The elusive* British street artist Banksy has painted a mural on a bombed-out building outside the Ukrainian capital, in what Ukrainians have welcomed as a symbol of their country’s invincibility*.

The world-famous graffiti artist posted three images of the artwork – a gymnast doing a handstand – on Instagram on November 11.

The mural was painted on the ruins of a demolished building in the town of Borodyanka, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The caption reads “Borodyanka, Ukraine”.

Along with towns like Bucha and Irpin, Borodyanka has been hard hit by Russian bombardment* and has become a symbol of the devastation wrought by Moscow’s offensive since February.

The town was briefly occupied by Russian forces before they withdrew in April.

“It’s a symbol that we are unbreakable and our country is unbreakable,” said 32-year-old Ukrainian Oleksiy Savochka.

A number of Banksy-style murals have appeared in and around Kyiv, prompting Ukrainians to speculate that the anonymous street artist* might be working in the war-ravaged country.

Another graffiti in Borodyanka shows a small boy throwing a man in a judo uniform to the ground, but the artist who painted it has not been confirmed.

The scene could be a possible reference to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who is a martial arts enthusiast.

“It’s a little boy against an old man and he’s defeated, he’s already defeated,” said Bogdan Mashay, a 30-year-old Ukrainian television journalist.

“It’s amazing that Banksy is here in Borodyanka.”

On the side of a crumbling building in Irpin, a third mural – also unconfirmed by Banksy – shows a gymnast performing a ribbon routine despite apparently being injured and wearing a collar.

Banksy’s artwork came to light when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine had recaptured the strategic city of Kherson from Russian forces.

Kherson was the first major urban center to fall after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24.

But Russian troops withdrew last week after nearly nine months of fighting and hardship* for the local population.

Residents returning home to a village just outside Kherson embraced their neighbours, some unable to hold back their tears.

“Victory, finally!” said Svitlana Galak, 43, who lost her eldest daughter in the war. “Thank God we have been released* and everything will now fall into place.”

Footage released by the Ukrainian military showed residents of Kherson dancing around a bonfire while singing a patriotic song.

“We are all delighted*,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on November 12 after declaring the day before that the Black Sea city was back in the hands of Kyiv.

“Before fleeing Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all essential infrastructure*: communication, water supply, heating, electricity,” Zelensky said.

Ukrainian authorities are currently working to restore electricity and other services, and to make the area safe for those who live there.

GLOSSARY

  • elusive: hard to find or catch
  • invincibility: quality of being unbeatable, impossible to beat, overcome, or master
  • bombings: strong and continuous attack of gunfire or shelling
  • anonymous: unknown or unidentified name
  • tests: suffering, a state of difficulty and continuous deprivation
  • released : to be released or released from something
  • delighted : extremely happy and excited, often because something happened or was achieved
  • Infrastructure: facilities and services in a country, region or city, such as electricity and transport

FURTHER READING

What’s going on between Ukraine and Russia?

Is vandalizing vandalism a new art form?

Illusions of artists transforming the streets

Instagram Era Wonka Ticket

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What does Banksy’s confirmed artwork represent?
  2. What does the Borodyanka fresco show and has the artist been confirmed?
  3. Which strategic city south of the Black Sea has been taken over by Ukraine?
  4. What did the Russian forces destroy in the city before retreating?
  5. There is a third fresco whose provenance is unconfirmed – where is it and what does it show?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASS ACTIVITIES
1. Art representing hope
Look at the images painted by “Banksy” – or in the Banksy style – and note some emotions or feelings that these works evoke in you.

What do you think these paintings mean?

Why are they important for the Ukrainian people?

Image 1 – Gymnast doing a handstand

Picture 2 – Young boy fighting martial arts man

Image 3 – Gymnast performing the ribbon routine

Time: allow 25 minutes for this activity
Curriculum links: English; Visual arts; Personal and Social; Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
Banksy has more than 11 million followers on Instagram, which makes his work very popular and able to influence a large part of society. His work is also displayed on publicly visible surfaces such as exterior walls.

Why do you think he chose Borodyanka, Ukraine, to paint his last pieces?

What exposure will this give to a city filled with bombed out buildings and destruction?

Time: allow 15 minutes for this activity
Curriculum links: English; visual art; Personal and Social; Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
What happens next?
Imagine that this story is part of an animated series consisting of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell the full story and this article is only the first part. Think about what the rest of the story might be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes for this activity
Curriculum links: English; Visual arts; Visual communication design; Critical and creative thinking