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“These pictures arouse hope for recovery”

St. Sophia of Kyiv hosts a major charitable project to help cancer-stricken children
28 March, 2018 - 17:19

“As the war began, we moved from Horlivka in the ATO zone to Brovary. Little by little, we settled down, but suddenly everything changed – doctors diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia in our son Kyrylo. He’s undergoing treatment now. Fortunately, it is successful, as planned,” Oleksii MARUNEVYCH says.

We talked with Oleksii at the exhibit “What Is Essential Is Invisible to the Eye,” now being held in the Metropolitan’s House of the National Sanctuary “St. Sophia of Kyiv.” This charitable art project displays works by Kyrylo and seven other children who receive treatment at the cancer division of the Kyiv Oblast Clinical Hospital. All the drawings can be bought, and these funds will be used to help little patients. The project was organized by a branch of the international charitable organization Lions Club “Kiev Ecology.”

“THE OBJECTIVE OF ART THERAPY IS TO SHOW THAT LIFE IS GOING ON”

Artist Kateryna SAPOZHKOVA applies art therapy to cancer-stricken children at the hospital. “I have long wanted to help cancer-affected children but didn’t know how to do it well,” Kateryna recalls. “First I donated blood, handed over some money, and then, more than ten years ago, I asked donor.org.ua webmaster Sashko Brusylovskyi what else I could do. When he came to know that I am an artist, he said children badly needed art therapy. The treatment lasts at least nine months, and kids are almost completely isolated during this time. Since then, we’ve been having classes in the playroom.”

Art therapy helps a child express his or her emotions through drawing and thus establish a link with the outside world. “As a rule, a child gets to the cancer ward suddenly. Both parent and the child are shocked. Then the family divides – only one of the parents stands by the child all the time. The child remains withdrawn from his milieu, undergoes painful procedures for a long time, and often retreats into his shell. The objective of art therapy is to show that life is going on and recovery is possible,” Kateryna explains. “Incidentally, Ania Bezkorovaina and Olia Tkachenko, the girls who take part in the exhibit, are in remission now.”

“A BRIDGE BETWEEN CHILD AND PARENTS”

Parents often draw together with the child, and the artist calls these joint classes a bridge between them. During the classes, Kateryna tells children about artists and art styles. They are always trying out new materials. The first pictures of the cancer patients are dreary, but then the themes become more cheerful. The pictures displayed at St. Sophia of Kyiv are colorful; they often depict flowers, cute animals, and serene landscapes. Kateryna says children draw the places they would like to visit as well as their life after recovery.

Kyrylo Marunevych, who turned five in January, depicted a lighthouse amidst the sea on several pictures. Oleksii Marunevych confesses that art therapy has stirred up more good emotions in his son, which is no less important than medicines. “Drawing is a powerful positive stimulus. Bedsides, this encourages his mum who stays at the hospital with Kyrylo,” Oleksii adds.

One can also see the way classes are held in the playroom of the children’s cancer division. Next to the drawings is Oleh Herasymets’ photo project “The Room,” a series of pictures about this special space.

A BENEFACTOR WITH 40-YEAR EXPERIENCE

As a matter of fact, Kateryna regularly organizes exhibits of cancer-stricken children. It is usually small expositions on the hospital’s premises. The art project at St. Sophia of Kyiv is bigger – it involves people from various countries. The idea emerged spontaneously during a conversation between Lions Club “Kiev Ecology” vice-president Tetiana Vasylieva and the artist.

But the initiative in fact began with the foundation of Lions Club “Kiev Ecology” about seven years ago. “In general, Lions Club is an international charitable organization that addresses not only ecological, but also socio-cultural problems, and the Kyiv branch is the 10th in Ukraine,” says Jean ROCHE, President of Lions Club “Kiev Ecology,” Knight of the Legion of Honor. “In France, the organization helps vulnerable communities. For example, it buys walking sticks for the elderly. In Ukraine, it id called ecological, but we are to protect not only the environment but also the people who live in this environment. For instance, the club helps orphans in Kyiv.”

Almost at the very outset, the Kyiv branch of Lions Club began to help the children’s cancer division of the oblast hospital. But, earlier, this occurred once a year, when the organization raised the funds which the hospital used for buying reagents and medicines. This money was enough to meet a month’s need in medicines. On the last New Year eve, Jean Roche visited the hospital and saw that the requirement in this help was much greater. So the benefactors decided to do something of a larger scale and hit upon the idea of an exhibit. “A cancer-stricken child is stressed out. But his pictures arouse a hope for recovery,” the Lions Club “Kiev Ecology” president says.

Jean Roche himself has been in charity for over 40 years. It all began with participation in a TV marathon to raise funds to combat myopathy. This week-long TV marathon helped raise about 10 million euros.

“THE HOSPITAL FEELS HELPLESS WITHOUT THESE REAGENTS”

“Many selfless people have joined our initiative. The sense of this project is to show the ability of children to enjoy life at a difficult moment of illness,” Hennadii TSIAUK, an organizer of the art project, a participant in the second season of the Master Chef culinary show, emphasizes. “All the children’s pictures are on sale. There will be a ceremony on March 30, when we will hand over the raised money to the doctor.”

Concurrently, a “quiet auction” of Ukrainian artists’ works is being held. The lion’s share of the proceeds will also benefit the children.

Money is being raised to acquire reagents for the hematological analyzer. “A child in the cancer ward always performs a lot of tests. It is especially important to take the count of blasts in the bone marrow. Tests are done almost every day so that the doctor can see what needs to be corrected. The hospital feels helpless without these reagents,” Kateryna explains.

The art project is important to children not only because of raising funds for their treatment. “This exhibit makes it clear to children that they are not erased from life,” Sapozhkova emphasizes. “It happens that when a bald and masked kid comes out for a walk, everybody dashes aside from him or her. There are some country children in the hospital. Whenever they come home, some of their peers don’t want to visit them, thinking that cancer is contagious. But here a child is an artist, everybody watches his or her exhibit, and their pictures are bought. It is an incredible motivation for a healthy life!” Incidentally, the organizers are so keen on the project that they want to hold this kind of exhibits regularly.

The art project “What Is Essential Is Invisible to the Eye” will remain open at the Metropolitan’s House until March 31. The organizers also invite everybody to a classical music concert, “It Is Only with the Heart that One Can See Rightly,” to be held on March 30 at the Khlibnia gallery of St. Sophia of Kyiv. All the ticket sale proceeds will also be used to help children.

By Maria PROKOPENKO, photos by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day
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