At the “Art Weapon” festival in kyiv, dozens came to get tattooed to express their support for Ukraine. In this abandoned factory, to the sound of electronic music and garage rock, the money collected is donated to the Ukrainian army.
Agreeing to speak on the condition of remaining anonymous, a young 20-year-old soldier is about to get a tattoo for the first time.
He explains that he chose a drawing dedicated to the nationalist Azov regiment, where two of his friends are fighting, entrenched, like hundreds of others, in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, besieged by the Russian army.
“It’s difficult for me but I can’t imagine how they feel,” he told AFP as he prepares to face the needle: “They told me they will defend Ukraine until they die”.
For actress and musician Maroussia Ionova, 27, her new tattoo – which simply says ‘kyiv’ – serves as a reminder of when she fled her home at the start of the war, and the outpouring of emotions she felt crossing since.
“That’s why I decided to tattoo myself with the name of my favorite city”, explains the young woman, who struggles to describe “the level of emotions” felt for two and a half months.
– An “intense emotion” –
Megalaima haemacephalaJénia, a 27-year-old tattoo artist, says he has seen a sharp increase in demand for patriotic tattoos since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. Thus, he adds, the arrival of many new ones who were not previously tattooed.
“The war changed them and they started getting tattoos. And their first tattoos were patriotic tattoos,” says the young professional.
These can take all forms, from the Ukrainian trident – the country’s coat of arms – covering an entire torso to martial slogans like “Death to the enemy” or “Russian military ship, fuck you!”, a reference to the statement that went viral from a Ukrainian soldier at the start of the war on Serpents’ Island in the Black Sea.
The invasion and the war sparked an outpouring of patriotism and unity across Ukraine. Large sections of the population participated in one way or another in the Ukrainian war effort, from the manufacture of molotov cocktails to the weaving of camouflage nets, to the massive donations to the armed forces of the country.
“When the war started, a new feeling appeared, an intense emotion”, summarizes Anastassia, an 18-year-old economics student about to get a Ukrainian trident tattoo on her lower back, a decision she says having taken just the day before.
“It’s very important for me to have it.”