Born in Altai, one of Russia's most remote and off-the-beaten-track towns, Viktor Shvaiko grew up surrounded by the beauty of the wilderness. His natural inclination for fine arts and his strong urge to share his vision of nature drove him to find a way into the Novoaltaisk Artistic School, one of the two best schools for the arts in the former Soviet Union. Four years of strenuous studies enabled Viktor, a very diligent student, to acquire the skills of a true artist. Viktor credits his teacher, Ilbek Khairoullinov, for a true fine arts education. A strict regimen of drawing, an intricate technique of using colors, and the influence of the 19th century Russian artist Karl Brynllow brought Viktor Shvaiko close to a traditional academic style of painting. After having attained technical excellence in the manner of these traditional influences, the artist now possessed the tools with which to express his feelings to the world. At this point, Viktor's main focus became the beautiful Altai landscapes. The Shvaiko family then moved to Transkarpathia, the western mountainous portion of Ukraine. There Viktor became enchanted with the picturesque and breathtakingly beautiful countryside. He continued to paint and was invited to show in two one-person exhibitions in Moukachevo in 1990 and a group exhibition in Hungary in 1991. Shvaiko chafed under the stifling effect that the lingering Russian bureaucracy had on the careers of young artists. Unable to get a visa to a Western country, Viktor was permitted to travel to Yugoslavia. In the confusion of the civil war, he fled to Italy with his paintings strapped to his back, often encountering gunfire from roving bands of militia. Having arrived in Italy virtually penniless, Viktor survived by selling his paintings on the streets of Rome. He managed to build a following for himself, and save some money. He eventually returned to a now more liberalized Russia, and was able to obtain passage to America. Arriving in New York with little money and less English, Viktor was again able to survive by selling his work. It was here he developed his penchant for painting the little cafes and other intimate places that we see in his work today, and that have become his trademark. His enticing mix of beauty and mystery has drawn the interest and admiration of collectors from around the world.