The Odesa cat which bakes for victory
The LBWS cats are on walls all over Odesa and beyond - both as a symbol of Ukraine’s unity and to boost morale. Now we have a mobile bakery cat too!
Today is something of a picture story - as well as an ode to some amazing Ukrainian street artists who've become part of the country's cultural landscape during this time of war. If you've been to Odesa since the start of the full scale invasion - you will know the work of LBWS - a graffiti art collective who've been painting colourful, patriotic cats on walls around the city as a symbol of strength and unity, as well as a way of raising morale. The letters in their name stand for "better, faster, higher, stronger" - which also seems like a rallying cry to keep the positive energy going, in this most challenging of times.
A military cat with cherries
The cats have proved so popular that they've spread to other places too, including the deoccupied Kharkiv region, the embattled city of Bakhmut, and in Kherson, to celebrate its resistance and its liberation. The group has also taken part in collaborations with the Cultural Forces group, which brings together musicians, artists and other cultural workers in support of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Air defence cat in Kharkiv
Ihor Matroskin, who is one of the artists behind the LBWS group, has spent much of his time on volunteering and humanitarian missions - inlcuding many trips to help the neighbouring port of Mykolaiv when it was under constant siege. In a nod to the city, a recent cat mural has replaced an old picture of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, and describes Mykolaiv as 'Odesa's shield'.
A tribute to Mykolaiv
One of the real pleasures of walking around Odesa is spotting all the LBWS designs: there are military cats, air defence cats, cats eating borsch, cats playing the jazz clarinet, cats with Patron, the famous mine-clearing dog, and even a Boris Johnson cat - and I've also seen some of the murals they've painted in Kharkiv, Izyum and Kherson. One of the designs was badly damaged when a Russian missile attack hit the historic centre of Odesa in July - but in a sign of Ukraine's unending resilience - it has since been painted again.
LBWS cats in Izyum supporting the Dobrobat charity
So I was really honoured when the LBWS team very kindly agreed to paint a bread-themed cat on the side of our mobile bakery in Odesa. It was incredible to watch them at work: first sketching the outline of the design, then going in with the block colours, everything so confident and fast - and finally the face, the little eyes and whiskers - and an outline in black, then again in white. Almost simultaneously, they had painted another cat on the back of the mobile bakery, with a slightly different design - so now the Bake for Ukraine cat has a little friend to keep him company.
Our cat has a little friend
We can't thank Ihor and the LBWS team enough for our pair of mascots and the slogan - ‘We Bake for Victory’: and we hope to use the beautiful design which they created on stickers, chevrons and even cookies, to raise more money to help keep our mobile bakery going well into the future.
Glory to Ukraine cat
Flour Power: by Felicity Spector is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support Bake for Ukraine, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.