'Always about hope': Ukrainian artist with cancer paints new life in North Carolina

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Friday, May 26, 2023
Ukrainian artist with cancer paints new life in North Carolina
A Ukrainian refugee in Durham uses his art to paint a new life in North Carolina after escaping his war-torn country.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Anatolii Tarasiuk often gets lost in art using colors and canvas to paint a new life in North Carolina after escaping his war-torn country of Ukraine for 10 months.

"I could be dead by now. God probably has something for me to do on this Earth. Since I'm still alive," Tarasiuk said.

Last year he wasn't as hopeful. The law of the land wouldn't allow him to leave.

"It was so surreal because it was not one siren. There were sirens everywhere. So that's why it was so scary. And I could hear some explosions in the background," he said.

Then his wife gave birth to their third child. That baby who turned one year old six days ago, became a ticket to freedom. Tarasiuk packed up his family, and dozens of his pieces of art, and headed to the States for a better life.

ALSO SEE: Ukrainian refugee family in Durham spend Ukrainian Independence Day miles from home

"It was another miracle. No one ever checked that art, you know, anywhere in Ukraine, Poland, not even in the United States of America. No one checked it" he said

With the help of several U.S. sponsors, community, and connections through art, Tarasiuk settled in Hillsborough last July. But his troubles were not over.

"We landed here. My friends started immediately looking for some doctor who can see me," he said.

The help kept coming during the months of grueling chemo and radiation treatments for rectal cancer. In the end, the cancer was gone, so he thought, and the artist got back to work including his first solo exhibition at the Frame and Print Shop in Chapel Hill.

"It's such a joy to see someone who really getting inspiration for your artwork. Right? The message is hope. It was always about hope," said Tarasiuk.

And these days he's holding on to hope even more because the cancer is back. He remembers the call.

"I was about to mix my colors here and I was lost, and I did too much, too much oil, mix it together. So, I had to use it all. So, I ended up being here late like I finished after midnight. But three pieces of artwork I came with was very interesting, but the first one has a name, "Don't lose your hope," Tarasuik said.

His hope, faith, community, and art will keep him alive as he waits for another miracle.

He's scheduled for surgery at Duke to remove the cancer in late June

Like most migrants, the Tarasiuk and his family are living off the generosity of strangers, but he needs a more stable job, a car, and a house for his family as he fights cancer.

You can also stop by Tarasuik's exhibit at the Frame & Print Shop in Chapel Hill through Tuesday, May 26th. His artwork can also be found here.