The artist behind a mural in Prague protesting the Russian invasion of Ukraine says the response to his work has been “huge.”
Dmitry Proskin, who lives in the Czech capital with his family, told RFE/RL that photos of the mural have been shared worldwide since he completed the work on March 18. But the Kazakh-born artist says “the main thing is that it is being seen by Ukrainian people.”
“They are sending me messages of thanks, so my main goal of showing Ukrainians our support was reached,” Proskin says.
The mural features a young girl sheltering iconic soft toy characters of various nations, including the United States’ Mickey Mouse, France’s Obelix, the Czech Republic’s Little Mole, and others, under a Ukrainian flag. The message, Proskin says, is that Ukraine is currently protecting the rest of the world from “disaster.”
Proskin is also known for an iconic mural of Tomas Masaryk, the co-founder of Czechoslovakia, crying over a map of the Czech Republic, which was painted on a building in the Moravian town of Olomouc in 2018.
Proskin, who paints under the name "Chemis," has also become actively involved in helping Ukrainian refugees. The street artist recently opened an apartment, which he owns and was planning to renovate, to a Ukrainian mother with two children who have fled the war.
Proskin lives near Prague’s Congress Center, where thousands of Ukrainian refugees are being processed by the Czech authorities every day, and says he “went there and met the family, and kind of took them in.” The Czech Republic has seen the arrival of more than 270,000 refugees since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
At the site of the mural, in a scruffy suburb of southern Prague, Inna Bystrakova was one of a handful of people who gathered to view the artwork in person on March 21 after making a detour from an appointment she had nearby.
“I saw the mural everywhere, on virtually every social network” the Prague local said. “This image is so powerful because we need people to think about the children. This situation [with the war in Ukraine] is so terrible. We just want to help.”