First I heard of Tanya Vorontsova on a Facebook group for Romanians trying to help Ukrainians fleeing the war. She was trying to sell a few paintings, and her message caught my eye. Not only because it was unusual, but also because of an underlying despair.
I messaged Tanya and asked about her story. Through broken English and partial responses, I think I have reconstructed most of her story since February: she is a commission painter based in Kharkiv but was in St Petersburg when war broke out. Unable to go back to Kharkiv and afraid to stay in St Petersburg, she headed for Finland and lived for a couple of months in a refugee camp outside Helsinki. With no access to her studio or her paintings back home, with no tools or materials to keep painting, and only three canvases in her luggage, I cannot begin to imagine what life must look like.
I offered to send her some money. She said no, but accepted that I'd buy a painting from her. My favorite, the portrait of Volodymyr Zelensky you can see here, was back in Kharkiv, so she had to redo it. I send her half of the money before, the other half on delivery. I hope it helped.
And yesterday I received the painting, which I absolutely love.
Tanya is currently in a refugee camp near Zurich. I didn't understand why she had to leave Helsinki, my understanding is she is trying to reunite with her son, then move to Canada together. I wish I could help her more. So here's what I'm gonna do:
I will start an auction for the portrait of Volodymyr Zelensky, from today until 1 August. It's oil on canvas, 100 x 70 cm. All of the money will be used to help Ukrainian artists fleeing from war. Biddings will be received on multiple channels, but I will keep them all updated with the current front-runner. The auction starts at £1,000. The price of postage and packaging will be added to the final offer.
Please spread the word. And if you're not interested in Zelensky's portrait, please check Tanya's other work: https://www.instagram.com/vorontsovaart/
You can also buy t-shirts with the painting, get in touch with Tanya directly if you want to: https://www.instagram.com/p/CbzTqJNMw_S/
Needless to say, all the money will go a long way towards helping someone rebuild their life.