The French street artist JR has created a photographic installation in Ukraine that has been turned into a cover for Time magazine. The huge 148ft photo is of five-year-old Ukrainian refugee Valeriia, who has become a symbol of resilience during the war. The print was revealed in Lviv, a city close to the Polish border, which has been flooded with refugees and is now being hit by shells.
Yesterday, JR tweeted the cover image, saying: “This little girl is the future and, in this war, she reminds us what Ukrainians are fighting for." He also posted a hypnotic 15-second video of the photo of Valeriia being unfurled on the square. It is held up by more than 100 people outside the National Opera in Lviv.
In contrast to photos of refugees in a desperate plight, JR’s image captures the exuberance of the young girl, which also conveys the spirit that has strengthened Ukrainians in their fight.
According to the French edition of Vanity Fair, JR came to Lviv for the project along with his friend, the French actor and director Mathieu Kassovitz, who was in Ukraine in 2014 to film The Bureau, a political thriller series in which he stars. “We quickly understood that we were dealing with people who were ultra-nationalists but in a good way," Kassovitz says. "That is to say that they are proud of their country and that they absolutely want to protect it.” He added that if he did not have children he would join Ukrainians in the war: "If we don't fight to prevent this from happening, we will all be victims of it," he says.
Another powerful installation in the city today, reportedly carried out by locals, sees 109 baby strollers lined up on Lviv’s central square to represent the number of children who have so far been killed in the war. “And there are thousands more heavily injured and traumatised…,” wrote Inna Sovsun, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, in a tweet of the image.
Earlier this month an image by photojournalist Francesco Malavolta of strollers left by Polish mothers for Ukrainian women crossing with children at the border in Prsemysl, Poland, went viral.