Banksy Competes for Wall Space With 'Ukrainian Banksy'

As actual artist makes his mark in war-torn nation, local Gamlet Zinkivskyi also inspires
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2023 7:52 AM CDT
In Ukraine, There's More Than One Banksy Creating Art
Artwork that may have been made by British street artist Banksy on a building destroyed by fighting in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on Nov. 13.   (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)

Banksy has made his mark in Ukraine during the yearlong Russian invasion, but the UK artist has some current competition in the war-torn nation. Gamlet Zinkivskyi, a 36-year-old known as the "Ukrainian Banksy" for his black-and-white contemporary artwork, has put his burgeoning international career on hold to instead paint the streets of his native Kharkiv, which he has refused to leave despite continuing Russian attacks. "In Ukraine, I have the feeling that I'm building the country," he told Euronews last May. "The city is my gallery."

Speaking more recently with NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, Zinkivskyi says he, like many other Ukrainian men, initially joined up with Ukrainian armed forces when the war began in February 2022. After serving for 10 months, however, Zinkivskyi says his battalion commander ordered him back on the streets to paint. "I said, 'No way, for what? It's stupid, because [the] city is totally empty,'" he recalls. "[My commander responded], 'No, Gamlet. People need it.' And he was right." Zinkivskyi—who now only speaks Ukrainian and English, instead of the Russian he grew up speaking—hopes that one day the works he's created can be sold to raise money for Ukraine's reconstruction, or perhaps find its way into a war museum.

Meanwhile, the original Banksy has apparently been popping in and out of towns around Ukraine as well, adding his artwork to the sides of damaged structures, including in the town of Borodyanka, near Kyiv, where one bombed building features a mural of a gymnast doing a handstand. He's also rumored to have painted another mural in that town showing a young boy throwing a man who looks a lot like Vladimir Putin in a martial arts fight—and one local mom says she chatted to Banksy as he painted it without knowing who he was.

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Yula Patoku tells the Daily Mirror that her 6-year-old daughter told the artist when they stumbled upon him that the mural "was like a child saving his father from being attacked by a monster—a bit like Ukraine rescuing the world from something evil, like Russia." The BBC notes that Putin is a martial arts devotee who has a black belt in judo. That outlet also reports that Ukraine has now issued postage stamps featuring this particular artwork, with one addition in the lower left corner: "an abbreviated expletive addressing the Russian leader." (More Banksy stories.)

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