Art for Drones: How a Painting Auction Raised Thousands of Dollars for Ukraine’s War Effort

Saint Javelota social enterprise raising money for Ukraine’s war effort, held an art auction to help buy drones for the Ukrainian military.

The auction ran from July 28 to August 3, in partnership with the Ukrainian World Congress’ Unite With Ukraine campaign and the Ukrainian government’s United24 “Army of Drones” program.

For sale are 75 numbered and signed prints of an artwork titled “Our Lady of Mariupol”, created by Ukrainian book illustrator and conceptual artist Maksym Palenko.

While 74 of the prints were listed for $1,500, it was announced at the end of the auction that a unique limited edition copy had been auctioned off for an unexpected $22,000.

What does “Our Lady of Mariupol” represent?

The visually striking artwork depicts the figure of the Lady of Mariupol stretching out her arms to protect the defenders of the Azovstal factory from bombardment and destruction.

His cassock shows the interior structure of the Azovstal catacombs which became a temporary shelter for Ukrainian fighters and civilians.

Mariupol, a town in the Pryazovia region of Ukraine, was besieged by Russian forces and largely destroyed. On May 16, 2022, the last remaining Ukrainian troops in the Azovstal steelworks surrendered as Russia secured complete control of the city.

“Notre-Dame de Mariupol is not only a work of art, but a symbol of hope and resistance”, explains Christian Borys, the founder of Saint Javelin. “With every sale we make, we get closer and closer to the possibility of the Ukrainian people taking back the skies and challenging Russian oppression with the one thing they understand: strength.”

How did Saint Javelin raise over $1.2 million for Ukraine?

Borys, a Ukrainian-Canadian marketer and former journalist, launched Saint Javelin on February 16, just days before Vladimir Putin launched Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The idea behind the organization started from a popular meme known as Saint Javelin, depicting the religious figure Mary Magdalene holding an FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.

It quickly became a powerful symbol of Ukrainian resistance and encouraged Borys to start printing the image on t-shirts and stickers to help raise funds for the country.

“I started this thing to have a little impact. I never imagined it would become what it is,” he told Euronews Culture.

“Honestly, I was thinking of selling about 100 stickers to my friends and raising about $500. But it took off like crazy from the start.”

Borys received CAN$45,000 (about €34,000) worth of orders on February 24, the day of the Russian invasion, and that figure quickly rose to CAN$170,000 (about €129,000) within 24 hours.

At the beginning of August, the Saint Javelin company raised more than 1.2 million dollars (about 1.1 million euros) for Ukraine.

“Our mantra is: we are in business to rebuild Ukraine. So by making t-shirts, stickers, hats, all that kind of stuff, we can bring the maximum economic benefit back to Ukraine by making these things in Ukraine, and then using our profits to support different organizations across Ukraine,” says Borys.

He and his organization don’t plan to stop fundraising anytime soon.

“We want to become a ‘Made in Ukraine’ brand that appeals to a Western audience. We want to stay and continue because the rebuilding process will take decades.”

About Catharine C. Bean

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