November 18, 2008

Polina Rayko, Decorated house

this picture and the next three courtesy of Oleksiy Kachmar 

Life and works

Polina Rayko (1928-2004)  was born as Pelageya Andreyevna Rayko in Tsyuryupinsk¹, Ukraine (near the city of Kherson, not far from the Black Sea coast).

She married in 1950 and got a daughter Elena (b 1951) and a son Sergei (b 1953). The family lived a modest life, deriving their income mainly from their garden.

Life didn't bring Polina much happiness. In 1994 her daughter died in a traffic accident, a year later her husband passed away and her son became addicted and would take her valuables and threaten her if he was not in prison (he died in 2002).

In 1998, at age 69, Polina Rayko began making paintings, in this way trying to brighten her life somewhat, as she later explained. She had only a small pension and had to use the cheapest paint and brushes that one could get on the local market. But painting had become her real passion, in such a way that she has covered all the walls of her house with colorful decorations.

In the course of the years her work has become known, and although she was asked to make paintings in houses of other people, she never would earn much money with these activities.

In 2003 the local association Kherson Center "Totem"  became interested in her creations and took the initiative to produce a brochure about her life and work. However, before Road to Paradise was published (in 2005), Polina Rayko died (January 15th, 2004).

The house has been saved  until June 2023

Put on sale by the inheritors, the house was bought by a Canadian couple living in Ukraine. They felt it was important to preserve the decorated house for the future. Although the house as such is saved, the unprotected decorations are vulnerable if no protective measures are taken.

In December 2012 experts met in Kherson to discuss what could be done, but is not clear if actions followed.

The house might become a museum

End 2016 a Kherson newspaper reported about the intention of the Cultural Department of the Kherson Region to buy Rayko's house and transform it into a museum of naive art. In the regional budget for 2017 an amount was earmarked for the purchase.

Meanwhile a Polina Rayko Charity Foundation has been formed, directed by visual artist Vycheslav Mashnytsky.

Exposition in Kiev 2018

The Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev, in 2018 organized an exposition A Space of One's own (October 30, 2018 - January 6, 2019) about the place of women in Ukrainian art, taking into account the specificity of the country's socio-political situation.

Polina Rayko was one of the artists presented,  the exposition showing some of her wall frescoes by means of life-sized photo montages.

this picture courtesy of Pinchuk Art Centre

The house was flooded during the war of Russia against Ukraine

Polina Rayko's decorated house is located in the village of Oleshky on the east side of the Dnepr River, near the large town of Kherson, which in the war, started on February 24, 2022 of Russia against Ukraine, in March 2022 was taken by Russia, but has been abandoned by the Russian army on November 9, 2022, retreating to the area east of the Dnepr. 

Early June 2023, a dam in the Dnepr River was blown up, causing flooding downstream. 

A regional Ukrainian newspaper has reported that on the evening of June 7, 2023, Polina's house was flooded several meters high. Here is a link to a newspaper article (June 16, 2023) with some pictures showing the damage.

Here  are some pictures from Facebook by Semen Khramtsov, a representative of the Kherson Regional Charitable Fund named after Polina Rayko

* In OEE texts a translation into English of an article by Oleksiy Kachmar, published in the Polish magazine Kultura Enter (October 2009).
* Article (October 2020) by Evgeny Rudenko and Elder Sawakhman on the website of newspaper Pravda Ukraine 
* Article by Roman Kabachiy (June 2023) in newspaper Zhyttia, considering the disaster that has struck Rayko's creations due to the flood caused by the blowing up of a dam in the Dnjeper River

* Video made in 1998, some years before Polina Rayko died, by Petrushenko Laysa Mykhailivna, with Polina talking and a variety of shots of the interior decorations (YouTube, 13'05", added in 2005 to the collection of the Polina Rayko Charitable Association, added to YouTube 2018)

* Video (2006) by Boris Yeghiazaryan (two parts, 11'45" and 11'20'", You Tube, uploaded March 2011)

part 1

part 2

A video by the Ivan Honchar Museum in Kiev, made in 2013 when the staff of the museum visited the site (11'51", YouTube, uploaded July 2013)

* Video (and article) on the website of Ukrainian newspaper Fakti (december 2019, 3'17"), video also available on YouTube

* Video (October 2020, YouTube, 15' 09") with a tour of Polina's house conducted by Vycheslav Mashnytsky (of the Polina Rayko Charitable Association) and Allo Zborovsk, keeper of the house and neighbour of Polina Rayko)

first published November2008, last revised November 2020

¹ In 2016 the community was renamed. From 2017 on its name would be Oleshky

Polina Rayko
Interior decorated with frescoes/murals
Nizhnyaya Street 74
Oleshky (Tsyurupinsk until 2016), Kherson region, Ukraine

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