Natalia and her 7-year-old daughter, Varvara, were fleeing their home outside Kyiv — hoping to escape a constant barrage of Russian shelling in Ukraine — when a mine exploded near their car.
Now, the hospital is getting help from an unlikely source: Banksy.
Or, rather, the help is coming from one of the street artist’s most famous antiwar works. On Sunday, MyArtBroker sold one of 700 prints of “CND Soldiers” after a 10-day silent auction. Proceeds from the winning bid of $106,505 will go to Ohmatdyt, which normally treats about 20,000 patients a year in Kyiv as the country’s largest children’s hospital.
MyArtBroker shared Varvara and Natalia’s story to illustrate why getting the money to the hospital is so essential.
“The full functioning of Ohmatdyt is a matter of national security for Ukraine where it is working to treat all war-affected patients and those children whose lives depend on critical treatment from the hospital,” MyArtBroker said on its website.
The hospital said it needs all the help it can get as it scrambles to provide care in the middle of a war zone.
“Wounded children and adults are now being admitted to Ohmatdyt, and seriously ill patients are being held in shelter for days,” the hospital said in a statement. “Wounded children whose parents were killed in front of them are being brought to us. Elderly people whose homes were destroyed by a rocket are brought to us.”
The donation “will make an enormous difference to the life of staff, children and their families in the weeks ahead,” Charlotte Stewart, managing director of the online art house, said in a statement.
The idea for the auction started when an “incredibly generous client” contacted MyArtBroker, Stewart told The Washington Post. The client offered to donate his unsigned print of “CND Soldiers,” so long as the money from the winning bid went to help children and families in Ukraine. With the help of a local contact, the art house quickly chose Ohmatdyt as a beneficiary.
Sunday’s sale price is about four times higher than the market value for an unsigned copy of the piece, Stewart said, adding that the donor is “thrilled with the result.”
And so is the buyer, who wishes to remain anonymous and was happy to pay far more than what he would have under normal circumstances, Stewart said.
“The purchaser who bid for this amount did it because he wants to make a difference,” she said. “He saw an opportunity to do something amazing.”
Banksy first painted “CND Soldiers” in 2003 on a brick wall near the British Parliament’s Winchester Palace during an antiwar protest. On Feb. 15, 2003, millions of people around the world protested the Iraq War, including an estimated 1.5 million in London, which the Guardian called perhaps “the biggest public rally in British history.” One of the protest’s organizers was the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, or CND. “In Banksy’s artwork, the idea of soldiers ‘keeping the peace’ meant going against the government’s actions,” according to a MyArtBroker article.
Two years later, the now-defunct London print shop Pictures on Walls, then the exclusive distributor of original Banksy prints, released 700 silk-screen prints of the work, half of them signed.
Antiwar and anti-violence messages can be found throughout Banksy’s work. In “Applause,” a crew member on an aircraft carrier’s flight deck holds up an “APPLAUSE” sign as a fighter jet prepares to take off; “Happy Choppers” features military attack helicopters topped with pink bows; a phalanx of soldiers with smiley faces confront the viewer in “Have a Nice Day,” which MyArtBroker called “a hugely ironic sentiment given the menacing nature of the men in riot gear staring out of the canvas.”
“Banksy has used art as a weapon against war throughout his entire career,” the agency recently noted.
That message has become more potent since Feb. 24, according to one of the art house’s senior editors, Lucy Howie: “These powerful anti-war images have perhaps never been more relevant, gaining newfound importance in the light of the Putin-led invasion of Ukraine and resulting refugee crisis.”