Lesia Maruschak was born in Saskatoon, Canada, in 1961. Until 2016, Maruschak had a high-ranking position in the Canadian government. But a cancer diagnosis led her to return to art and photography, one of her interests when she was young. In her art she strives to take emotional and intellectual responsibility for the memories and destinies of individuals, by turning them into art and making them visible. This is particularly noticeable in Project Maria.
Project Maria is based on a photograph of Maria F, a girl who survived the Holodomor famine (1932–33) in the Soviet Ukraine. Maria remembers how her sister lay dead and cold next to her in bed. Her father was arrested and beaten and came home only to die. Her mother fell asleep before supper and never woke again. Four million people starved to death during Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror. The Holodomor is regarded by many as genocide, a deliberate purge of Ukrainians. After the famine, Maria came to Canada where she spent the rest of her life.
Maruschak herself is of Ukrainian descent and heard people retelling their memories of the Holodomor in her childhood. These memories never left her. Project Maria consists of installations produced using mixed technology. Old photographs have been digitally processed and Maruschak has worked with tempera or wax to give images and artefacts a timeless narrative quality. Maruschak thereby chisels out a picture of Mary’s fate and portrays the relationship between the past and our time.