Since the start of Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February, artist Viktoria from Kherson has written daily emails to her Estonian friend, painter Raul Oreškin. Viktoria's messages have been published in the Estonian media, and some were also read out in front of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn during protests. Late on Monday night, she finally arrived in Tartu bringing new art works with her to thank Estonians for all their help and support.
Since the start of the war, Viktoria has written over 200 emails to Oreškin, describing the situation in her home city of Kherson. However, the Ukrainian artist, who prefers not to disclose her surname in order to avoid potentially endangering her relatives who are still in Ukraine, never expected that what began as an exchange of letter between two friends, to strike a chord with hundreds of Estonians.
Such was the popularity of Viktoria's letters, and the importance of their content, that in May, 60 were read out in front of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn during a protest against the war.
"This correspondence was, honestly like psychotherapy for me, especially in the first few months (of the war.) I realized that I had some kind of responsibility and that I had to tell people what was going on. So that they can understand how all this is possible and how we were living there," she said.
Unable to exhibit her work in Kherson, Viktoria instead curated an exhibition in Tartu remotely from her home in Ukraine. The "Päästik / Тригер / Trigger" exhibition, which opened at tARTu Art Gallery in May, showcased works by 38 Ukrainian artists alongside contributions from seven Estonian painters.
Now Viktoria has finally arrived in Estonia, a place that she is already calling her second home.
"It was only when we crossed the Latvian border, that I realized I was free. It was only then that I switched my phone on and realized we were in a safe place and I could write again," she told ERR.
Viktoria spent all summer working on a soon-to-be-published calendar with an Estonian-Ukrainian theme. "I made digital collages based on photos of people from past generations, in Estonia and in Ukraine. Whatever was blossoming inside me at that particular moment is what I wanted to show. Nature, gardens, forests, birds, butterflies. All the beauty of your country and also the beauty of my country. I wanted to show how much, during that time, Estonia became my second home country," she said.
Viktoria's collage series "Memories" (Mälestused) is currently on display at tARTu Gallery (Kastani 42, Tartu). "These are pieces of a puzzle taken from different periods of time, paintings by different artists who lived before us. I tied it all together using digital technology," she explained.
Viktoria's work is also available to buy here.
Editor: Michael Cole