On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25, 2022, the Museo Novecento renews its commitment against gender discrimination through the project ST. JAVELIN, Julia Krahn‘s latest photographic series, in which the artist invites Ukrainian refugee women to tell the story through images and interviews.
Monday – Sunday
The project takes its name from St. Javelin, an image born and spread during the war in Ukraine which depicts the Madonna holding an anti-tank missile, the javelin, symbol of resistance, in her arms. The new iconography of an armed mother overturns that of Mary holding her Son in her arms, bringing to mind death and violence rather than life and love.
Ten flags bearing portraits of Ukrainian refugee women will be installed in the external loggia of the Museo Novecento, sort of secular icons that impose themselves on the space with all the strength and dignity of the message they convey, a message of resistance and peace.
Within the photographic series there is also a self-portrait of the artist, immortalized while holding her weapon, the camera, in her hand, who invites the refugees to do the same, describing their weapons of daily resistance, made to build and never to destroy.
“My name is Marina and I am thirty-two years old. I am from Vinnytsia in Western Ukraine. Before the war I became a mother for the second time. When we escaped from the bombs, the youngest girl was only four months old. I drove for four days and crossed four different countries to get to Italy. The rest of the family remained in Ukraine. Every morning I call my husband and parents hoping to hear their voices, to know they are still alive. That morning of February 24, my mother’s phone call woke us up: “The war has broken out!”. It was four in the morning. Eight cruise missiles went over our heads. That dull sound of explosions, I’ll never, ever forget!
I miss normal days so much, family evenings, that simple serenity, hugs from my parents. I hope that soon we will arrive in front of the house with my children and my husband will be there waiting for us: we will hug each other tighter, more often. In the future I want to meet friends and family as often as I can. We will get busy and rebuild our country but you must understand that first there must be peace. The whole world must make an effort so that what we see now never happens again!
Anyone who hasn’t experienced it cannot understand what it means not to survive despair. When you are surrounded by bombs, anxiety and fear consume you. Anyone who has not heard the explosions near their home is unlikely to understand all the pain that the Ukrainian people are experiencing. We are so grateful to those who welcomed us. Here in Sorrento we have calmed down because we feel safe, but the mind always goes to our loved ones who are over there, among the bombs. Concern for friends and family never subsides.”
4 May 2022
“My name is Juliana, I am twenty-seven years old. I live with my two children in the Chernivtsi region near the mountains of the same name. Before the war I had a lot to do in the pastry shop. To reach the border I had to walk 5 kilometers with the children, and then thirty hours by bus to Italy. All my relatives remained in Ukraine and although we are in constant contact with them, I am in great pain. I’ve never left them this long.
The day before the war, I was doing my job, as usual. On February 24 my life was divided into before and after. It seems to me that I have erased from my memory everything that was before, those carefree and happy days. Since February 24 I just hope this horror ends soon. That morning we woke up abruptly and hurriedly got ready to hide in a bomb shelter. Every day I feel overwhelmed by so many emotions; the sense of uncertainty is what scares me the most.
My heart aches for every child killed, for every person, for the thousands of them through no fault of their own. It looks like a horror movie. My brain refuses to believe that this is reality, that such a thing is possible, but I firmly believe in the good. I’m sure it will all be over soon and we will be back to meet our relatives, we will go back to our homes!”
18 May 2022
“My name is Aleksandra I come from Rivne, north-western Ukraine. I am twenty seven years old and have a seven year old son. Before the war I had a job that I liked, at the reception desk of a large hotel with a restaurant.
On February 28, that is the fourth day of the war, we took the car and went to my relatives in Ivano-Frankivsk, to get closer to the border.
The next day we left by bus for Wroclaw in western Poland. We arrived at the border at seven in the morning. We had to wait fifteen hours because there were more than eight buses lined up with women and children. At midnight we reached our destination. I had booked plane tickets and room for my son and I already from Ukraine. Getting off the bus, I found a taxi that took us to the hostel. We stayed in Poland for three nights and finally on March 8th we took the plane to Naples. Now I live in Meta di Sorrento. My whole family was already here in Italy, apart from my grandmother who wanted to stay in Ukraine. We always spoke on the phone, but I only calmed down after hearing his voice.
The day the war started I was living my usual routine, like everyone else. Until the end we all believed that it could never happen. After all, we have always lived in times of peace.
I remember the eerie sound of the sirens and the crowding of people in the shelter, confused and overexcited at the same time. I remember that to come to Italy there was a checkpoint at every crossroads in the city, with endless checks until departure.
