Russian artist unveils sculpture to highlight plight of refugees

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Artist Kostya Benkovich, who fled Russia because of his anti-war stance, presents his sculpture The Suitcase during a photo call at the Assembly Gardens, Edinburgh. Jane Barlow/PA Wire/dpa

An artist who fled Russia because of his anti-war stance has unveiled a sculpture of a suitcase at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to highlight the plight of refugees.

The artwork by Kostya Benkovich is a cage-like object, constructed of reinforced steel which is also used to make prison bars in Russia.

He was inspired to create it after speaking with refugees who had fled Ukraine including one woman who told him: “My suitcase is all I have remaining of my former life.”

It will be on show at the Assembly Gardens in George Street, Edinburgh, until August 29.

Benkovich, who fled Russia in March, said: “The theme of the absence, or restriction of freedoms, and the recognition of the victims of state repression reoccur in my work.

“I had to flee Russia myself and have, to a certain extent, become an object of my own work because the suitcase is all I now have that connects me to the past.”

The Russian-born artist hopes The Suitcase stands as a tribute to the plight of refugees.

The artwork will be free to see, however, viewers will be invited to support humanitarian relief for refugees who have arrived in Britain by donating to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Britain via a QR code on the sculpture’s plinth.

Artist Kostya Benkovich, who fled Russia because of his anti-war stance, presents his sculpture “The Suitcase” during Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022. Jane Barlow/PA Wire/dpa