Skip to content

In Warsaw, art brings solace and hope to Ukrainian refugees (Paul Waldie, Globe and Mail)

Article by Paul Waldie, Published on March 2, 2023 in the Globe and Mail

Read the full article:


Every couple of weeks about a dozen refugees gather around a painting or a sculpture. For up to an hour, Sofia Riabchuck guides them through a conversation about the piece and what the artist was trying to convey. Participants are encouraged to talk about what they see in the artwork and how it makes them feel.

“I don’t call it therapy,” Riabchuk explained. “I just call it ‘slow looking’. We talk about, let’s say, a painting, without knowing anything. And I just provoke them to describe what they see. If the topic is about feelings … we are looking for this, for some feelings.”

Riabchuk can relate to the people who attend the sessions. She fled Kyiv with her three young children when the war started. They lived briefly in Lviv, in western Ukraine, and then moved to Warsaw at the encouragement of Polish friends. “I remember a great fatigue, that was the worst part,” she said of her first weeks in Poland. “I was so exhausted physically that I could not function more than a few hours a day.”