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Ukrainian artist Nina Burnevich: about her artistic path and evacuation to Poznań

Nina Burnevich is an artist from Kyiv, who was forced to move to Poznań as a result of the full-scale Russian invasion in Ukraine. She is trying hard to still be involved in culture and artistic projects here by organizing cultural events, and even has launched an artistic foundation.

We talked to Nina and learned more about her activity and career.

Pre-war artistic life and the road to Poznań

Nina devoted over 13 years of her life to art. She is the organizer of many exhibitions and is vice-president of the Association of Folk Art of Ukraine.

She says that her interest in traditional art was instilled by her grandmother, in whose house every element was authentic. The walls were decorated with traditional handcrafted towels and paintings.

— “Since I was little, I remember all national and religious holidays, which in my family were always celebrated with love and enthusiasm. These childhood memories and the Ukrainian folklore environment in which I grew up shaped me as an admirer of folk beauty,” — Nina says.

For a long time, she was interested in the traditional Ukrainian painting technique called „petrykivka”. However, later on she discovered a new passion though.

— “We’ve been bringing our “petrykivka” even to Madeira. The pandemic brought a lot of changes in my artistic life. At some point, I canceled all exhibitions, closed my projects and stayed at home. I’ve crearer an account in 4 libraries, started knitting and making Motanka dolls. This is how I became a well-known traditional doll’s master in Kyiv,”—  she says.

An unexpectable call from her sister has woken her up on February 24, 2022, at 5 a.m.:  „Wake up, dear sister, the war has started.” After this sentence, the artist’s life turned upside down.

Nina quickly packed all her and her daughter’s things and her husband helped her to refuel the car. The artist got into the car in her pajamas, with only a winter jacket on top. After 2 weeks she reached Poznań.

The road was long, almost 4,000 kilometers were covered. The checkpoints on the border with Poland were very crowded, so Nina and her daughter went first to Romania. Then to Hungary and Slovakia. And only after all this way was done they reached to Poland. Nina has never had to drive that much ever before. In a result, all of her chronic diseases returned during the trip.

Concerts, exhibitions and workshops – life in a new city

The artist adapted quite quickly to Poznań. Already in April 2022, she organized her first meeting of Ukrainian artists. Then, together with Margarita Pugachenko and Rimma Tyshkevych, she founded her own foundation „Artcluster”. All women came to Poland after the Russian occupation has started in Ukraine.

Although the organization has only been operating since December, it has already implemented many initiatives. Among other things, it is the Week of Ukrainian Art, the program of which included various concerts, performances and exhibitions.

— “We’re fighting on our own cultural way. We are trying to give Ukrainians the opportunity to participate in our events, not forgetting about their culture, maintaining patriotism and faith in victory in a meanwhile,” —  Nina says about the foundation’s activities.

Moreover, Artclaster implements projects aimed at integrating Poles and Ukrainians. For example, it has recently organized meeting for retirees from both countries. On Poland’s Independence Day, November 11th, the Poznań audience could admire the results of one of such projects. It was a „Our Hollywood” concert that took place at the local cultural center „Theatrical House”.

The event gathered representatives of the older generation from Poland and Ukraine, who performed songs dressed in retro style costumes. The concert brought many positive emotions among the participants and their loved ones.

Nina is convinced that such events should keep being organized in the future, especially for the older people who were forced to leave their homes due to the war, because adapting to a new society is especially difficult for them.

In addition, together with other artists and Polish partners, Nina is actively working on the „First Love of the Old Town” project, which includes a series of interviews, recording a documentary film and an exhibition. The initiative aims to show the first feelings of young and old people that the city of Poznań evoked in them. The premiere of the project will take place on November 24th.

Polish-Ukrainian cultural exchange

According to Nina, it is difficult for cultural activists to find work in Poland. So now her most important need is to ensure the functioning of the  foundation and implement artistic initiatives.

She is also trying to use the opportunity to learn how to prepare an application for a big grants requests. She says this is an extremely valuable experience for her.

— “There is almost nothing like this in Ukraine. If you want to do an exhibition, pay from your own pocket then, this is how it mostly works there still,” — Nina says.

Apart from running a foundation, Nina is also immersed in a local folk art.

— “I’ve started to learn more about a bobbin lace, which has a very old history in Poland, dating back to the 16th century. It is authentic and has no equivalent in Ukraine,” — Nina says, adding that in the future she dreams of mastering Polish art too.

At the same time, Nina is convinced that cooperation with Ukrainian artists, especially in the field of folk art, may also be interesting for Poles. That’s why she still creates Motanki dolls in Poznań and organizes workshops on their creation. It is said that making a Motanka doll is a ritual.

— “By making a Motanka doll, you immerse yourself in working on your own creation, on your personal talisman, on your child finally. After all, Motanka  dolls may fulfill wishes, helps to solve problems and heals too. Our ancestors believed so,”. 

In addition to doll-making workshops, Nina also conducts classes in painting techniques that is called as „petrykivka”, organizing concerts and poetry evenings etc. This helps to strengthen artistic cooperation between Ukrainians and Poles. All this has one big dream of establishing an International Cultural Center to conduct an international artistic dialogue even more effectively.

This publication was prepared with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the editors of and can in no way be considered to reflect the views of UNHCR. For more information about UNHCR and the aid available in Poland:

You can also read this article in Ukrainian or Polish

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Fundacja Instytut Polska-Ukraina

Klub Ukraiński w Krakowie - Fundacja Zustricz

The Jewish Community Centre of Krakow

Salam Lab, Laboratorium Pokoju.

Szlachetna Paczka -Pomoc potrzebującym - ubogim, dzieciom, seniorom, chorym i niepełnosprawnym.

NIĆ. Kawiarnio-księgarnia.