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Rita’s family tie to Ukraine inspires art exhibition


Like so many of us, local artist Rita Long (née Kuklenko) has felt moved to help and support the people of Ukraine caught up in the violence of war, writes Jennifer Greenshields.

Unlike many, Rita’s desire to help also stems from a strong personal connection to Ukraine and to people forced to flee their homeland to seek refuge elsewhere.  Her father Mykhaylo Kuklenko, originally from Kyiv, came to the UK as a refugee after WW2 and was housed at a camp near Tetbury – the Babdown Refugee Camp.  He later moved to Stroud where he settled to working as a tailor at Hill Paul and raising his family.

“He was a very private, humble man; kind, gentle and very deep, with an incredible laugh.” Rita reminisces. “He loved the garden, kept chickens and rabbits and wasted nothing. He didn’t talk much about WW2.  Only to say that everyone in his family was killed.”  

Rita’s motivation is clear: “ I wanted to make a donation as obviously, I feel a sense of duty to help my father’s homeland. I wanted to do something more than give money, so, as an artist, I thought about donating my work. I know a lot of people feel hopeless and want to do something, so I asked other artists if they would join me in this exhibition.”  

An astonishing 30 artists have all pledged their support and have donated work to be exhibited in the Lansdown Gallery from Wednesday, April 27 until Sunday, May 1.  Proceeds from all sales will go to the Red Cross Humanitarian Appeal for Ukraine. 

Rita hopes that this will keep the situation in Ukraine on people’s radar and that, by visiting this exhibition, they will be inspired to buy work in support. The Gallery charges have been covered by a separate group of friends so that as much money raised as possible will go directly to the cause.

Information on opening times and the full list of participating artists can be found on Home | Lansdown Hall & Gallery | Stroud

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