Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Charley Ho, Daniel Paek and Roy Ng

“If Russia stops fighting, there will be no war. If Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no Ukraine,” Natalia Gschöpf, a Ukrainian artist, who has been living for six years in Hong Kong says. 

Her comments come as the European Union hosted a seminar to express support for and solidarity with the people of Ukraine, marking the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Since 2014, Russia has initiated conflicts by invading and subsequently annexing the Crimean Peninsula, a sovereign territory of Ukraine.

“In October 2014, one of my very close friends lost his life in the battle. Since then, there have been so many names,” Gschöpf says. 

The Ukrainian artist shares that many cultural sites have been the main targets in recent attacks launched by Russia.

Natalia Gschöpf holds an art workshop.

“Russia has been targeting our cultural sites and trying to kill our heritage,” she says.

About 342 cultural sites in Ukraine have been destroyed including 127 religious sites, 150 buildings of historical and artistic interest, 31 museums, 19 monuments, 14 libraries, and 1 archive, according to the UNESCO official report published in February 2024.

“Any of these destruction of culture and artifacts hurts. It is disheartening to witness all the physical cultures being set on fire by missiles,” the craftsmanship artist says.

“Despite the destruction of physical cultural sites, I believe that Ukrainian cultures will continue to survive through Ukrainian artists’ efforts to promote them worldwide,” she adds. 

Gschöpf has hosted workshops in London, Berlin, and now regularly in Hong Kong to promote traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs – Pysanky to keep Ukrainian culture alive.

Ukrainian Easter eggs made in a workshop held by Gschöpf.

“The Ukrainian Easter egg workshop is like a meditation. Surrounded by many candles and mesmerized by patterns, we engage and connect with each other during the sessions,” Gschöpf says.

“We can connect with people from all walks of life through these workshops and let more people know about Ukraine… I hope that Russia will show less aggression towards cultural heritage,” she adds.

Another Ukrainian artist, Nazar Tabachyshyn, who is also living in Hong Kong shares Gschöpf’s thoughts on keeping the world informed about the war outside Ukraine.

Tabachyshyn plays the accordion.

“The Russia-Ukraine war is very intense right now and there have been many losses. Russians occupy a huge city on the east side of Ukraine,” the accordion musician says. 

“You never know when you’re going to survive or whether you’re going to wake up but people have already got used to that kind of life,” he adds. 

Tabachyshyn says that his friends and family in Ukraine are fighting the war in their own different ways. Some of them are fighting at the frontline, and some other musicians are holding concerts to fundraise for the Ukrainian army. 

“People try to spread songs and increase their voices not only in Ukraine but to the world. Some are holding concerts and doing music tours around the world,” he adds.

The Ukrainian musician, who has been playing accordion since he was five, is committed to arousing awareness of the war to his audiences.

“I try to put some messages into the music I make…, that is to be heard, to be listened to, and make people question,” he says.

“We want the end of the war. Russians need to pay a lot and justice should be there after all, but I am not sure how we can get there,” he says.

Thomas Gnocchi, head of the European Union (EU) Office to Hong Kong and Macao, says the EU stands for Ukraine.  

 “The EU has committed a further 50 billion Euros to Ukraine to help funding. Despite the continuing difficulties, additional support for Ukraine is predictable, and these steps are playing very important roles. We will support Ukraine in any way possible,” he says.

Gnocchi points out that the EU has started negotiations with Ukraine about the membership of the EU since December 2023, though the country has yet to become a member. 

“There is a large Ukrainian community in Hong Kong. I hope there will be a lot of support through providing shelters for the refugees or any different kind of ways. This will really help Ukraine,” he adds.