A Bookaholic and Bibliophile in Ukraine
A favorite piece in my Bibliophemera collection is an unused postcard illustrated by Ukrainian artists Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv. It features two interesting, whimsical creatures embracing each other while maintaining engagement with their books. Cat-like and bird-like, one in high heels and one barefoot, one with a long tail and prominent ears and one with tail feathers and no visible ears, both with beaks, and both with books. They can’t put their books down even in this intimate moment. Appropriately, they are labeled Bookaholic and Bibliophile. Might they even be an imaginative rendering of the artists themselves?
Romana and Andriy were both born in Lviv, Ukraine in 1984 and continue to live and work there. The illustration on the postcard is a fitting depiction of their artistic lives where books and their illustrations comprise their passion for illustration, book design, and writing. Together, they started Art Studio Agrafka in Lviv where they have produced award-winning books and illustrations.
Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and military conflict in Eastern Ukraine motivated the two artists to respond with a children's book about war. They wanted to help parents talk to their kids about the subject in a way that might help them understand some of what they may have experienced. On the blog Picturebook Makers by dPictus, Romana and Andriy discuss how their picture book about war enolved.
As I write this, February 25th, 2022, day two of a Russian military assault on Ukraine is coming to a close. Lviv in far western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, is not under siege at the moment, but the future for the entire country and even the region is uncertain. What is certain is that they will not escape the war's effect on their country and its people. I wish them the best in the worst of times upon them now.
How will this war shape their art? Perhaps one day they will produce another picture book on their and their country's experiences. How tragic that events have conspired to even imagine another such book.
An informative article on the two artists and their collaborative process is here.