Shropshire Star

Illustration and comics ‘an instrument’ for Ukrainians in war with Russia

Ukrainian illustrators have been creating comics to document their feelings about the war.


Kyiv-based illustrators who have produced comics in shelters, during blackouts and amid constant missile attacks have hailed the medium as their “instrument” for highlighting the reality of the war.

February 24 marks two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and for those living in the country, the need to continue sharing what is happening to them is of paramount importance.

Comic strip
Part of the Blackout book (Seri/Graph/PA)

For Jenya Polosina, 31, and Anna Ivanenko, 32, who work as editorial illustrators and are founders of the Seri/Graph visual studio in Kyiv, comics have allowed them to highlight life since the invasion.

Speaking to the PA news agency from the Ukrainian capital, Ms Polosina said: “Since our comics are pretty literal, it is more about using the medium of comics to communicate things we feel are necessary.

“All of our comics are in English because it’s our way to use our instrument of illustration to communicate outside of Ukraine something that we think is important.”

Comic strip
The book was created during a time of blackouts in Ukraine (Seri/Graph/PA)

Ms Ivanenko told PA: “We made a book about making a book during blackouts, and it was quite emotional because of the blackouts and problems with electricity last winter.

“The publishing house team we worked with was very involved with the process and helped us with some interviews.”

Ms Polosina added: “We also talked with the printing house about their struggles during blackout and we interviewed people in small villages.

Two women sitting together
Anna Ivanenko and Jenya Polosina (Anastasia Samoilenko/PA)

“The book was printed in hardcover during blackout in Kharkiv and they would have power for only a few hours in a row, and missile attacks, but still managed to complete all the printing in time, which was pretty incredible.”

Ms Polosina reflected on creating the pair’s first comic after the invasion while sheltering in an underground bomb shelter between February 24 and March 3 2022.

“We were in a shelter in Kyiv and our friend Sasha was in Bucha and we were communicating and doing comics at the same time, and we found doing this helpful for us to process what was happening,” she said.

Comic strip
The pair turned to comics to express how they felt (Seri/Graph/PA)

One conversation in the book shows Ms Polosina sending a message to her friend, which reads: “How are you? We had 10 aid raid alerts. Conveniently we were here already.”

Zhenya Oliinyk, 30, an illustrator and comic artist also based in Kyiv, told PA that although the second anniversary “doesn’t feel like a milestone as much as it did last year”, she still remembers vividly the day Russia launched its invasion.

She created a character – a blob with eyes, in different scenarios – to represent how she felt she could “not say anything, but could just observe”.

Woman looking to the side
Zhenya Oliinyk is an illustrator based in Kyiv (Natalia Azarkina/PA)

“I was pretty shocked for the first couple of days but, like a lot of my colleagues, we felt that drawing is a form of activism we can do,” she said.

“For me, I was stuck at home on the outskirts of Kyiv at the time, so there was not much I could really do because you couldn’t go to work any more, my ongoing commissions were on hold, so for the first couple of days we just watched the news constantly.

“I then started doing these tiny comics on small things that were happening around me and I couldn’t really draw any explosions or destruction because I luckily didn’t see it with my own eyes.”

Blob with eyes
The blob with eyes character Ms Oliinyk created (Zhenya Oliinyk/PA)

Other comics produced by Ms Oliinyk show a Russian solider with his trousers round his ankles, with the caption “Poor Russia soldier didn’t know what he was doing”, as well as burnt and destroyed infrastructure.

She moved from the outskirts of Kyiv to the centre of the Ukrainian capital in May 2022 and said through her comics, which often make use of humour, she can explain the war to people in a way that makes it more understandable.

One of Ms Oliinyk’s comics (Zhenya Oliinyk/PA)

“Russia is trying to destroy Ukrainian culture – they are very straightforward about it – and I would like people to remain curious about Ukraine,” she said.

More information about Seri/Graph can be found at and further information on Ms Oliinyk can be accessed at

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