According to reports, a disastrous dam failure in southern Ukraine has submerged the home museum of the late artist Polina Rayko, whose painting of a dove became a representation of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.
According to the Associated Press, the Kakhova dam on the Dnieper River broke on Tuesday, flooding dozens of Ukrainian districts and leaving thousands homeless and tens of thousands without access to clean drinking water. Authorities in Ukraine claim that Russian forces deliberately destroyed the dam, which was later referred to as an act of “ecoterrorism” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Any misbehaviour has been denied by the Russian military.
The artist Rayko’s museum was a precious collection of her life’s work, and it was situated in the artist’s hometown of Oleshky. She was a self-taught artist who transformed her horrific life story into beautiful depictions of animals and plants, painting most of them directly into her house’s walls, ceilings, and doors. According to Simon Khramtsov, president of a charity that looks after Rayko’s heritage, in a Facebook post, “As of now (7/6/23 6:00 p.m.), I know that the house with the frescoes is under water,” according to the Art Newspaper.
After a tragic experience in the Second World War and the passing of her daughter in a vehicle accident, Rayko, who was born in 1928, started teaching herself to paint at the age of 69. Her work received praise from throughout the world after she passed away in 2004, much like another Ukrainian folk artist, Maria Prymachenko, whose museum was shelled by Russian missiles in the first month of the war.
Since then, artists, historians, and museum experts have expressed their sorrow over Rayko’s home’s destruction on social media.
Katy Hessel, a British art historian and host of the Great Women Artists podcast, posted on Instagram that she was “devastated to learn of the destruction of the Ukrainian hamlet Oleshky, near Kherson, home of self-taught artist, Polina Rayko’s art-filled home, regarded as a “national cultural landmark.” “A complete work of art, this house is filled to the brim in her trademark effervescent style in a palette of rich blues, yellows, reds, and whites, depicting angels, flowers, animals, and more,” the description of the home reads.