“You can’t begin too soon to encourage an appreciation of art! And each artwork has a story.”
As the world’s attention is focused on the continuing tragedy of the war in Gaza, due to today’s short media attention span, the devasting ongoing war in Ukraine is often forgotten.
For this week’s Baba’s Art School, it seemed timely to introduce the grandkids to a wonderful painting in my collection by the artist Valentina Nekrash. It is of the magnificent St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine. UNESCO has now put the cathedral on the list of endangered world heritage sites.
This painting was presented to me during the early days following the fall of the former Soviet Union, towards the end of a period known as “Perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (openness). The artist made the presentation at the end of a press conference in Moscow, Russia in February 1991, following my announcement of the provision of 4 million Bibles in the languages of Russian and Ukrainian. Working with church denominations in Russia and Ukraine at that time (Russian Orthodox Church, Baptist, Pentecostal), the initiative was called “The Moscow Project,” through which millions of Bibles were provided after having been forbidden for almost 70 years during the Communist era.
What a surprise it was to be presented this beautiful painting as an expression of their gratitude. Among the photos attached are photos of the press conference held in Moscow in February 1991, a distribution planning meeting in Kiev, as well pallets of Bibles at the warehouse in Kiev. In attendance at the press conference was one of my heroes, Fr. Gleb Yakunin, the now late Russian Orthodox priest and human rights activist (see the attached photo of him writing his speech). It was a profoundly inspiring time.
St. Sophia’s Cathedral is one of the most majestic sacred spaces in the world. Pray for Ukraine!
Valentina Nekrash, “St. Sophia Cathedral,” 1989
Oil on canvas, 72 x 45 cm