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The sobering stories of Ukraine, through an artist's eyes and heart

Ukrainian-American artist Anna Miller grew up in Kyiv, and has been living in the U.S. for
Claire Heddles
Ukrainian-American artist Anna Miller painted the signs behind her for a protest in Jacksonville.

As Russian forces continue their attack on Ukraine, Ukrainian immigrants in Northeast Florida are trying to support loved ones from afar.

From her dining room in St Johns, Ukrainian-American artist Anna Miller says she talks with her friends in Kyiv, night and day, online.

"It's horrific, most of them are sitting bomb shelters, subway stations, cellars," Miller said. "At night as soon as, you know, air siren goes off, you know, it's time to hide."

Miller grew up in Kyiv and is still close with friends from high school and college there. She moved to the U.S. about 25 years ago and has lived in Northeast Florida for 17 years.

She is one of more than 5,000 people with Ukrainian ancestry in the Jacksonville metropolitan area, according to the most recently available census data.

Miller is now using her art to share the stories she's hearing from her loved ones still in Kyiv and those seeking refuge in Poland.

She said she hopes her work will "spread the word, the real stories."

One of her recent paintings is of a Ukrainian woman, standing in front of a cityscape, with pleading eyes and clenched fists.


"I don't want to paint a painful painting," Miller said. "But I have to. It's my role as an artist, and I was feeling all through my body, through my mind, through my heart. I couldn't not paint it."

This isn't the first time her work has centered on women living under military invasion; she has another painting about mothers in Syria.

"I just empathize a lot with mothers," Miller said. "Refugees, mothers that are losing children or experiencing pain."

Right now, Miller said her own 15-year-old daughter has been a support to her as their family watches the invasion of Ukraine from afar.

She's also taking her work to the streets. On Saturday, she protested Russia's invasion of Ukraine at Jacksonville's World of Nations event with painted signs.

"I just engage in the conversation and try to ask for help as much as I can," Miller said. "Some people were not aware that it's that dangerous."

The primary message Miller wants to share is a call for support.

"Refugee organizations, any kind of humanitarian help," Miller said. "Please, please help out."

From NPR: Here is a non-exhaustive list of organizations that are asking for assistance in Ukraine. Donations can be made through the links to their websites or social media pages.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.