Iconic Ukraine

Alight's Aid2Art Program

As the war in Ukraine spread in March of 2022, citizens in Lviv began removing paintings from museum walls and covering statues in protective material in an effort to protect historic works of art. Around the same time, an open-source list of Ukraine-based creatives circulated among global artist networks to connect people to work opportunities. Upon learning about these two very different efforts to support and preserve the artistic work, Alight, an international humanitarian organization working with those displaced by the war, decided to create a new program that would support the basic needs of Ukrainian artists and designers, while providing space for creative expression. “A life is filled with joy, dignity, connection and purpose,” the organization states in its mission. “And that’s what we aim to build.”

Titled Aid2Art, the program provided hundreds of unconditional cash transfers of $1,000 to Ukrainian creatives, giving a lifeline to families who had lost substantial income due to the war. Artists were also invited to submit works on the theme “Iconic Ukraine.” The works, including photography, paintings and graphic design, soon became part of a virtual gallery showcasing a wide variety of interpretations of the theme: A firefighter tackles a raging inferno; a curtain catches a gust of wind through a window; a little girl shelters behind wooden shutters; a person looks to the sky as if hopeful for a future without war.

Gaidamaka, “Tree of Life”
From the artist: “It brings love and respect. It’s about value of cultural heritage” 

The online gallery,, is open to all, and sales of the works benefit Ukrainian artists. One contributing artist said her piece was inspired by a lyric from a popular song by the Ukrainian band Kazka: “She cried and the violet blossomed again…” The song reminded her of her past life before the war; then, she would imagine women crying for various reasons. “Now, we cry more than before,” she says. “We are often ashamed of our tears or hold it back. Sometimes, we manage to break free, sing and cry, and it helps.”

“Each piece of work came with a powerful description bringing it to life,” said Shamaila Usmani, Creative Connector at Alight. “Beauty and creative expression are such a big part of our work. We see beauty and creativity as ways to bring humanity together. Just because someone is going through an unprecedented tough time doesn’t mean these things aren’t of value to them.”

Explore the whole Aid2Art gallery and purchase artwork here.

Vladyslaw Musiienko, “Kyiv 2,” October 2018.
From the artist: The view of the districts of Kyiv covered by the morning fog, which are located on the left bank of the Dnieper River. Ukraine.



Masha Raymers, “Ukranian Soul.” April 2022
From the artist: “In this photo project I wanted to show who Ukrainians are and what are values and soul state.”



Olha Dubrovina Day 150 & Day 151 from “THE STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE OF UKRAINE,” Summer 2022.
From the artist: “Peace or War – They go where there is danger. From where ordinary people run without looking back.
Fires, missile strikes or mines scattered by the enemy in our peaceful cities…They are ready! They are close! They save!
They always face danger! Infinite gratitude to our rescuers!”



Anastasiia Lytvyn, “In a Bright Future.” 2022.
From the artist: “In this work, I show the beauty and strength of the Ukrainian people. And also [inspire people] to have faith that a brighter future will soon come.”




Natalia Azarkina, from the series “Between Darkness and Light.”



Dmytro Kupriyan, “Home.” 2020.
From the artist: “This is a piece of art when I had free time. Making an installation to put a piece of house and a beautiful background. My message through this piece that people should question themselves is the place where they are where they are they are meant to be or should I move back to nature, or if they are happy in their block flats. For me, I am not sure. I have one house in each place, so I change my surroundings based off of my feeling. When I am sick and tired of the city and this routine I can either get out to sail or go to the mountains.”



Ruslana Maistruk, “Tree of Life of Ukraine,” 2022.
From the artist: “The picture shows a young girl as a symbol of the beauty of our country. In the back is an embroidery with motifs of plants and sunflowers, which are also a symbol of life and Ukraine.” 



Yaroslav Boruta, “Flower of Despair.” 2022.



Mariia Lytovchenko, “Chumaks Way.”
From the artist: “In the Ukrainian Milky Way is called the Chumaks Way. It is named after the Chumaks, Ukrainian merchants who brought salt, fish and other products over long distances. The constellation of the Milky Way has always been the landmark in their long journey — it always shown them the way). The chumak way of life set a great mark on Ukrainian folklore, language band overall culture.”



Ruslana Maistruk, “War Series: Don’t be afraid. I’m with you.” 2022.
From the artist: “This work was developed from a real photo. An old grandmother feels sorry for her dog, who is afraid of explosions. She tied a handkerchief over his ears.”



Olena Chekhovska, “Shelter.”
From the artist: “Our children are hiding, but our generation is still growing.”



Ivan Tsupka, “Kiss from Xray” Amateur Photo Series.


Discover the Ukraine that was—and the one that will be. Stranger’s Guide: Ukraine is among the most challenging and powerful volumes we’ve ever put out, featuring Ukrainian writers and photographers, many of whom are still in their country, others living abroad ...

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