With every stroke of his paint brush, Vladymyr Naumenkov pours his heart onto the canvas.
- Vladymyr Naumenkov and his wife Valentyna fled their home in Ukraine in early March
- The pair resettled with their daughter in Warrnambool after a 22-day journey
- Mr Naumenkov is donating his art to a charity auction to raise money for those who remain in Ukraine
The 70-year-old artist and his wife Valentyna are among a number of displaced Ukrainians currently calling the south-west Victorian city of Warrnambool home.
The pair escaped their home town of Mykolaiv amid a rain of gunfire and shelling early last month, commencing a torrid 22-day trek through Europe before finally arriving in Australia.
The toll of war was written across their tired faces when they finally met their daughter Olena Naumenkova at her home in regional Victoria.
“It was really terrible, they would call us between the shelling and bombs,” Ms Naumenkova said.
“It was very unsafe to stay here so they decided to go very quickly.”
For Mr Naumenkov, the move was world shattering.
He left behind the family home, a lifetime of work and memories, and many dear friends.
When he arrived in Australia, Mr Naumenkov said something unique hit him straight away.
“He says they were very surprised from silence, because they last few days they feel such big tension always expecting explosions,” his daughter translated.
From little things, big things grow
In Ukraine, Mr Naumenkov was an artist.
When Ms Naumenkova asked a friend for any spare art supplies, she was soon inundated with paints, canvases, easels and brushes.
All had been donated by locals after a social media call-out went viral locally.
“There’s no doubting the people of Warrnambool,” Ms Naumenkova said, wiping a tear.
There are currently seven displaced Ukrainians calling Warrnambool home, a number expected to increase significantly once appropriate visas are sourced.
The city has already hosted memorials, talent shows and music nights all to raise money for hospitals and other organisations in Ukraine.
Winslow wool grower Brendan Finnegan’s merino product is normally snapped up by Italy’s top fashion houses.
This year, he’s donating the best cut to a charity auction, with all the funds going to Ukrainians caught up in Russia’s war.
“I’ve got eight grandchildren and probably won’t worry me, but for the next 50 or 60 years, if Russia prevails, it’s going to have an effect on their life,” Mr Finnegan said.
What can be done?
Since his arrival in Warrnambool, Mr Naumenkov has produced a dozen landscapes.
Some are of his hometown in Ukraine, others of Victoria’s southern coastline.
Each is simply signed “refugee”; a nom de plume he’s recently taken on.
They’re set to go under the hammer at an art auction in Warrnambool as part of the local humanitarian fundraising effort.
But as his daughter explains, for Mr Naumenkov, no amount of painting will be enough.
“But it makes him feel better to do something useful, to do something to help.
“Sometimes, it’s all we can do.”