Does history repeat itself? I am not sure if I can comment on that given my limited expertise on historical events, but one thing is for certain: throughout history, war has consistently resulted in the greatest suffering among the innocent — the children. A new exhibition, “Mom, I don’t want war” in Warsaw is bringing together Ukrainian children's drawings illustrating the continuing Russian invasion with Polish children's drawings done in the aftermath of WWII.
There is always sorrow, pain, and loss in war. Children, however, are the most vulnerable during times of war. War robs them of a healthy childhood, and sometimes even of their life! Children that were supposed to spend their times playing with their friends, witness combat as enemy missiles demolish their homes. They witness the deaths of their friends and family. The range of feelings depicted in the drawings, from dread and despair to hope and faith in victory, attests to one thing: Children should not suffer as a result of war; they deserve happiness and love.
The exhibition "Mom, I Don't Want War" emphasizes the shared experiences of repression and resistance, as well as an unwavering faith in victory. It is currently on display in sixteen cities throughout Poland, including Warsaw and the border town of Przemyl, a major port of arrival for Ukrainian refugees. The images serve as an emotional testament to conflict, emphasizing how brutally it affects society's young children.
“We wish to underline how similar the partition war situations are by grouping words and photos into the following thematic categories: struggle, occupation, family, repression, resistance, destruction, hope-victory," declared the exhibition's organizers.
The Ukrainian digital project "Mom, I See War" and Poland's National Archives collaborated to create this exhibition. More than 7,000 children's drawings from 1946 are kept in Poland's National Archives as part of a post-war campaign to help young Poles cope with the trauma of the Nazi occupation. Similar to this, since the start of Russia's invasion in February, the "Mom, I See War" project has gathered more than 13,500 drawings from kids. The organization's creators want to create a long-lasting digital collage of Ukrainian children's artworks to raise money for humanitarian help while also increasing awareness of Ukraine's suffering. Once finished, the collage will be sold at an NFT auction, with all revenues going to organizations that support Ukrainian children.
The similarities between the modern and historical children's drawings, despite being created almost a century apart, are "shocking," according to Pawe Pietrzyk, the director of Poland's National Archives. Children drew explosions, fires, tanks, and planes. They draw the wounded, the dead, the graves, and the destroyed homes. They depict both themselves and their loved ones. They make their getaway and evacuation. However, they also depict their hopes and aspirations for the future in their drawings.
A quote from the Polish, Jewish educator and children's rights activist Janusz Korczak, who was killed at the Treblinka extermination camp in 1942, is shown with the exhibit: "A child is not a soldier. He does not defend his homeland, though he suffers with it.” Having “lost” their childhood, these kids are forced to grow up. They grow up not knowing what safety is, yet when we think of home, we feel safe. Some older kids may even become militia members. An immediate action is necessary to protect a generation of innocent children who have lost their feeling of security, and are plagued by horrific memories.