Love conquers everything

Young Belarusian artist dreams of establishing children’s icon painting school: the first of its kind countrywide

Young Belarusian artist dreams of establishing children’s icon painting school: the first of its kind countrywide.

Ivan Petruchik (in the centre) works

On meeting pupils from the Sunday school of St. Peter and Paul’s Church, in the agro-town of Senitsa (Minsk District), I was soon convinced that parents were sending their children there from neighbouring villages and, even, from Minsk with good reason. The children’s talents for poetry and painting are encouraged with kindness, spirituality and artistry.

Among Father Boris’ teachers is Ivan Petruchik: a professional designer and a heaven-sent teacher. Ivan’s icon paintings can be found adorning various Kiev churches. At the Sunday school, Mr. Petruchik lectures in drawing and how to get along with our fellow man. Confined to a wheelchair since suffering from severe illness, his determined spirit remains evident: he has been named Belarusian Paralympic skiing champion four times. On arriving at his workshop, I find Ivan painting an icon.

Why aren’t your works on display in Belarusian churches, rather than in the ‘mother of Russian cities’: Kiev?

Family icon

It was Fate. While unwell, I underwent treatment in Kiev and met my spiritual father. With his blessing, I began mastering the secrets of icon painting. In fact, my relatives live in Ukraine, so I try to visit them as often as possible. Sadly, this is now more difficult, because of the unstable situation. It pains my heart to think of brothers attacking each other with weapons and killing. With this in mind, I hope that the icons I’ve painted for Ukrainian churches, over 20 in number, will make a spiritual contribution to bringing peace in the east of the country.

As regards Belarus, few know of my icons, as they’ve never been showcased to a wide public here.

Icons usually depict Biblical themes and stories, promoting kindness and fairness rather than exploring violence.

That is so, and my plots are exclusively Biblical. I never paint anything from my own imagination. I study my chosen plot and its significance for the Christian world with care. As a rule, iconographers prefer to use previously depicted plots. Of course, I could use a Biblical theme never before drawn but it would be a huge responsibility.

Why do you want to set up a children’s icon painting school in Belarus?

There are examples of art bringing inspiration in troubled times: when people have lost heart and are disconcerted. I dream of launching a school to unite not only pupils but all those with interest. Many children who attend our Sunday school drawing classes have talent. Probably, my dream will come true: in Senitsa’s St. Peter and Paul’s Church, or in my homeplace of Kobrin.

How do you combine icon painting and sport? You are part of Belarusian Paralympic history.

Seven years ago, I met some wonderful people: coaches of Belarus’ Paralympic team. They recommended that I try my hand at sport, so I stayed in Minsk, with the state paying for my residence at the Orbita Hotel during long months of training. Later, a deputy from the House of Representatives, Mikhail Volkov, helped me greatly. I began with skiing but then turned to roller sports and adapted academic rowing.

My countrymen helped me collect money to buy my own boat, which has been equipped for Paralympic performances by coaches Tamara Shimanskaya and Alexander Popov. God grant them good health! They also train multi Paralympic champion Lyuda Volchek, who specialises in ski racing, rowing and kayaking on mountain rivers. I’m a quadruple Belarusian champion in ski racing, having taken part in international competitions. I’m also proud of being the only handicapped sportsman (in my class) with back problems who’s managed to cover 15km in the Swedish mountains. I was suffering from nosebleeds due to tension but I reached the finish line, where I received a standing ovation.

By Yuri Mirsky


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