Zhenya Oliinyk: Bloodlands

These illustrations are about the war stealing a part of artist’s identity from me. I’m grateful for all the platforms I’ve been provided, but I constantly wish there was another cause. (Originally commissioned by Soniakh Digest).

Once it became clear that the war was going to last, and once more and more evidence of Russian atrocities appeared, I couldn’t stop thinking that it’s also our bones and blood that are in the ground, the bodies that may never be found or recognized.

This illustration refers to a popular folk song where the Guelder-rose that leaned down is a metaphor for yet another dark period in Ukrainian history.

The aftermath, the painful memory that lasts, even when all the horrible things pass — I can’t believe how much more atrocities committed by Russians in Ukraine are yet to be discovered to become the trauma.

Zhenya Oliinyk is an illustrator and cartoonist born and based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She’s a cultural studies researcher and a former journalist. She’s been as a freelance illustrator with a focus on editorial illustration since 2018. Her most common topics are equality, feminism, history, trauma, mental health, and other challenging social issues, but she also occasionally enjoys drawing plants and food. Zhenya was working on a commission about the Russian censorship in Ukrainian theatre in the 19th century when the Russian full-scale invasion started. She fled to Lviv but returned to Kyiv shortly after. Ever since then she’s been creating graphic stories about her experience of living in a country under attack.