ROGERS PARK — A Rogers Park mural that decries the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine was defaced as someone painted swastikas on the piece.
Artist Kateryna Tkachenko was walking with her daughter Saturday evening along the lakefront in Loyola Park when she noticed her mural had been vandalized with multiple swastikas painted in black.
Tkachenko, who is from Ukraine and has lived in Rogers Park since 2016, drew the mural as part of this year’s Artists of the Wall festival, where artists and neighbors paint mini-murals along the old seawall separating the beach from Loyola Park.
The mural depicts a young Ukrainian girl drawing pictures of life during wartime in her home country, which was invaded by Russia last year and where a brutal war continues. One of the images the fictional girl creates is a picture of a damaged building with the words, “Stop Putin’s War.”
Somebody, however, drew swastikas on the girl’s forehead, sleeve and on the picture she is seen drawing in the mural. The swastika was the primary symbol of Germany’s Nazi party and has been used by White Nationalist and other hate groups in the U.S., according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Tkachenko said she was shocked someone would vandalize an image of a young girl expressing anti-war sentiments.
“It made me scared for my daughter,” who is about the same age as the girl depicted in the mural, Tkachenko said. “Why would you put a swastika on a child?”
Tkachenko’s first instinct was to cover up the hateful images, but she decided against it. She then posted on her public Facebook page about the vandalism and asked followers how she should handle the situation. A police report was filed in the case.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh, I’ll cover it up and be done,” the artist said. “Then I thought, ‘Someone left this message for Ukrainians. I’ll be as public about it as possible.'”
By Monday morning, someone else had attempted to cover up the swastikas by drawing red hearts over the hateful symbols.
Another pro-Ukraine mural along the lakefront seawall was defaced with swastikas and was also covered up by a good Samaritan.
It is unclear who attempted to touch up the murals. The Loyola Park Advisory Council, which organizes Artists of the Wall, said leaders learned of the vandalism Monday, but the group is not responsible for the touch-up job.
“We are horrified,” said Jen Walling, president of the park advisory council.
The mural was Tkachenko’s second anti-Ukraine war painting she has created in Rogers Park.
For last year’s Artists of the Wall event, Tkachenko drew an image of Ukrainian angels she said evoked a “dream of peace.” But with peace elusive, Tkachenko’s art this year turned more political and overtly anti-war.
The inspiration for this year’s mural comes from Tkachenko’s time teaching Sunday school to kids, including some fellow Ukrainains who have fled the war. The art they depict in class shows the trauma the war has inflicted on their lives, she said.
“It’s stories of the war,” she said. “I work with Ukrainians. I see their kind of art. This was my way to remind people of what’s going on in Russia.”
Tkachenko said she will try to restore the mural to make sure its call for peace and support for innocent Ukrainians can be spread far and wide.
“It’s a hate crime against Ukrainians,” she said. “I want people to know that this can happen.”
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