When a single ceramic cockerel, sitting atop a kitchen cabinet, survived a bombardment of Borodianka, it became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. So when Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelenskiy were given one each as a gift as they walked through Kyiv, it carried an added significance.
As both leaders strolled through the eerily empty streets of the Ukrainian capital, surrounded by armed soldiers, a woman approached and gave them the two ceramic jugs in the shape of the cockerel.
“I’m from London,” Johnson said, to which the woman responded with a smile.
“I know, I’m from Kharkov.”
The ceramic rooster was first designed by the famous Ukrainian artist and sculptor Prokop Bidasiuk, who worked at the local majolica factory and created many dishes, vases, toys and other ceramic products.
Bidasiuk, who was born in 1895, has had his work displayed at the National Museum of Folk Applied Arts.
When photos emerged of one of his ceramic cockerels surviving the bombardment of Borodianka, it was adopted as a reflection of Ukrainian resilience, quickly becoming a meme online.
Borodianka is about 60km north-west of Kyiv and has been heavily affected by Russian shelling, with survivors left picking through the rubble looking for loved ones.
On Thursday, Zelenskiy posted a video on Telegram, claiming the situation in Borodianka was “much worse” than Bucha, where images have emerged of what appeared to be deliberate civilian killings.
“The work to clear the rubble in Borodianka has begun … it’s significantly more dreadful there. Even more victims from the Russian occupiers,” he said.
The photo that sparked the cockerel’s adoption as a symbol showed a high-rise building that had partially collapsed under intense shelling.
An exposed kitchen cabinet survived intact, the cockerel somehow still standing atop it among the destruction.
Johnson was in Kyiv on an unannounced visit, holding meetings with the Ukrainian president to set out a new package of financial and military aid.
The visit came a day after Johnson announced a further £100m worth of UK military assistance for Ukrainian forces, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry.