Mary-Ann Orr, who has a studio at Auchmithie, visited refugee hubs, crisis centres and rural schools after joining forces with Edinburgh-based charity Jeeps for Peace.
She was inspired around to make the journey while working with offenders in prisons across the country. One student group approached her asking how they could show support, which resulted in a dynamic project where she taught the prisoners how to make origami sunflowers, Ukraine’s national flower of Ukraine.
The inmates of one prison alone made 17,000 sunflowers after which Mary-Ann launched her Art for Children of Ukraine campaign earlier this year. She hosted an exhibition of work by Ukrainian artist Lucy Nychia and the prisoners’ sunflowers filled the aisle of St Peter’s Church in Auchmithie .
Funds and donations raised from the exhibition enabled her to buy her first batch of art supplies. But she still needed to find transport to Ukraine and make contact with the organisations working with the children.
That was when she made contact with Jeeps For Peace, which sources old 4x4 vehicles for delivery to soldiers fighting on the front line, where they are used for the rapid evacuation of the wounded.
The trip across Europe with the convoy, for which Mary-Anne offered her services as a driver, took three days.
Mary-Ann spent three weeks travelling in Ukraine, participating in and organising art workshops with charities such as Care-In-Action and a group of Ukrainian artists who are working with refugee and orphaned children. A number of these events were organised in and around Lviv, Travneve, Ternopil and Kyiv and Mary-Ann was shocked by the reality she encountered – schools converted to air raid shelters, sandbags piled into windows against missile attacks, all while the children still attended classes, often with fighting going on nearby.
There were also daily air raid warnings and power cuts
She said: "You can see where the missiles have hit the buildings, but you cannot see the missiles that have hit the heart.
"The children, who were often traumatised after witnessing some unimaginable scenes, were still glad to be getting art lessons in their often damaged schools.”
Despite some language difficulties, Mary-Anne said that the art classes seemed to cross all borders.
"On one occasion a girl of around six approached with a mobile phone displaying a translation app. She held the phone up and the message read ‘Will you hug me please? Then the other children children lined up for a hug.”
Mary-Ann will be returning to Ukraine in the near future and hopes to take another 350 A3-size tote bags of art materials with her. She also hopes to share her experiences with schools both locally and across Scotland, as well as the photos and footage taken during her journey. She would also like to give Scottish children an opportunity to sponsor an individual bag, containing a personalised note requesting that the recipient corresponds via the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/art4childrenofukraine
Anyone who wishes to find out more about the project, can connect Mary-Anne with local schools, volunteer or make donations of funds or art materials can do so by visiting the Auchmithie gallery space 'Art for Children of Ukraine' or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
She added: “Anything and everything will be gratefully received.”