War hero who went viral with defiance against Russian ship signs sinking artwork

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A Ukrainian artist is selling an ink artwork of the Russian warship which faced now-famous defiance from a border guard in the opening hours of the war, with the piece commissioned and signed by the man who spoke the famous words.

The phrase “Russian warship, go f*** yourself” was the last communication made on February 24 2022 during the Russian attack on Zmiinyi Island, or Snake Island in English, by border guard Roman Hrybov to the Moskva.

Mr Hrybov was decorated by the Ukrainian government for his bravery and the phrase has been used extensively in protests and demonstrations globally, even being commemorated on postal stamps.

The Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was later sunk on April 14 and graphic artist Dmytro Krishovsky met with Mr Hrybov and was commissioned by the war hero himself to produce an artwork of the sinking.

Two men shaking hands and smiling at the camera
(from left to right) Dmytro Krishovsky and Roman Hrybov (Dmytro Krishovsky/PA)

A year since Russia’s invasion, Mr Krishovsky hopes the collection will encourage people not to “close their eyes” to the horrors happening in his country.

“I met the guy (Roman Hrybov) who said the symbolic phrase of the Russian warship,” Mr Krishovsky, 34, told the PA news agency from a village 100km away from Kyiv via a translator.

“The guy asked me to draw the ship and put my artistic fingerprint on it and he signed the artwork.”

Man signing paper
Roman Hrybov signing Mr Krishovsky’s artwork (Dmytro Krishovsky/PA)

“It has the architectural elements of the Kremlin on top of it and represents that the whole state is a terrorist state,” Mr Krishovsky said.

“There is a crack to show that the warship and the whole terrorist state has been cracked and is going down by Ukrainian forces.”

White paper on green background
Dmytro Krishovsky’s Russian Warship (Dmytro Krishovsky and UART Gallery/PA)

The Motanka series regularly references or includes a traditional Ukrainian doll of the same name, which is wrapped in fabric and symbolises well-being and hope.

Oberig (The Guardian) shows a gun wrapped in the fabric the Motanka doll is usually covered in.

White paper on green background
Dmytro Krishovsky’s Oberig (Guardian) (Dmytro Krishovsky and UART Gallery/PA)

“It protects us from something bad that could happen.

“Art shows my reflections and what is happening around me.

“Every artist should take responsibility and not show things as they were in peaceful times and let people know about our situation.”

White paper on green background
Dmytro Krishovsky’s Save Mariupol (Dmytro Krishovsky and UART Gallery/PA)

Mr Verdi, 40, lives in Odesa and during the interview, which he translated from Ukrainian to English on behalf of Mr Krishovsky, the pair were alerted about an air raid siren outside via informers on their mobile phones.

They said they only have electricity for between two and four hours a day, often at night.

People looking at camera
(from left to right) Helen Labartkava-Verdi, Andy Verdi and Dmytro Krishovsky (Andy Verdi/PA)

Reflecting on February 24 2022, the day Russia invaded, Mr Krishovsky said “frost went on my arms”.

“I’m feeling the goosebumps, the return of that state of mind from last year,” he said.

“At four o’clock in the morning, when the first explosions sounded, I woke up and opened Facebook and saw many of my friends posted it had begun.

“My wife (Iryna, 30) came back to the room running and started to get the kids ready in pyjamas, barefoot.

“We took the cat, some belongings, the pet snail we bought the day before and ran to the car.”

(from left to right) Dmytro Krishovsky’s nieces Lera, 15, and Sasha, nine, his wife Ira, 30 and him with his daughter Katya, seven (Dmytro Krishovsky/PA)

Mr Verdi said the bomb shelter holds some significance for him and his wife, Helen Labartkava-Verdi, 40.

“Me and my wife were sitting in the bomb shelter in March of last year and we had long discussions because we were sat for hours between the concrete walls about how we can be helpful”, Mr Verdi said.

“We are both artistic people and we thought we could run a gallery for Ukrainian contemporary young artists, get them together and build a platform where we can show their art to people all over the world.

“And I think we succeed because we set up UART Gallery and have more than 50 artists with authentic styles and have held more than 10 exhibitions and events over the globe.”

“But the world has a choice, either help us to stand for the world’s freedom or close your eyes, and we would like the world to continue to see and help us.

“We are fighting on the artistic frontier, as well as volunteering and donating a significant part of our income to military and humanitarian purposes.”

For more information about the UART Gallery, visit uart.gallery/.

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