I miss meeting friends and relatives. I know it will never be the same again. Some of them went to fight, some died and some are never heard from again. I moved to another country like the people I’ve spent most of my life with. None of us know if we will see each other again.
My son and I took only the necessary: some clothes and documents, all crammed into a small suitcase. Then I took up my cross; I wouldn’t go anywhere without it. My child and I always repeat it to ourselves: it is our amulet, which has protected us from everything bad that we could have encountered on the journey.
You know what I think? That the restoration of peace and tranquility must begin above all with the human soul. Peace is a great value, the object of our hopes towards which all people should strive. The first act of war is intolerance towards others, towards differences. It is what leads to the desire for omnipotence and domination. It is born in the heart of man, from selfishness, pride and hatred that distort the vision of the world and place it in a different, negative light. Mistrust and fear damage relationships between people and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to peaceful relationships. We all come from a common origin: God. We must make an act of will to restore calm. Peace must start from each of us.
I must confess that in the near future I imagine myself rich, I’m not ashamed to say it. Rich not only on the material level, but with a life full of events, great achievements, with the pleasant worries of every day. I will get rich looking for new friends, with the family I already have close to me, in complete safety. I imagine myself happy, with a confident smile, because I trust that everything will be fine. I dream, like everyone else, that in my country there is no more war, that people do not die. I know that not all my dreams will come true at once, but I want to imagine that in a month in my life there will be no more these tears of pain and misery!
Everyone should understand that war affects everyone’s life deeply. In an instant everything can change. Anyone with plans or ambitions or dreams for the future finds themselves having to put them in the background. When bullets fly in your homeland, bombs explode and missiles hit residential buildings, you only think about surviving and staying healthy, and the future has no more certainties to hold on to. Instead, everyone should be able to have faith in tomorrow. In any case, it is necessary to review the values our lives, wherever we are. Because today in the world we don’t pay enough attention to what instead, in extraordinary moments like a war, becomes fundamental. Love, attention and sensitivity towards others, towards those around us.
I just fail to understand how the men and women of the 21st century fail to resolve issues peacefully, without tears or bloodshed and death. God has given everyone the right to life. The time we have is so short. Are we sure we want to waste it between conflicts and wars, instead of living it in mutual understanding and harmony?
When I was at home at the start of the war, I went from fear to despair to anxiety and finally to uncertainty. Sensations that I had never fully experienced before. The feeling of helplessness was terrible, not even knowing where to go or what to do.
Now I feel much better. I sleep more peacefully knowing that all my relatives are safe near me. I am grateful to the country that gave me refuge and to all those people who I felt like me, who supported me in that difficult moment. They have supported me and helped me to stabilize my state of mind, to regain confidence and points of reference, to resume a direction in my life, which allows me to understand what I must do to have a better tomorrow!”
19 May 2022
“My name is Kira and I’m six years old, I came to Sorrento with my mother Olena and I met Julia who came to our house with a yellow balloon. I tied it to my hand so it wouldn’t fly away. Afterwards she invited us to take pictures of her in the studio. I had a lot of fun. He painted me all blue with one spray and mom sent the wind into my hair.
The shower wasn’t exactly hot afterward, but that’s okay.
I really liked the photography, also mum and dad and also our friends.”
21 May 2022
“My name is Olga. I am from Kiev and I am seventy-four years old. In Ukraine, I did housework. I have a daughter and three grandchildren. One of them stayed there. We traveled first by train and then on two buses: a total of four days. We now live in Southern Italy. I too, who had never traveled before.
I can’t imagine the next few months, even the next few days, with my nephew there. Luckily I hear it on the phone.
That morning I woke up at five to the sound of explosions. There was no more peace. We cannot prepare for all this. It catches you off guard.
Since that day the anxiety has been constant; concern for those who are trapped or on the front line. Only after an absolute victory will it be possible to restore peace.
Who knows what happened to the flowers on my balcony. They were so beautiful.
War doesn’t just leave buildings destroyed. Even the living are destroyed, just because someone wanted to.”
17 May 2022
“My name is Sasha and I’m twenty-one. I’m from Kiev, the city where before the war I worked, danced, talked with friends and made plans for the future. I’m still in Ukraine but I intend to leave for Italy in summer. Now I live in a village near Luc’k. The rest of my family is already in Italy, but my father and grandfather stayed here. Sometimes we talk. Everything seems to be fine there.
