Wartime paintings by young patients

When children at the Hippocrateio Hospital from 1945 to 1948 were encouraged to paint and draw, they depicted scenes from their peacetime lives, images of traumatic wartime experiences and scenes from the world of the imagination. The instigator of the project was Lily Alivizatou, wife of the then director of the Athens University surgery clinic, Constantinos Alivizatos, and sister of writer Giorgos Theotokas. She and a group of volunteers managed the children’s ward. At the suggestion of linguist Manolis Triantafyllidis, she read fairy tales to the children, asking them to draw what they felt. Sixty years later, their paintings have been published in Alivizatou’s book, «Apo ta paidia tou polemou ston kosmo ton paramythion» (From War Children to the World of Fairy Tales), by Hestia. The book also contains stories by Penelope Delta and Maria Lioudaki, and a newspaper column by Ilias Venezis, who had visited the children’s ward. Six of the drawings in the book were chosen, along with another 11, to represent Greece in Paris in 1947 at the First International Exhibition of Children’s Drawing, for which 1,200 pictures were chosen from among 20,000 from 40 countries. Cartoons and television, as Alivizatou points out, had not yet won over the children, who still lived in the magic world of fairy tales. Yet the confident, untutored children’s drawings, with a kaleidoscope of colors that transform deep trauma, reveals even in tragic cases the timeless, universal relevance of a child’s point of view.

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