Art in the Time of War: The Children of Zaporizhzhia

Art in the Time of War:  The Children of Zaporizhzhia

By Svitlana Budzhak-Jones, President, Sister’s Sister, Inc.

“Zaporizhzhia” by Yuriy Martynov, age 13, Ukraine.

The unprovoked, brutal war against Ukraine sadly has entered its third year. It has brought much destruction and sorrow to the people of Ukraine. Millions were displaced internally. Millions became refugees elsewhere in the world. Countless Ukrainian children have lost their homes, have difficulties in accessing education, health care and even basic necessities such as drinking water. Bomb shelters and cellars have replaced their rooms, metro benches have become their beds, and air raid sirens on a daily basis drone instead of school bells. While many Ukrainian men and women actively fight on the battlefield for their country, culture and independence, others stay dedicated to the children who remain in Ukraine.

The Central Southern city of Zaporizhzhia is under constant artillery shelling and aerial bombing. But the Center for Children’s and Youth Creativity in the city continues to operate, and attempts to create a safe space to safeguard the children’s childhood. The Gradient creative Computer Design Circle at the Center has not closed its doors even when its teacher Ms. Nadiya Chepiga was forced to flee Ukraine to Poland in the first months of heavy enemy assaults on the city. Ms. Chepiga then continued to work with her students online for the entire year before returning back to her home city and to her students.

The Gradient Circle is now in its thirteenth year of operation. Hundreds of children between the ages of 6 and 17 have learned to create beautiful art there and connect with their inner spirit, bringing them one step closer to becoming professional graphic designers and artists. The Circle creates a comfortable environment for shaping children’s creative abilities, meeting their individual needs for intellectual, moral, aesthetic, and creative development, shaping a culture that includes a healthy lifestyle and organizing their free time. The children learn the principles of drawing art objects, creating drawings and 3D images, acquiring skills in making artwork in various media and styles, learning the basics of graphic design, creating postcards, posters, calendars, and memorabilia. The children search for their individual style of work and aesthetic preferences, develop their creative imagination and fantasy, learn to take creative initiative, and develop their independence.

The Circle’s founding director and teacher Nadiya Chepiga is a creative artist herself, who has implemented numerous creative projects with her students, has helped them realize their creative vision and brought them to life, and trained hundreds of creative individuals. Despite the ongoing war, the students and their teacher continue participating in various nationwide Ukrainian and International competitions as well as in art exhibitions.

Life goes on even in the extremely challenging circumstances created by the war. The students and their teacher continue meeting twice per week. Frequently, instruction needs to be done online because of constant air raid warnings. But on Sundays, the students try to meet with their teacher in person in the Center. And if an air raid siren goes off, they seek cover in the basement (see below) or in corridors where they continue their lessons. Since the enemy missiles and bombs focus on destroying power plants, there is usually no heat, and the students wear winter coats and jackets during their lessons. Yet they enjoy their meetings and continue creating beautiful, original works of art.

Gradient Students Continue with their Art Classes in the Institute’s Basement.

Fifteen of their art creations were exhibited by the humanitarian aid organization Sister’s Sister ( in State College, Pennsylvania on March 23, 2024 during a benefit concert for Ukraine. Sister’s Sister provides humanitarian support to the Ukrainian people, particularly to children, hospitals, orphanages, and the disabled in Ukraine, including State College’s sister city, Nizhyn, located in the Chernihiv region. The artwork exhibited at the concert was created by the students and enhanced with computer graphics under the supervision and guidance of their teacher. Their work draws, in part, on Ukrainian art, famous for its folk traditions and exquisite embroidery, the red and black threads of which represent happiness and sorrow. Sadly, there is too much of the black threads of sorrow in these difficult times for the children of Ukraine, while Nadiya Chepiga, whose first name means “hope,” brings hope to the children of Zaporizhzhia through art. For more information, please visit the websites linked to the QR codes below:

The children’s creativity will continue to be realized despite the nearly impossible conditions and their spirit will remain indominable!




By Svitlana Budzhak-Jones, Ph.D., President, Sister’s Sister, Inc. (

Hummingbird by Artem Lopatyn, age 10.

“Mystery” by Yeva Pavrianidis, age 10

“Free” by Zlata Khalayim, age 10.

“Music Inspires” by Vyacheslav Sukhanov, age 14.

“Autumn” by Oleksandra Patoka, age 9.

“Thoughts” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 16.

“I Am Ukraine” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 15. The central figure in color is represented by a traditional Ukrainian embroidery against a large city background. The Ukrainian text above says: CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD (left corner), and in the right corner, Article 30. A child has the right to enjoy his or her own culture.”

“Zaporizhzhian Oak Tree” by Edik Boitsev, age 13.

“Lord of the Forest” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 16.

“Ukraine, the Bountiful” by Kateryna Yuhayeva, age 14.

“Ukraine Right Now” by Polina Pustovit, age 17.

“The City in Your Head” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 16.

“Unity” by Polina Zakharova, age 12. The poster says: “The Responsibility Starts with Me.”

“Lviv” by Oleksandra Chepiha, age 12.

“Ocean Dweller” by Artem Panov, age 13.

“Mars” by Danylo Yerokhin, age 16.


“Ukrainian Village” by Danylo Usenko, age 12.

“Hare” by Oleksandra Vasyliyeva, age 10.

“Kitty” by Diana Kardinal, age 9.