On February 23, before the war broke out, I drew all night and planned to go to work the next morning. Instead I woke up at five in the morning with a loud explosion. It was a Russian rocket that fell a hundred meters from our house. A few hours later, people started leaving the city, but we sat there and didn’t know what to do. In the evening, my boyfriend, my grandmother and my brother went to spend the night in a bomb shelter. It was very strange and psychologically difficult. We spent ten days there. I was always scared at night. In the afternoon, on the other hand, we went home to eat and feed the cat, to rest a bit, because sleeping on the floor was physically tiring, especially for the elderly.
We no longer have faith in tomorrow, we no longer believe that everything will work out. I miss chatting with friends and family but we have to adapt. I also miss the subway, as strange as it sounds. My cat, the possibility of going downtown, parties organized by my friends. Material things, on the other hand, are less important.
First of all, I would like peace, even if it seems so difficult now. When you see your people mocked and innocent people killed it’s impossible to step aside and convince yourself that all is well. War is terrible but everyone can help. Who with material aid, who with moral solidarity. Anything can make the world around us better, otherwise we can go crazy. Thoughts have a very strong effect on our reality. Fortunately, there are now many free services, such as foreign language learning and psychological assistance. Anything can be useful, even starting to do what you used to constantly put off.
I don’t know if it makes sense to plan something now, but I sincerely believe that I will go to Italy with my family. But first I want to go back to Kiev, see my friends, go dancing, do what I’ve always dreamed of.
I’ve always said that we, as a species, don’t deserve such a beautiful Earth, which provides us with everything we need to live and enjoy our existence. Now I just think that I am very grateful to our defenders, to the volunteers, to the people who do everything for the safety of us ordinary citizens. All of this is priceless.
There is an aggressor, Russia, and its propaganda knows no bounds. Your government, which says false things about the Ukrainian people, has no right to exist. It is something that is really difficult to fight, because Russia is deliberately destroying its people so that they don’t have time to think about what is happening, even outside their borders. Only a tiny percentage of people ask, “If the whole world is against us right now, are we really right?” People move forward by inertia and do not want to use their brains to analyze the situation. It shouldn’t be like that. Everyone has the right to choose. What Russian soldiers are doing to our people is unacceptable, horrible. There is no explanation. I will never understand how a person can sink into such an abyss. No animal is violent for fun. Those aren’t people. People have souls. This is not politics, this is genocide. The worst thing is that innocent people are dying. I can’t accept it.
At home I felt safe, of course, before the war started. Now it’s hard to imagine a safe place, because we don’t know where the next rocket will land. But I think we will soon be able to feel safe again, wherever we are.
Now I feel like I’m on an emotional seesaw. The body and brain have already adapted to the circumstances. I am now in a quiet place where there is no hostility going on. Yet sometimes it hurts, there’s an emptiness in my soul that I can’t even explain. So in these moments it is important to ask for help. Not only is it right but it is very valuable.”
21 July 2022
“My name is Elena. I was born thirty-eight years ago in Kiev where I worked as a real estate agent. It seems impossible now that the buildings are destroyed. But how could this happen in 2022!
I arrived here with my daughter. By car we went through Hungary, Slovakia and Austria. Here in Italy we have found our friends, but the rest of the family is over there.
You understand? In Ukraine there are my husband, my father, my brother, my two uncles, a cousin and my two grandmothers. I can’t go even a day without hearing from them.
When the war broke out it was just another day. I was supposed to do routine things. And yet there was nothing left. Grief for the family and for all of us Ukrainians overwhelmed everything. It seems trivial, but moments with family are what I miss the most. Right now it seems to me the hardest thing to achieve.
Peace will come from our victory. Without victory there will never be peace.
Who knows if I’ll still be here in a month, or in two. I want to stay in my house. I always tell my daughter: we have to be strong so that it never happens again, we have to remember all those who helped us.”
12 May 2022
“I took the liberty of wearing blue like the women I portray, precisely because I perceive my profession as a very important weapon against war.
Culture is like a fertile land where life grows well. Art has always created bridges between different worlds and thoughts. He knows how to go beyond war. It is witness, memory but also revolution, vital energy.
These last few weeks I’ve been like this, all blue.
I suffer with women and their country. I also try to protect myself, mostly from the media and ignorance. But I’m not afraid. I defend myself with what I know how to do, my art, the self-timer. Because to look at the world with open eyes, I think we must first look inside, deeply.”
18 May 2022
“My name is Karina, I am twelve years old. I come from Kropyvnytsky.
