Hubert Kampa paints a Marian icon in his studio in Wrocław, Poland. The wooden tables on which he produces his works are obtained from crates of ammunition and weapons arriving from Mariupol, “Mary’s city”. Kampa has worked in Ukraine for 12 years, and he had procured the first crates himself, while others were later delivered to him. It’s a symbolic choice, but also an initiative with a visible outcome, namely, solidarity. The proceeds from the sale of the icons are used to assist Ukrainain and Polish people who stayed in the country being invaded by Russian troops. Kampa will soon set up an exhibition, in which he has invited other artists to participate.
Physics teaches us that in reality, nothing is created and nothing is destroyed; everything is transformed. This is also the secret of what we humans call literature: every story has to do with a metamorphosis, a transformation. The characters change before our eyes: Achilles’ fury becomes mercy, the ugly duckling becomes a beautiful swan, Renzo is no longer the bold youth animated by the frenzy of a man in his 20s but acquires some good judgement, and so on and so forth from Ovid to Kafka… But above all, the real metamorphosis is that of the reader, who will find him or herself a different person from who they were before the reading. It is the weight but also the meaning of the experience of being transformed. Christians call this metamorphosis by a different name: conversion (in Greek, metanoia).
Today, even a simple daily newspaper like ours, which is not a literary work, seeks to tell a story that, being a human story, talks about transformation. The photograph above already brings into focus the heart of the story: the planks of wooden crates containing ammunition from Mariupol are transformed into tables on which to paint icons of Mary’s face. From Mariupol to Mary, from weapons to arms, the “arms” of Mary, who with her cloak covers, protects, welcomes.
Looking at the scenes playing out in Mariupol and other bloodied parts of Ukraine, today makes one think: everything is over, everything is destroyed, there is no way out, there is no hope. This story, the story of Mr. Hubert Kampa, who paints Marian icons on the wood of war, seems to tell us otherwise: that there is hope. Because nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed. And no person is lost, because conversion is always possible.