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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

Ukrainian artists: Oleg Tistol

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

My dear Ukrainian friend Halyna makes veggie borsch for me. She also makes kapusta (red cabbage), Olivier (Russian) salad and blinis, which we eat with smoked salmon and lashings of smetana (sour cream). She feeds me her food in the same way she does everything: with generosity and pride. Every time she cooks is a bit special because that's when she talks about her childhood memories, her late parents and their life on a farm in what was then the USSR.

No cooking today, she had been up all night listening to the news. It was the first time in the 25 years that I have known her that she looked tired, her eyes sunken and red. We sat in the sun and we talked for over an hour. I let her talk, there wasn't much I could or wanted to say. Her 62 year old brother Vasha is a reservist, he lives in Lviv. We video-called him and he told us he's ready to fight and die if that's his fate, but that no one is going to take away their freedom. I just sat there and listened, nodding and trying to muster a sympathetic smile as if it made any difference to anyone. The man is 62 and he's ready to die to defend his country. These people are made of different stuff.

I love this picture, I often find food paintings intimate and joyful. They speak to our connectedness to our roots, they are a solid expression of our identity. Oleg Tistol painted something simple yet meaningful with genuine enthusiasm and vibrant colours. I get lost in those swirls as I think of the humbling courage of the Ukrainian people.

Oleg Tistol

Borsch, 2011

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