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02nd February 2023 Daria Koltsova (2022, MFA)

Meet Daria, Exeter’s first Ukraine Scholarship Holder

Thanks to the 58 members of the Exeter community who came together to raise £28,000 for the Graduate Scholarship for Ukraine Refugees, Daria is undertaking a Master of Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Art.

When the war caught in Odesa, I was helpless. Art lost all meaning as bombs fell onto my home. Kharkiv, where I was born and where my family used to be based, was constantly bombed. I felt pain, anger, and hopelessness. I wanted to help, but could find no suitable place for an artist in our wartime reality. For once in my life, I was ready to forget my ambitions and dreams. However, life had another plan for me.

After I fled my home, I created five new projects. I took part in more than 100 exhibitions around the world, telling the story of my country, and materialising my experience. I found a way to sublimate all the feelings tearing me apart into art. It helped me find a way to speak about the unspoken. War made me productive and, I think, a better artist, but I felt burned out and empty afterward. I remembered my dream from a previous life, to continue my studies in the UK. I have always admired the balance between freedom and tradition in British art. That was exactly what I felt was missing. War stole my previous life so I sought to start something new and grow as a professional.

The confirmation email from the University of Oxford made me burst into tears. That email brought me hope and support. I had the chance to build a future on the ruins of the past.

Here I feel safe and welcome and, above all, I have time, resources, and support to continue practising my art and studying. I am extraordinarily thankful to the 58 donors who gave a total of £27,729.07 to ensure that I can undertake this new challenge. It is hard to put into words how much the Graduate Scholarship for Ukraine Refugees means to me.

Exeter is committed to welcoming a second Refugee Scholar from Ukraine in Michaelmas Term 2023. If you would like to support someone like Daria then you can make a gift here.

Daria Koltsova

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