Here you can see some of the damage from the Russian attack on the art museum in Odesa. The paintings in the background are still intact, but there is a lot of broken glass on the floor. © Ivan Strahov

When support brings joy: How the ifa Ukraine Support project works

The ifa - Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen supports Ukrainians in their country, in neighboring states, and in Germany with various programs. The ifa Friends's Association also supported various projects in Ukraine. Despite the ongoing war, their donations helped to quickly and easily provide locals with opportunities for cultural participation. The eleven creative artists which were supported, include the singer and musician Mariia Hryshchenko, the artist Anastasiia Yavtushenko, and the documentary filmmaker Denys Vorontsov.

New instruments for music lessons

In the background you can see a lot of guitars. In the foreground there's Mariia speaking into a microphone teaching "her" children music lessons. © Mariia Hryschenko
With lessons, Mariia manages to get "her" children excited about music despite the difficult conditions. © Mariia Hryschenko

Mariia Hryshchenko is a singer and musician from Sumy, a city in north-eastern Ukraine. Due to its proximity to Russia, Sumy is constantly being bombed and attacked by Russia. Still, Mariia, who currently works at the Sumy State Theater, teaches music and art to local children. 

It is very touching to hear Mariia talk about "her" kids. She explains that the children are highly traumatized and that music, art, and drama lessons help them overcome difficulties and bring back some normality into their lives. Since Russia's attack on Ukraine, children living in the city of Sumy no longer have much social contact and entertainment, especially as school lessons often have to take place online. Nevertheless, Mariia tries to cheer up the children with her classes and support their development despite the difficulties.

Mariia has over 27 years of experience as a musician and music teacher. Currently, she gives music lessons voluntarily at the Sumy State Theater. She had her own instruments, which she used to teach the children with. At the beginning of the war, however, Mariia had to evacuate herself, her son, and her musical equipment. During one of the Russian air raids, the equipment was completely destroyed. Nonetheless, this did not stop Mariia from teaching "her" children: they met in the local park, and she used her cell phone instead of the destroyed music equipment.

Like many other people in Ukraine, Mariia constantly proves her strength and resilience. In order to support artists and civil society activists like Mariia in this difficult situation, the ifa Friends' Association has created a support programme for Ukrainians. This programme aims to support Ukrainian organizations, media, and individuals from the cultural industry and civil society with small, unbureaucratic grants necessary to continue their activities. The funding is primarily intended to support artists and civil society activists who have a close connection to ifa and who have, for instance, participated in an ifa programme or were ifa partners. 

With the grant's help, Mariia was able to buy some music equipment to continue her lessons, like a Yamaha synthesizer and a microphone. Mariia says the children were thrilled to get musical instruments and perform at local Christmas concerts. The only thing she still needs is an electricity generator, which would ensure the stability of the power supply amid the constant Russian attacks on the Ukrainian population and infrastructure.

The children were thrilled to receive musical instruments and perform at local Christmas concerts.

Mariia Hryshchenko

This story shows how the funds provided by the ifa Friends' Association have turned into something that has made the Ukrainian artist and "her" children happier in this challenging situation. So far, Mariia is one of eleven Ukrainian artists, media, and civil society activists receiving support by the ifa Friends' Association.

Another touching story is that of Ukrainian artist Anastasiia Yavtushenko, who works at the Odesa National Art Museum as an artist, tour guide, and author of art workshops for children. Anastasiia provided a varied cultural program for the local children for a long time until the program stagnated due to the war. With the support of ifa Friends' Association's funding, she was able to start an educational and cultural program for children and young people. It includes workshops on various topics focusing on aspects of Ukrainian culture, from ornaments of traditional clothing to modern Ukrainian cartoons.

Education program at the Odessa National Art Museum

Here, you can see the partially destroyed art museum in Odesa. There is a lot of glass on the floor and some furniture in the background is destroyed. The artist Anastasiia Yavtushenko typically offers workshops at the Unesco World Heritage Site. Now, she has to find alternatives. © Ivan Strahov
Here, you can see the partially destroyed art museum in Odesa. The artist Anastasiia Yavtushenko used to offer workshops at the Unesco World Heritage Site. Now, she had to find alternatives. © Ivan Strahov
The photo shows artist Anastasiia Yavtushenko in a room with fifteen children. The children hold their painted pictures up to the camera. © Anastasiia Levchenko
Anastasiia adapted to the situation and found alternative locations for her workshops. © Anastasiia Levchenko

Unfortunately, the Odesa Fine Arts Museum, part of Odesa's UNESCO World Heritage Site and where Anastasiia wanted to hold her class, was bombed. This happened the day before the first workshop was supposed to take place. Fortunately, no one was injured - but the premises Anastasiia used for her workshops were badly damaged. It won't be possible to hold workshops there any time soom. Under these circumstances, Anastasiia has to be very creative and flexible to adapt to the situation: finding alternative locations for workshops and trying to make do with the resources available. This example describes the difficulties that Ukrainian artists regularly face. They need support, both financially and emotionally. Through the ifa Friends' Association's funding, Anastasiia has received recognition for her work.

Support for a documentary filmmaker from Kharkiv

In the photo you can see a man in a grey hoodie and a green jacket. He is wearing a cap and has his hands tucked into his pants. He is the renowned documentary filmmaker Denys Vorontsov. © Oleksandr Osipov
The renowned documentary filmmaker Denys Vorontsov. He is working on a documentary about Oleh Kadanov, a musician and poet from Kharkiv. © Oleksandr Osipov

Ukrainian artists not only create art under challenging conditions but also find inspiration in telling the stories of their colleagues. Telling stories is Denys Vorontsov's goal. Due to the Russian invasion, the renowned documentary filmmaker moved from Kyiv to Kharkiv. Kharkiv is in eastern Ukraine, lies very close to the border with Russia, and is, therefore, regularly attacked by the Russian army. Denys aims to document the lives of the people during these dramatic events. With the support of ifa, Denys is making a documentary about Oleh Kadanov, a musician and poet from Kharkiv. Oleh leads one of Kharkiv's most essential volunteer groups that supports the military. Despite his busy schedule, Oleh finds time for concerts. He sings for people in the subway and gives poetic readings or musical performances to raise funds for the Ukrainian army.

It is important to tell the stories of people like Oleh Kadanov so that they are heard by Ukrainians and people abroad. Every euro of funding invested in the film, be it to cover the cost of gas for cars or equipment rental, is an investment in the memory of Ukraine's courageous fight for independence and their European future. 

Each story behind the funded projects of the ifa Friends' Association Support for Ukraine is touching.


Editors and Authors
[Translate to english:] Auf dem Bild sieht man die ukrainische Journalistin Emiliia Dieniezhna. Sie hat lange braune Haare und trägt einen grauen Blazer.
Emiliia Dieniezhna

Emiliia Dieniezhna is a Ukrainian journalist and anti-corruption activist. She is a CCP alumna and has worked at ifa on a support project for Ukraine. Dieniezhna studied foreign languages in Ukraine and EU political science in Belgium. In Ukraine, she has worked for national TV channels, including "Ukraina," "112-Ukraina", and "NTN," as well as for the Bloomberg project. She also did an internship at Deutsche Welle. Since the Russian war of aggression in 2022, she has lived partly in Munich, where she writes a weekly column, "Zwischen den Welten," for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, as well as articles for Engagement Global and the Funke Mediengruppe.