My family consists of me, dad, mom and two sisters, Kristina and Eva.
Before the war I went to school every day: I was in the fifth grade. In the afternoon I took piano and dance lessons. Then in my free time I went horse riding. My favorite horse is called «Molniya» which means lightning.
When we left, my mum had promised me that we would only stay in Italy for two or three months. But as soon as we arrived she told me the truth, that is that we won’t be returning until the end of the war. Ukraine is four days from here, between train and bus. Now we live in the Sacred Heart Institute in Sant’Agata, where the nuns have hosted us. My mother and sister live here with me, while my half-sister stays with her mother in Germany. My father stayed in Ukraine to defend our home.
There are my aunt and my two cousins and also my animals. My little dogs Chelsea and Persyk.
I miss everyone so much.
Mom says they risk their lives every day and have to hide during the air raid raids.
I was supposed to go to school on February 24th. My mom woke up my sister and me announcing the start of the war. He told us to put the indispensable things in a bag and that we could only take one of the things we cared about a lot. Afterwards we collected the food in boxes, to have something to eat in case we were forced to flee. That day we did not know if we would survive.
There were five of us: me, my sister, two of my cousins and the neighbour’s baby. My parents made us hide in the corridor and then run under the piano. They put warm blankets on us and then sealed all the windows with tape and other blankets.
I miss my horse and my dogs so much. I love animals very much.
By now I understood that the war won’t end right away and I won’t be going home soon, so I’m adjusting to living in Italy. The war taught me not to think too far ahead. Schools and all other educational structures must be repaired immediately and children must be taught good, because war is evil and only brings pain. In war people kill other people and cause terrible feelings. When I was in Ukraine I was afraid that the war would come inside my room, so now that I’m safe I should be calm. But I really miss my home.”
16 October 2022
“My name is Natalia, I am thirty-five years old. I come from the beautiful city Kropyvnytsky. Before the war I had a wonderful career in GK «Naftogas» (gas company «petrolgas»), my favorite company. In the evenings I went to dance or sometimes volunteer and most importantly I was happy to raise my two little girls.
I’ve thought about going to Italy since the first day of the war, but I couldn’t leave my home, my life, my country. So we lived on air raid alarms for four and a half months. Then with my husband we decided to let our daughters go away. The worst thing is that I took them away by telling them a lie. I promised that we would stay in Italy for a few months, but as soon as we arrived I confessed the truth: we will stay here until the end of the war. Now we live with nuns who have hosted us.
My husband who serves in the Armed Forces of Ukraine remained at home. I’m very worried about my sister and my nephews, but I can’t get them to come to me. I hear them every day.
The morning the war started, I woke up to a loud noise. I started making coffee and turned on the TV. On the TG they were reporting the bombing of Kiev. At the same time a military plane flew over our house. It was flying very low, it was terrible. I called my sister and told her to bring the children to me. That day felt like being in the middle of a fog. I can’t forget when they bombed our city. It was five in the morning. A succession of explosions, the phone ringing. I hid the children and ran to get my neighbor and her son. As soon as I exited the gate I heard another loud explosion. I got down and stayed on the ground for a long time. It was terrible.
I miss the clear days, those weekends when we went somewhere with my family, once a walk in the city center, another time in the park. I also miss my pillow, I always took it with me on trips.
Peace will only come when people understand that life is more important than oil, than territories. The war made me realize that you have to live day by day.
I’m trying to adapt to the Italian culture, but it’s very difficult. Especially when you have two university degrees but you have to do simple jobs, you lost your job at home and your whole life fits into a single suitcase.”
16 October 2022
“My name is Gaia. I was born in Kiev thirty-eight years ago. I came to Italy with my two children, Micha and Anna. Before the war, I mainly took care of my little Anna, but I had plans to go back to school. I always managed to carve out some time for books and prepared for the entrance exams to study biology.
On February 24, when we heard the bombing of Kiev, we moved to my mother’s house who lives in a small village near Chernihiv, on the border with Belarus. We were sure it wouldn’t last long, instead an endless nightmare began. We couldn’t get out anymore. We stayed there for three weeks. Then we finally joined a convoy of twenty-five cars. We were divided into five groups.
We passed through the secondary roads, the woods, the dirt roads. We had to be very careful with mines. We could have blown up at any moment. So one group always started first and, if nothing happened, waited for the next group further on. This trickle lasted six hours, the time it took us to cover 80 kilometres. As soon as we got out of the minefield we started having to hide from the missiles. Whenever we heard that hissing approach, we had to run as fast as possible out of the cars and take cover in the clearing.
