Manitoba

Sunflowers painted on canvas of Manitoba snow to show support, hope for embattled Ukraine

A Manitoba woman has turned her ever-growing snowbanks into a blooming sign of hope and support for Ukraine.

Karen Hiebert brightens her driveway with a garden of Ukraine's national flower

Sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine, have emerged as a global symbol of solidarity for the country and its resistance against Russia's military invasion. (Karen Hiebert/Facebook)

A Manitoba woman has turned her ever-growing snowbanks into a blooming sign of hope and support for Ukraine.

Karen Hiebert, who describes herself as an amateur artist, used stencils and paint to create a garden of sunflowers along the snowbanks bordering her driveway in East St. Paul, just north of Winnipeg.

"Like most Winnipeggers, I've been watching the snow pile up all winter … almost so high they were becoming this beautiful, white, vertical plain," Hiebert said.

"I kept thinking, this is going to take a long time to melt before we get to see the green stuff again. I would love to maybe dress that canvas up with something that would remind me of spring and maybe make the neighbours smile."

Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine and have emerged as a global symbol of solidarity for the country and its resistance against Russia's military invasion.

That symbol was reinforced a couple of days after the invasion began last week. A viral video showed a woman confronting an armed Russian soldier and demanding he take her sunflower seeds and place them in his pocket so they might bloom when he falls dead on Ukrainian soil.

It was after seeing that video that Hiebert decided sunflowers would be her snowbank subject.

"So got my colours ready on Saturday morning and went for it," she said.

Hiebert says she painted the walls of snow bordering her driveway for a distance about 15-20 feet on each side.

She made stencils from Styrofoam plates and used non-toxic watercolours heavily diluted with water in spray bottles.

Karen Hiebert painted the walls of snow along both sides of her driveway for a distance about four to six metres on each side. (Karen Hiebert/Facebook)

"It just came together quite nicely," she said, adding there is also a personal connection to the project.

"My husband's ancestry is half Ukrainian — my mother-in-law is Ukrainian and I love her dearly, as well as all my husband's family. My children are therefore a quarter Ukrainian," Hiebert said.

"So it was definitely something that we could connect with. And like most Winnipeggers and Manitobans, I have many friends, other relatives and neighbours and co-workers who are of Ukrainian ancestry. It's just such a huge part of our community."

Hiebert has been greeted by people walking past the driveway bouquet who have thanked her for adding colour to these long, achromatic days.

She also posted some photos of the snow flowers to a Winnipeg gardeners group "to brighten up their day because we're all gardeners and we all know we're going to have a long wait before we can get to planting," she said. 

"And there too, I got a lot of really supportive comments and thanking me for helping them smile during a very difficult time.

The war in Ukraine is in its eighth day and more than one million people have fled the country. The UN says they will be followed by millions more unless the fighting stops immediately.

However, there appeared to be no sign of that on Thursday as Russian forces continue to try to take control of Ukrainian cities.

In the south, the port of Mariupol is surrounded by Russian troops, according to Ukrainian officials. Near the capital Kyiv, a large Russian convoy continues to threaten the city but has moved little in recent days.

Helping in small ways

In Manitoba, as in many places around the world, fundraising efforts have been launched to send aid to Ukraine.

Torque Brewing, a craft beer maker in Winnipeg, is creating a small batch of a special hopped lager with all proceeds going to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.

About 400 cans will be available early next week in the Torque taproom on King Edward Street.

"The beer was originally going to just be released on tap and then we decided that we'd can it and get it out there for people to buy. Hopefully, it sells quickly and we help out in our little way," said Torque co-founder Adam Olson.

"We're a pretty small business, so we just do what we can for the community."

The brewer has also been donating $1 from every pint of Torque Blonde ale purchased in its taproom since Feb. 25 to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.

"We have a couple of team members who are [of] Ukrainian descent and one who has family in Ukraine right now. So obviously, there's some pretty strong emotions going on," Olson said about the impetus for the fundraiser.

"We're not doing a ton but we're doing all we can. Any little bit helps."

Hiebert hopes her garden panorama shows "we're all with the Ukrainian people, both in spirit and action," but says her actions are modest compared to others.

"I totally respect and honour the people who are doing so much more than me by fundraising and collecting medical supplies and other goods that the Ukrainian people need," she said.

"The best part is just making people smile and thinking the world can somehow feel united in small ways."

Garden of sunflowers line snowbanks in support of Ukraine

9 months ago
Duration 2:07
Karen Hiebert, who describes herself as an amateur artist, used stencils and paint to create a garden of sunflowers along the snowbanks bordering her driveway in East St. Paul, just north of Winnipeg. Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine and have emerged as a global symbol of solidarity for the country and its resistance against Russia's military invasion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.

With files from Marcy Markusa and Janice Grant

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