An exhibition of artwork made by Ukrainian refugee children was opened Sunday at the complex of St. James' Cathedral in Riga. Hosted by Archbishop Zbigņev Stankevičs, the event was attended by several ambassadors to Latvia.
“This initiative of [the] Catholic Church of Latvia managed to unite Latvian society - government bodies, businesses and private citizens in the name of children, love and support for one another,” the Archbishop of Riga told CNA.
“It was amazing that we also hosted an international audience - 14 Ambassadors in Latvia,” Archbishop Stankevičs added.
The archbishop gave an opening speech at the May 8 event. Among those in attendence were his auxiliary, Bishop Andris Kravalis; Father Roman Sapuzhak of the Greek-Catholic parish in Riga; and Olexandr Mischenko, Ukraine's Ambassador to Latvia.
“In spite of all horrors that those children went through those works have no feeling of revenge, fear or hatred in them. They are full of kindness and hope,” Archbishop Stankevičs said during his opening speech.
Mischenko thanked the Catholic Church in Latvia for its warm welcome and heartfelt support for the children, who had lost so much.
Gabriella Cabiere, an art historian who is curating the exhibition, spoke about Ukraine's future and the artistic talent of the children.
The opening night included a live concert to give the children and their families “an evening to remember and for a few hours to take their minds off of the horrors happening in their homeland,” the Archdiocese of Riga said.
The exhibit includes art made since March by more than 200 children who have come to Latvia following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The works “show so much pain but also tenacity, spirit and hope. Those works of art are talking to us and bringing real life, unadulterated emotions of children that went through horror,” a representative of the Riga archdiocese said.
The artworks include tanks and experiences of the war, but also homes and pets that were left behind.
“Those families are in a great need of our help not only physical but also emotional. They need to know that they are not alone in this war but that the whole world is behind them and with them. Those children are the future of their country,” the archdiocese reflected.
The opening was a “special moment” for the archdiocese because the Church had extended an invitation to the diplomatic corps in Riga “and received an overwhelming response, now they’re coming together to show unity of support to Ukrainian people.”
The exhibit is being supported by the administration of Latvian president Egils Levits; Latvian National Opera; Latvia Puppet Theatre; Riga Cinema; as well as several local restaurants and shops. These businesses and institutions donated presents given to the artist children.
“Latvian businesses came together to show succour to Ukrainian people and especially most vulnerable - the children. The whole county showed unity in supporting Ukrainian people,” the Riga archdiocese said.
The exhibit has been organized by Caritas Latvija and the Church in the country. It will remain open until May 23 with free admission. Donations will be used to maintain the children's art studio.