In the last stretch, however, we crossed an immense field where the Russian tanks had previously passed. The ground was filled with ditches created by the weight of the crawlers. Our normal cars wouldn’t have been able to cross them but luckily the previous night it had been -15 degrees and the fields were frozen. The leader of the convoy had been very clear: we would have had to cross that expanse as quickly as possible and if we had entered a ditch we would have had to abandon the car and continue on foot.
Thus we managed to get to Kiev. The next day we left for Mohyliv-Podil’s’kyj, to our relatives. After another two days we took the bus from Chernivtsi to Krakow. Then with my children I took a plane to Bari and a bus to Naples where my friend Natalya was waiting for me. Now I live with her, in Sorrento. We have known each other for twenty-five years. She is my best friend, almost a sister. When she left the Ukraine to come here, we wrote letters to each other all the time. There were no cell phones then. Fortunately, today I can hear from the rest of my family who remained in Ukraine: my husband, my mother, my sisters.
That morning comes back to me over and over again. I couldn’t believe there was a war going on. I kept repeating to myself all the time: “It is absolutely not possible”. I wish I could forget those last moments inside my house when, from the explosions, everything seemed to come down with us inside. The house looked like it was made of paper; he trembled as we trembled with fear.
Until the information is truthful, peace will not be possible. Until we read correct news, there is no hope for peace. Because even those soldiers who kill do it for an ideal, wrong yes, but an ideal nonetheless. Only after arriving at their destination do they discover that they have been sent to war, but it is too late by now.
This war is not like World War II, when you couldn’t communicate. Today we know
and we see everything. The evidence cannot be denied. We can no longer solve the great world problems with war. If before without direct testimonies there could have been wrong interpretations of the facts, now with everything we are witnessing, with the images that go around the world it is no longer possible.
It’s all under our eyes. You can’t pretend not to see.
How do you understand such an absurd fact: a free person who kills another who thinks he is free and speaks of freedom. People who kill are never free.
Having an ideal of liberation that leads to killing a person in one’s home, by killing civilians and children or by torturing. I really want to cry! I feel so helpless.
In any case, I hope that everything will soon be over and that we will return home and to school and that we will come here to Natalia’s only for the holidays. But for now we stay here and wait. At least until September and then we’ll decide. I want to take some time out and not think about anything for a while. Everything changes every day and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We can’t live like this anymore.
We miss everyday life so much. Taking the kids to school, the little things in short. I miss making plans for holidays, parties, our lives. How I miss stability! The school for my children. You realize I don’t even know where they’ll be studying next year.
After going through this pain nothing will ever be the same again.
We appreciate all that we previously took for granted. What we thought was precious has disappeared and what we didn’t give importance to is now so essential. Peace for example.
Even though I live here, under a beautiful cloudless blue sky, together with my family, my heart mourns for the people who stayed there, in my house.”
23 May 2022
A second installation will be created in the internal loggia on the first floor of the museum, where the Die Taube series will be exhibited, which presents eight photographs printed on affiches and reproduced in large format.
In Die Taube the artist returns to the sacred theme of the Last Supper, to which she has been dedicated since 2010, and through the metamorphosis of a pigeon into a white dove, then stained with an intense red, she retraces the practice of ancient sacrifices. The images, thanks to an immediate spiritual appeal and Christian symbolism, establish a lively dialogue with the loggia, in the past dedicated to retreat and meditation, and at the same time invoke, like the Ukrainian women portrayed in the sails on the ground floor, a clear message of hope, transformation and passage towards a new coexistence.
She is a German multidisciplinary artist. She was born in Jülich in 1978 and grew up in Aachen in Germany. To devote herself completely to art, she left her medical studies and moved to Milan where she lives and works. During the lockdown she opens her new studio in Santa Lucia, in the center of Sorrento. Her research questions the permeability of the gaze between the identity of the artist and the viewer. She redefines everyday objects and symbols of the past with photographs that present an ambiguous fluidity: rather than recounting the passage of time or building a story, they crystallize, transforming from a liquid into a solid state, the fragments of a private and secret reality. Her work reflects on the lost or unbalanced values of society, family and religion, to the point of bringing the lens to images that lead back to Christian icons.
Un ringraziamento speciale all’Associazione I Penultimi e Galleria Giampaolo Abbondio.
1978, Jülich, Germany
Scientific Coordination and Organization
Elisa Di Lupo