War refugee Artem, 11, creates t-shirt from 'all the children of Ukraine'


Artem (left) smiling with his printed self portrait on a t-shirt, while Olena Kovalchuck (right) wears the t-shirt displaying her son's drawing. - Credit: Olena Kovalchuck

An 11-year-old Ukrainian refugee now living in Norfolk has turned his artistic talent into an anti-war message he hopes will make a difference.

Artem Kovalchuk is living in Ellingham with mum Olena, 39, after they had to flee wartorn Kyiv two months ago.

The family did not initially know where they would end up, but have now found a home in Norfolk and want to do their bit to stop the conflict.

Mrs Kovalchuk said: "The search for a place to stay began during difficult nights under sirens in the western part of Ukraine after we left Kyiv, where we stayed with Artem's aunt. 

"The program 'Home for Ukraine' helped us leave and get into the UK."

Speaking of her new surroundings, Mrs Kovalchuck, said: "It is very beautiful and peaceful where we are staying and the family we are staying with have been so kind and lovely, we are very lucky.

"When you feel the warmth and support of both the owners of the house where you live and the whole country we then felt ready to overcome the stress of an uncertain future."

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Now Artem has put his creative talents to good use, creating a t-shirt he wants to sell to raise funds for the anti-war effort.

The image on the t-shirt is a self-portrait drawn in the first days of the war while Artem and his mum were still in Kyiv and all they had were bags of clothes and a pen and paper.


The original drawing by Artem with a regular ballpoint pen on the morning of 24th February. - Credit: Olena Kovalchuck

Artem hopes he and his mum can print more and sell them in the hope to raise money.

He said: "My drawing on the t-shirt is not only from me, it is from all the children of Ukraine, to stop the war and ask the world to help us do it, our army stands up and fights alone everyday.

"When I was drawing while sheltering from bombs and explosions, strong feelings came to me that this must stop."


11-year-old-Artem smiling with a t-shirt with his printed self portrait and signature on which he drew while sheltering the Russian offensive on his home city Kyiv. - Credit: Olena Kovalchuck

Life was normal for Artem and his mother in Ukraine until February 24 when everything changed overnight.

Mrs Kovalchuck said: "In Ukraine there is a strong feeling that this is an unjust war. I used to work and provide for my son - Artem had everything, a house, toys, his desk at which he drew.

"We thank Great Britain as a whole for their shelter and kindness," she said.


The print design of Artem's drawing. - Credit: Olena Kovalchuck