JR Travels to Ukraine and Produces Moving Tribute to Children Affected by the War

 

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Street artist JR has added his name to the growing list of artists who are showing their support for Ukraine. The French artist is known for pasting up large portraits of locals around the world and he recently traveled to Ukraine to make a bold statement. In a moving video posted to his Instagram, the award-winning artist details his journey to Lviv, where he organized locals to unfold an enormous photo of a young Ukrainian girl in the main square. The result is a striking image used as the cover of TIME that reminds the world of the toll this war is taking.

The young 5-year-old girl in the photo is named Valeriia and her portrait was taken by local photographer Artem Iurchenko. Iurchenko was close to the border with Poland and spent time photographing Ukrainian refugees. He was in touch with JR and when he sent the street artist Valeriia's photo, JR knew he had something special. The young girl had just crossed the border into Poland and her beaming smile—one possibly of relief—is a beautiful symbol of what Ukraine is fighting for.

JR then printed the photo on a tarp and then rolled up the 148-foot-long image so that it could be loaded in a truck. After driving to the border, the artist and his team walked from Poland into Ukraine and connected with a group of locals they'd met on social media. From there, they took the tarp and drove into Lviv. Again, social media was helpful as they put out a call for locals to help with the project.

Hundreds of people turned out in Lviv's main square to assist in unfolding Valeriia's image. In one swift moment, her face was unfurled and JR's message was clear. In the video, we even see JR speaking with Valeriia and her mother on a video chat, explaining what had happened. “You're going to remind all the people who are flying over Ukraine that there are people like you that we need to protect,” he told her.

In Tara Law's cover story for TIME, we learn more about Valeriia and her mother Taisiia. They fled from Kryvyi Rih, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s hometown in central Ukraine, on March 9. They are now getting situated in Poland with Taisiia's sister, nephew, and mother. Like many families, they are separated from Valeriia's father and brother who had to stay behind in Ukraine. Theirs is just one of many similar stories in a war that Ukrainian officials say has already killed over 120 children.

If you are interested in lending support to Ukraine and are a fan of JR's art, he is currently holding an NFT auction of this installation through March 28. According to the website, “all profits for this project will go towards creating a logistical chain to support refugees at different Ukrainian border crossings.”

Watch as locals help JR unfurl a 148-foot-long photo of Valeriia, a 5-year-old Ukrainian girl who fled to Poland.

 

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“This little girl is the future and, in this war, she reminds us what Ukrainians are fighting for,” writes JR.

 

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JR: Website | Instagram | Facebook

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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