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Arts

The Flowers of War: Ukraine Smith Turns Guns, Ammo into Art

A blacksmith in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk is practically beating swords into ploughshares, and turning one man’s trash into treasures. Viktor Petrovich Mikhalev takes weapons and ammunition and produces what he calls the flowers of war.

Mikhalev, who trained as a welder, lives and works in a house whose fence and door are decorated with forged flowers and grapes. In his workshop are piles of half-burnt machine guns and shells from the war’s front line. Friends and acquaintances bring them as raw material for his art.

The smell of iron and paint permeates the workshop, also decorated from floor to ceiling with dozens of religious icons. Mikhalev makes the art as a keepsake, a souvenir of the war in eastern Ukraine.

Old weapons and ammunition collected in a yard of a workshop in Viktor Mikhalev’s house in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
Viktor Mikhalev works in a workshop in his house in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
Viktor Mikhalev works in a workshop in his house in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, March 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
A rose transformed from weapons and ammunition into flowers of war by hands of Viktor Mikhalev is on display in a workshop in his house in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, March 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
A bunch of roses transformed from weapons and ammunition into flowers of war by hands of Viktor Mikhalev are on display in a workshop in his house in a workshop in his house in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, March 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

“Real flowers will not last long, and my roses will become a reminder for a long memory,” the blacksmith says.

He began the project when a friend brought him broken machine guns. A month later, he exhibited his war art in a Donetsk museum. Since then, he’s constantly been making what he calls “flowers of war.” In addition, he constructs stands for writing pens from parts of a grenade launcher and a cartridge case.

 

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