Wed, 27 Sep 2023

The Art Of Dissent: A Russian Exile In Armenia

03 Jun 2023, 04:15 GMT+10

Nadezhda Glebovskaya once made jewelry for fashion shows, before developing a unique, politically charged form of knitted art. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the artist fled for Armenia, where she continues to work today.

When Nadia Glebovskaya awoke to the news of her country's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 she felt that living on in Russia had become impossible. 'A terrible feeling of guilt came over me, as if I was involved in this but I couldn't change it, couldn't stop it. At the end of the day I just wept,' she recalls. 'It was this feeling that you need to just shut up, sit down, be silent, endure everything that happens.'

Russian artist Nadia Glebovskaya

Soon after the invasion, the artist left St. Petersburg with her cat and boyfriend, and now lives in the northern Armenian town of Vanadzor, from where she produces knitted and crocheted art that she sells around the world.

Glebovskaya models a headdress she made that blends traditional Russian folk dress and urban culture.

Knitting has been a hobby of Glebovskaya's since childhood when her grandmother taught her the craft. 'I'm an interior designer by education, but I chose jobs that gave me free time to devote to knitting,' she says. 'Eventually my favorite hobby became my main occupation.'

A crocheted image of Russian President Vladimir Putin with the phrase, 'Speak and they will listen.'

While her focus was initially on creating knitted jewelry, in 2020 Glebovskaya says, 'I suddenly posted a napkin with Putin for my followers. Regular fans of my work were very surprised, but there was also some appreciation. When I started posting more, new subscribers appeared who were interested in this new [political] direction.'

A crocheted artwork of ballerinas produced by Glebovskaya. In the Soviet Union, the screening of Swan Lake on television was often a precursor to momentous news, such as the death of Soviet leaders, being announced.

The artist says one of her most popular patterns is a crocheted table napkin featuring Vladimir Lenin spotted with what looks like fungus and honey in reference to a famous 1989 song called Everything Is Going According To Plan, which features a line about the Soviet founder decomposing into mold and honey.

The darkly ironic 'plan' phrase has been reborn in Russian memes in light of the Kremlin's disastrous invasion of Ukraine.

A table napkin of Lenin

Glebovskaya recently returned to Russia for a visit, where she says, 'There was this feeling that everything was in order, everyone was walking around calmly as if nothing was happening and there is no such thing as evil.'

While in Russia, she crocheted a mask with the words, 'See no evil.' This was a response to what she says is 'the fact that many in Russia still do not see, or try not to see, that there is a war going on.'

A mask with the words, 'See no evil.'

Glebovskaya says she has found it relatively easy to settle into emigre life in the lush Lori region of northern Armenia. 'Nature is all around, it's calm,' she says. 'I've always wanted to live in a place like this, so the prospect of staying here long-term doesn't scare me at all.'

The region is home to 'absolutely wonderful people' the artist says. 'The neighbors are all amazing, they constantly ask, 'How can we help? Let us know if you need anything.''

A choker with a Russian swear word that can be roughly translated as 'screwed.'

Glebovskaya feared at first that a swift Russian military victory would snuff out Ukraine as a nation. 'Now there is some hope for the best,' she says. 'But at the same time sometimes you're hit with absolute despair and you wonder, 'Lord, will this ever end?''

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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