were found on the side of the road. The Russians raped and then tried to burn them, a woman who was raped in front of the eyes of her young son and baby, who was later killed. And many others who lost their children, husbands and their own lives.

Where are you and / or where do you live and work now?





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