Polina Raiko, a fragment of the house frescoes (c. 1998), enamel paint (© Polina Raiko; photo by Semen Khramtsov; courtesy Polina Raiko Charitable Foundation)

Due to the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant across the Dnipro River in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine on June 6, the house-museum of Ukrainian artist Polina Raiko — whose paintings were a unique example of Ukrainian Art Brut and monumental art — is likely lost to a flood. The Kherson artist Semen Khramtsov reported on Facebook yesterday that the house filled with frescoes was “underwater” and that museum workers were evacuated and safe. “There is a need for medicine, food, drinking water,” Khramtsov wrote. 

In a comment to Hyperallergic, Khramtsov shared that his sources residing in occupied Oleshky have confirmed that the building had been submerged, with only its rooftop visible above the water. As for the frescoes inside the house, the extent of their damage remains unknown, as some of them were painted over the wallpaper.

Raiko used her art as a way to cope with personal trauma, treating her house surfaces as a canvas. Everything in the house — walls, ceilings, doors, and fence — Raiko covered in enamel-painted drawings of fantastic birds and flowers, Christian iconography, and the artist’s own interpretations of her dreams and life events. 

Polina Raiko’s house in the Oleshky, Kherson, region (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Polina Raiko, who died in 2004, was a self-taught outsider artist from Oleshky. She started to draw in 1998 at the age of 69 in the wake of tragic family events — the deaths of her husband and daughter and her son’s incarceration. In 2008, artist Viacheslav Mashnytsky launched a foundation to preserve Raiko’s legacy. Mashnytskyi went missing after the Russian occupation of Kherson in 2022.

Oleshky, a town in the Kherson region currently occupied by the Russian Federation, was flooded after the Nova Kakhovka Dam breach. On October 20, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that Russia mined the dam, warned about the potential explosion, and requested an international mission to monitor a potential “large-scale disaster.” 

The dam’s destruction caused a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe, with 30 settlements flooded and more than 2,300 people evacuated from the affected areas. Many historic and archeological sites are at risk of disappearing.

Polina Raiko’s paintings are a unique example of Ukrainian Art Brut. (© Polina Raiko; photo by Semen Khramtsov, courtesy Polina Raiko Charitable Foundation)

Lisa Korneichuk is an editor and writer from Kyiv currently based in Chicago. She is a Fulbright student in New Arts Journalism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.