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Women at War: 12 Ukrainian Artists

Ukraine: “Little Brother” No More

Since February 24th, 2022, when Putin gave the order to invade Ukraine and to bring Russia’s “little brother” back into the fold, Ukrainians have demonstrated their fierce resistance to being re-colonialized by Russia. They have begun a self-guided journey of liberation from Russian imperialism, a contemporary, Slavic version of the settler colonialism that ravaged the Americas. [1]

Women at War: 12 Ukrainian Artists is the passionate call to arms of a national liberation struggle being shaped in real time by the machinations of countless nations, each with its own geo-political agenda. Ukraine has been a Russian colony for centuries. With this current invasion, Putin continues the lineage of “brutal, expansionist dictators” – like Ivan the Terrible and Joseph Stalin – with his multiple, horrific wars in Chechnya, and attempts at dominance in Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

These former Soviet era territories were wellsprings of the political and economic wealth enjoyed by generations of Russian politicians and oligarchs. In Ukraine, the post-colonial struggle began in 2014, with the annexation of Crimea. It was no surprise that when Ukraine attempted to defend its independence by allying with the Western powers, Russia responded with brutal military force. 

The war has made crystal clear the impossibility of brotherhood as the so-called “Little Russian” sibling.[2] Today’s independent Ukraine is a former colony forcibly tasked with the struggle for decolonization. Women at War: 12 Ukrainian Artists pursues this Sisyphean task. The artists seek to subvert the colonial power by disentangling language, reclaiming memory, and aggressive de-Russification, Importantly, they call out rape as a signifier of imperial violence and colonial power.[3]

Women at War: 12 Ukrainian Artists, an exhibition by contemporary Ukrainian women artists, opens at Eastern Art Gallery at a time of extraordinary destruction and disruption in their country. Two of the exhibiting artists remain in Ukraine, others have only recently left the country. These artists proclaim their right to exist as Ukrainians under the shadow of the untold violence, destruction, and death Russia has inflicted. They echo the struggles of persecuted minorities around the globe whether Dalits in India, Uyghurs in China, or African Americans.

While in the West decolonization is a long-time subject of extensive theorizing, Ukrainian artists decolonize in full view of a global audience. We are yet to witness more provocative decolonial art making by the victims of war. As Ariella Azoulay teaches us about the effects of colonialization: “dealing with the damage and wound it leaves in people’s minds and bodies requires directing all resources from production to recovery. Imperialism cannot just be dumped, and you move on. It created huge material remains that we now have to ask how to decommission.”[4]

This war is a global warning in the face of rising imperial ambitions and quasi-imperial ethnic rivalries that deny the human rights of vast population groups. At Eastern we are grateful for the opportunity to serve as the first traveling venue for this exhibit, and to add our voices to the decolonizing aspirations of the Ukrainian people.

- Julia Tikhonova Wintner 2022

Curator's essay 

View Women at War: 12 Ukrainian Artists Exhibition
women_at_war.jpgView Women at War: 12 Ukrainian Artists Exhibition

Women at War Programs

Wednesday, September 14 | 3 PM

Katja Kolcio will present Resilience in Uncertain Times – Ukraine and the World through a multi-media presentation based on Somatic Methods for Resilience, a program which she developed in Ukraine over the past 8 years. Nadia Tarnawsky, Ukrainian-American singer of traditional Ukrainian folk music will join Kolcio’s presentation.

Thursday, September 15 | 4 PM; 3 PM, in-person artist talk by

Lesya Khomenko and Monika Fabijanska curator of WOMEN at WAR, walk-through.

Thursday, September 15 | 4 PM


Wednesday September 21 | 3 PM

Elaine Heumann Gurian will speak about the threat to Ukrainian cultural heritage caused by the Russian evasion. 250 museums and arts institutions have already been destroyed. Gurian is a former deputy director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This lecture will be presented via ZOOM. Meeting ID: 791 2966 2115 Passcode: vgJ9b8

Thursday September 22 | 2 PM

Aniko Szabo ECSU'05, Employment Services Manager at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), New Haven will speak about the important work IRIS is doing with immigrant communities. In the Art Gallery.

Wednesday September 28 | 2 PM

Jacob Cullers will present a lecture and slide presentation of his artworks. Culler’s art addresses the perspectives of his status as an artist veteran. Cullers received his MFA from the Glasgow Art School and served in the military. He experienced the realities of life in the warzone, and its aftermath. In the Art Gallery.

Wednesday October 12 | 3 PM

MAIYAH GAMBLE-RIVERS, ECSU’12, Assistant Director of Student Affairs at the School Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University will be moderating a conversation with an invited scholar. In the Art gallery.

Thursday October 13 | 9:30 AM

JEN BECK, ECSU English department instructor and STEVE LANE, co-founder of the Quiet Corner Refugee Resettlement (QCRR) group will speak in the Art Gallery on how the QCRR as a co-sponsor with Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) has resettled Syrian and Afghan refugees in the Willimantic area.


[1] Ivakhiv, Adrian. “Decolonialism and the Invasion of Ukraine.” e-Flux notes,  23 March 2022,, accessed on

[2] “Little Russian” was the condescending imperial term for the Ukrainian lands. Daria Badior, “Why We Need a Post-Colonial Lens to Look at Ukraine and Russia.” Hyperallergic, 9 March 2022,

[3] Biedarieva, Svitlana. “Decolonization and Disentanglement in Ukrainian Art.” Post Notes on Art in a Global Context. 2 June 2022,

[4] Filipa Lowndes Vicente. Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Unlearning, An interview with Ariella Aïsha Azoulay.