Valeriia Pareichuk is an artist based in South Florida. She is in her fourth year of college at the Florida Atlantic University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art with a minor in Architecture. Valeriia likes to work in different mediums but primarily concentrates on photography. The focus of her artworks is often on expressing emotions and creating a specific narrative, no matter the subject or the context. Born and raised in Ukraine, Valeriia wanted to show her patriotism and share her state of mind regarding the current situation through this art exhibition.

On February 24, Russia unleashed a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, which the occupants call “a special military operation.” The president of Russia announced that this operation was aimed at the “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.” Valeriia still has family and friends that live in Ukraine, and every day since February 24 has brought her extreme fear, anger, and anxiety. Being here safe and living a regular life makes her feel guilty and helpless. However, Valeriia is grateful to be able to spread awareness about what is going on and use her art to speak out on this situation.

The clothing seen is a Ukrainian national dress, called Vyshyvanka, given to her family by her godmother. Valeriia crafted the headpiece, incorporating specific and symbolic flowers, often seen in these wreaths. The blue and yellow ribbons attached to the back symbolize the sky and the fields of wheat. These are traditionally worn on holidays and special occasions by girls and young unmarried women. While the first photo series was shot with artificial lighting, the second was captured in a sunflower field filled with natural light. In both, she wanted to represent beauty, pride, and hope. She wanted everyone to know that they are proud to be Ukrainians and they will continue to value and carry on their rich culture and history.

The sunflower is incorporated in most of these works because it is a national flower of Ukraine. These two photos made with a film camera, and this digital illustration represent the destruction and demolishment of the country, its people, and its places. Despite trying to break Ukrainians apart, this invasion only made them stronger and closer to each other.