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Collective Grief and Hope: Ukrainian Slovakian Exhibit Opens Tonight!

Alena Hrabčáková Blue Guardians on the Border

Alena Hrabčáková's paintings inspire healing while assisting refugees.

…in the midst of this horror and sorrow, I wanted to create something beautiful.

I think when people experience trauma, whether that be loss or grief through war, being a refugee, exiled, violence, shooting in the school, etc. For what often happens is language…it's extremely difficult to articulate extreme grief or trauma. And the beauty of art is it becomes a modality that allows creativity, imagination, dreams, symbols, colors to articulate maybe something that's really quite horrific or difficult to put into words, and it's really magic. - Alena Hrabčáková

Artist and art therapist Alena Hrabčáková worked with students in Red Lake from 2005-2012. Since then, she’s purchased her family’s ancestral home in a Slovakian village 27 miles from the Ukraine boarder. While visiting the United States in February, Russia invaded Ukraine, and she’s not returned. She has, however, been creating art. Her exhibit “Holding Trauma and Our Ancestors' Narratives Through Art” opens tonight at the Fluer De Lis gallery at the Wild Rose Theater in Puposky, MN.

The artist’s reception begins at 5pm this evening with Hrabčáková speaking at 6pm about her exhibit, her journey, and how her art has helped her process the unrest in her homeland. 10% of sales of the exhibit will go back to Ukraine to assist with resettlement and refugee needs. Hrabčáková's show will be on view thru June.

What I created was a mythology. I did what a lot of art therapists do with our patients and clients, I often ask my teenagers, my adolescents, to create different endings to the story… if this wouldn't have happened or if this one event just changed a little bit, how would the narrative be different? Or, let's confront the nightmare with a different ending. So the idea of this was creating a mythology of Guardians, and the Guardians were the ones that would be waiting at the border, and they would be horses and there would be deer, and there would be flowers, and there would be ancestors, and there would be masks…the faceless Slavic spirits that are part of the culture…I think when people see the show, they'll feel something very viscerally. They'll feel the lore, there's no doubt, but they'll feel a lot of beauty, too, and hope and love. - Alena Hrabčáková

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Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. Since 2016, she's produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota. She's our local host of NPR's All Things Considered and CBC's As It Happens every weekday from 4-7pm.