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"I think it's like watching history repeat itself." Two Regimes Project looks at Ukraine past, reflects on future

Posted at 7:54 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 19:54:16-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — As we watch what happens across the world, one group is working to make sure the youngest people in our community get a look at the past to better understand what's happening right now.

"Our heart is with them and we're doing everything we can to try to bring awareness to what this country has had to endure," said Kelly Bowen.

For Mimi Shaw, Kelly Bowen, and Doug Darlington, Ukraine's fight for independence is a lesser known part of history that they want to highlight.

"I'm learning their history and my heart just goes out to them with the difficulty that they've had time after time after time," said Bowen.

What started as an accidental find.

"Back in 2000, we discovered 108 oil paintings and 150 sketches along with a manuscript underneath a house not far from Tallahassee," said Shaw.

Is now a passion project. Mimi Shaw and Kelly Bowen are the women behind the Two Regimes Project.

"Some of this is the artwork of Nadia Werbitsky that we found," said Shaw.

The exhibit highlights a rare piece of Ukranian history right here in Leon County.

Holodomor, which translates to death by famine, claimed an estimated seven million Ukrainian lives.

Between 1932 and 1933, Dictator Josef Stalin took away food and the resources to grow food from Ukrainians in an attempt to take over the land.

In 1933, Hitler took over; ushering in the Holocaust.

Teodora Verbitskaya wrote about her life from 1920 to 1945 living under Stalin and Hitler. Her daughter, Nadia Werbitzky turned her memories into paintings decades later.

"The mother wrote a memoir about her time from 1925 to 1945 living in Ukraine. During the time of the two regimes of Stalin and Hitler. Both mother and daughter were witnesses to the Holodomor, which was Stalin's state sponsored starvation of the Ukrainian people," said Bowen.

Then there's Doug Darlington. Shaw and Bowen enlisted the film maker to put the history on screen, an easy way to share the story of the two women.

It's a project that also involves the Foundation for Leon County School's. Executive Director Eric Clarke says the exhibiting is eyeopening.

"The artwork is very moving. The story is very vivid. It will give students a great insight into the struggles of this one family and what they faced. While that was 90 years ago, the Ukraine is once again dealing with hostilities," said Clarke.

The team has worked together to secure three legislative grants to keep this history alive, not only for children, but adults as well.

Saying that with the events unfolding in Ukraine as we speak it solidifies just how important their collection is.

"I think it's like watching history repeat itself," said Darlington.

"I think they will gain a better understanding of the struggles that Ukrainians are facing," said Clarke.

The exhibits opens April 1st and runs until the end of June. You can find the works at the Florida Capitol on the 22nd floor.