Road to Paradise: Naive Painting of a Ukrainian Artist Who Taken Up a Brush at 69 and Painted Her Life
Road to Paradise: Naive Painting of a Ukrainian Artist Who Taken Up a Brush at 69 and Painted Her Life
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Painting by Polina Raiko

The history of the Ukrainian artist Polina Raiko - an amazing example of the fact that no matter how hard and tragic life is, you need to learn to find meaning in it, and that it is never too late to start everything from scratch. The woman began painting at an advanced age. And this hobby not only helped her find herself in the whirlwind of life, but also brought her the support of many admirers of her talent.

Polina Andreevna Raiko

Raiko Pelageya (Polina) Andreevna (nee Soldatova) was a Ukrainian artist from the city of Tsyurupinsk, near Kherson, who worked in the style of naive art. The name of this woman, who began her creative career at the age of 69, is on a par with such Ukrainian artists as Maria Primachenko, Tatiana Pata, Ganna Sobachko-Shostak.

The artist's whole life is saturated with tragedies and trials. The very young Polina was deported to Germany, so the war has always been a bitter memory and pain for her. Returning home from Germany, she married and gave birth to two children - a daughter and a son. In 1954, the Raiko family built their own house on a new site near the river. They lived very modestly, kept their own garden and received collective farm workdays. Now it is difficult to say whether Polina Andreevna would have taken a brush and paints in her hands, if not for the cruel blows of fate.

Painting by Polina Raiko

In 1994, trouble came to Polina Andreevna's family: daughter Alena died in a car accident, leaving her husband two sons - the grandchildren of Polina Andreevna. A year later, her husband Nikolai died, and a couple of years later his son Sergei ended up in a penal colony. It cannot be said that the latter greatly upset the old woman, for the drunken son almost destroyed the house, drank everything that was even a little valuable, even the power cable.

Painting by Polina Raiko

The first picturesque compositions on the walls of Polina Raiko's house appeared when Sergei was serving time in a penal colony. Left alone, the lonely woman decided to tidy up the destroyed house.

Painting by Polina Raiko

However, joy did not come: each new drawing was born with tears in his eyes:

Painting by Polina Raiko Painting by Polina Raiko

The hope that the son, upon returning from the colony, realizes his guilt and begins to lead a normal life, immediately collapsed: with the return of Sergei, the pogroms in the house resumed, moreover, he even stabbed his old mother several times. The life of Polina Andreevna was constantly under threat and it is scary to think how it would all end if not for his cirrhosis of the liver. Having buried her son, she was left all alone, the grandchildren did not really remember the old woman. And again the artist took up the brush and paints.

Painting by Polina Raiko Painting by Polina Raiko

During the day, Raiko's grandmother worked part-time where she could, because her pension was very small and she went to the cheapest pentaphthalic enamel paints. Well, at night she turned on an electric light bulb, closed the windows with shutters and created her original art.

Painting by Polina Raiko

For four years, Polina Andreevna painted all the walls and ceilings of her house and summer kitchen, fences, gates, gates, even monuments to her husband and son at the local cemetery, using Christian, Soviet and pagan symbols - all of which she knew.

Husband Nikolai. Painting by Polina Raiko

And Polina Andreevna made her compositions based on biographical subjects. Here is her husband - a bitter drunkard, whom Polina "put" in the boat, "gave" a kobza in her hands, and next to him "placed" bottles of alcohol - so that he finally gets drunk.

Polina and Nikolay Raiko in the photo

And here they are in a photo with her husband after the wedding, when it seemed that the best in their life was yet to come … And below is the same story in the painting on the wall of Polina's house.

Polina and Nikolay Raiko. Painting by Polina Raiko

And here are three sisters Polina with bouquets of flowers and wings of angels, whom she portrayed sitting in their young months.

Four sisters. Painting by Polina Raiko

And on the right side of the composition, the artist depicted herself.

Son and daughter with a guardian angel. Painting by Polina Raiko

And here is the son and daughter, still children, under the protection of a guardian angel. She could not save her children in this world, so let the Almighty save them at least on that, Polina decided.

Painting the walls of her home, Polina Andreevna rested her soul from torment and suffering and cried over her bitter share, tears clearing her of worries and unkind thoughts.

"Self-portrait", 2004, under the mirror, enamel, 125x24. Painting by Polina Raiko (1927-2004)

The last work of the 76-year-old Raiko was a self-portrait, painted on the back of a mirror. Apparently because all the walls in the house were already painted with drawings…. Or maybe the presentiment of its end prompted Raiko to take such a step.

We are used to associating art with the most accurate copying of the world around us, and the original artist let her painting through herself, and her hand reflected the harmony of this world already in her vision. Polina Andreevna, who had absolutely no artistic education, called her unexpected craving for painting a gift from God for all the troubles and suffering that befell her.

Polina Andreevna conducts a tour of her own house

Gradually, the modest estate of Polina Raiko turned into a place of pilgrimage. For several years it has been visited by many journalists, art lovers, tourists. The publication of an album of her work was planned during her lifetime, but, unfortunately, in early 2004, Polina Raiko died.

Painting by Polina Raiko

After the death of the artist, social activists and artists began a campaign to preserve her extraordinary home, since the heirs were not very concerned about this. As a result, it was bought by a Canadian family planning to create a museum in the Raiko house. But so far these are only plans.

House of Polina Raiko

Today, the attraction is preserved thanks to the efforts of Kherson activists; at their request, local women take care of the house. But time is relentless, and the walls in the house began to crack, paint peeled off. The issue of preserving the original murals of the house remains open.

The work of the world famous Russian artist was very close to primitivism, Natalia Goncharova, whose paintings are now selling for tens of millions of dollars. She tops the list of the most valuable female artists in the world.

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