33 Letters for Ukraine expresses solidarity through language and design
“We are hoping to share the values of respect, empathy and curiosity about Ukrainian culture further and combine it with our design expertise to promote the Ukrainian language in Poland and beyond.”
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 30 March 2022
Set up by Polish designers Joasia Fidler-Wieruszewska, Alina Rybacka-Gruszczyńska and Aga Kotowska, 33 Letters for Ukraine is an ongoing initiative to express solidarity with Ukraine and show that it is an “independent country with its own culture, history, and language.”
The idea is simple and takes inspiration from the well-known 36 Days of Type project: Designers from all around the world (but particularly from Poland and Ukraine) are invited to take part in a “type challenge” which sees them design single letters from the Ukrainian alphabet. Each day, on its Instagram page, the group shares a new letter created by a different designer, running from 7 March until 8 April 2022.
Speaking on the thinking behind 33 Letters, Joasia says: “To put it briefly, we have two main goals for the project – promoting the Ukrainian alphabet and encouraging people to donate to organisations helping Ukraine. The Instagram challenge is an essential starting point, and we loved to see so many designers getting involved and expressing their solidarity by drawing the letters. But equally important are tangible results: collecting funds and education.”
To do so, they are hoping to sell original artworks and prints of the letters once the project has finished, and then they plan to exhibit all of the works as part of a fundraiser, though the venue is yet to be confirmed. “There are amazing designers taking part in the challenge, and it would be great to see their work shine also outside of Instagram,” says Joasia.
Aside from the obvious need for direct solidarity in such troubling times, the group also has in mind the growing need for Polish and Ukrainian citizens to learn new languages. In Poland alone there are currently 2 million Ukrainian refugees, many of them children, who will soon be attending Polish schools. By promoting the use of Cyrillic, 33 Letters is “lowering the barrier to learning a new alphabet by making it convenient and enjoyable”. Not only that, but it also plans to support Polish designers who want to familiarise themselves with it by giving them access to “workshops with Ukrainian type designers and calligraphers.”
Reflecting on the project’s impact, Joasia says: “It has already united a small community of international followers, and we hope it will only keep growing… In this new reality, we need to find ways for effective (visual) communication, so we are starting with what we know and love: letters. For us, language is an important part of people’s identities, but it’s also a starting point of communication, and therefore connection.”
33 Letters for Ukraine cover (Copyright © 33 Letters for Ukraine, 2022)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.