The Phantom Inker



For Home, For Freedom

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One year.

It has been one year since Ukraine was invaded, since its innocent people were attacked by a ruthless despot. In that year Ukraine has shown the world the nobility of its cause, of the nobility of its fight for freedom against overwhelming power. The Ukrainian people have demonstrated to all of us how our best selves ought to be.

In honor of their sacrifice, I would share this picture, that its symbols might help inspire them to continue their fight. Ukraine is a nation of farmers and of artisans and of horsemanship, a place where simple honesties have been prized for centuries, and in that spirit I offer this drawing of Milena.

Milena is naturally a kind soul, a singer, a bard, a teller of stories; but she has taken up her father's gun and joined the fight for her nation. With her she carries not just the iron resolve of her people, but symbols of her nation as well:

  • Her nation's flag, that it may one day wave proudly over their victory;
  • Her father's shotgun, the tool of a farmer, not of a warrior;
  • A simple green shirt, like her nation's president wears, embroidered with her nation's crest;
  • Her bandura, that she may play it and sing of her people's bravery;
  • Her skirt, in her nation's blue, embroidered with her nation's brilliant flower;
  • Olek, her friend, a nightingale who serenades her even the darkest of times when she herself cannot sing;
  • And kalyna berries, her nation's plant, bitter but beautiful and full of strength, like the girl who carries them.

At the start of the war, I saw on the news a girl with firey red hair evacuating from the bombs falling on Kyiv; and I read how Ukraine's army has more women than most other armies of the world. I was so inspired that I began drawing Milena, and it is a shame that it has taken me a full year to do so. Would that the war had ended before my drawing was finished, but sadly that did not come to pass.

This is the full high-resolution version — it's not under a paywall — and I release it to the world under the most permissive of licenses: May it bring hope to the Ukrainian people in any way that it can. You may share it, print it, use it for whatever you want, put it on posters or T-shirts, or whatever else. You may do anything with it that might help this noble people to win their war and reclaim their homeland.

Special thanks to my friend IB, who helped me get the shotgun just right. That's a Ukrainian copy of a Remington 870, a semiautomatic weapon, and with an extended magazine. It may be a farmer's tool, but it is deadly, and the invaders would be wise to retreat from it.

Full disclosure: I used a little contribution from an AI to generate some parts of the background. All of it is heavily edited — I went back and forth between the AI and CorelDRAW and Corel Photo-Paint for hours and hours to get all of the tiny pieces of it just the way I wanted them — but it did contribute. Milena herself, and everything else in the foreground, was fully hand-drawn as vector art in CorelDRAW, at least a hundred hours of work, if not more.

I would hope that one day, Milena will return to just being a girl in her little town, the sweetly-singing daughter of a farmer, who is sought by every boy who sees her. But war has a way of changing people, and I can only hope that she and her people may one day recover the innocence their entire generation has sadly lost.

Slava Ukraini!

Слава Україні!

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