Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

This Ukrainian Artist Is Drawing Comics About His Imprisonment By Pro-Russian Militants in Donetsk

One of the draft images from the comic book detailing Zakharov's kidnapping and imprisonment by "DNR" militants. Image from the artist on Facebook.

One of the draft images from the comic book detailing Zakharov's kidnapping and imprisonment by “DNR” militants. Image from the artist on Facebook.

A Ukrainian artist who was captured by the militants of the pro-Russian “Donetsk People's Republic” for putting up irreverent guerrilla art is now working on a comic book to tell the story of his kidnapping and shed light on the plight of political prisoners in occupied eastern Ukraine.

Sergey Zakharov started creating artworks mocking the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic” in July of 2014, working with fellow artists to scatter plywood figures of separatists sporting clown make-up and camouflage throughout the city streets. Affixed to fences and buildings, the grotesque silhouettes immediately attracted attention and photos of them started popping up in social networks. Inevitably, this drew the ire of the “DNR” militants.

Zakharov himself, attaching an artwork to a fence in Donetsk in 2014. Image from Facebook.

Zakharov himself, attaching an artwork to a fence in Donetsk in 2014. Image from Facebook.

Soon after his artworks went viral, Zakharov was visited in his workshop by armed men, who escorted him to the Donetsk Security Services building (one of “DNR”‘s strongholds), along with his computer and art sketches. Zakharov spent over a month and a half in captivity, where he says he was tortured. Things like mock executions and beatings were par for the course, according to the artist.

В середині ночі, іноді охоронці напивалися, вони іноді хапали кого-небудь з ув'язнених і везли в іншу будівлю, де знову били.

In the middle of the night the guards would get drunk, seize one of the prisoners and take them to another building, where they would beat them again.

“A mock execution.” Another draft image from the comic book detailing Zakharov's kidnapping and imprisonment by “DNR” militants. Image from Facebook.

Now the artist, who moved to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv after facing persecution in Donetsk, has turned to the medium of comics to share his experiences of life in the occupied city of Donetsk and his treatment at the hands of the “DNR” militants.

“If I was a writer, I would write a book, but I'm an artist, so it will be a comic book,” Zakharov told Hromadske TV in a recent interview.

Zakharov, who has been dubbed “the Donetsk Banksy” for his irreverent street art, first unveiled some of the draft pages for the future comic book on Facebook. After some of the Ukrainian media picked up the story, the artist was approached by publishers with proposals to print the book, and is still working on finalizing the details of the project.

“Being transported from the Donetsk Security Service building to another prison.” A draft panel from Zakharov's future comic. Image from Facebook.

One of Zakharov's biggest artistic inspirations is Art Spiegelman's “Maus,” one of the most prominent comic books in history, which received a Pulitzer prize for its graphic depiction of life in the Nazi concentration camps. The Ukrainian artist hopes his comic book project will help raise awareness of the plight of other prisoners and captives who suffered (and continue to suffer) at the hands of the self-proclaimed separatist authorities in eastern Ukraine.

5 comments

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site